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Mexico poised to release water to United States

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Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014 10:34 pm

Pressure from the U.S. government may have finally convinced Mexican officials to release much-needed water to the Rio Grande Valley, but the amount is hardly a flood.

The office of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, released a statement Friday indicating that Mexican officials were preparing to release 25,000 acre-feet of water during the next four weeks — less than 9 percent of the total water deficit, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The release is mandated by the Water Treaty of 1944, which requires Mexico to release water to the United States via the Rio Grande, while the U.S. gives Mexico water via the Colorado River.

The treaty requires Mexican officials to deliver an average of 350,000 acre-feet of water annually to the Valley — a benchmark that officials have said Mexico has failed to meet.

Mexico’s most recent five-year water cycle began in October 2010. Persistent drought has caused Mexico to fall behind by 282,896 acre feet — enough to cover the entire city of McAllen in more than 9.5 feet of water. By comparison, the 25,000-acre-foot release wouldn’t drop that level by a foot. 

With extensive drought in South Texas making the water all the more important to all water users, especially farmers, Texas officials from every level of government have worked to apply pressure on the U.S. Secretary of State, the International Boundary and Water Commission, the White House and Mexican officials to resolve the deficit.

Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, went so far as to draft legislation last year to require enhanced monitoring of Mexico’s compliance with the treaty, and the pair eventually authored a letter to the IBWC indicating that not resolving the water dispute with Mexico could result in the federal government cutting funding for infrastructure projects for Mexico that the agency is pushing.

Cornyn’s office attributed Mexico’s anticipated release of water to a meeting between the senator, Vela and Mexican Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora in Washington back in September.

In a statement, Cornyn registered his appreciation for the move, but vowed that more work needed to be done to insure the United States continues receiving the water it is owed.

“This announcement is a first and modest step in the right direction but much work remains to be done to ensure Mexico fully lives up to its obligations under the Treaty,” he said in the statement. “I will continue to work with Congressman Vela, other members of the Texas delegation, local stakeholders in Texas, and our counterparts in Mexico to see that the water needs of South Texans are fulfilled in the long term.”

Rain in recent months has eased drought conditions in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, as shown by levels at the Falcon and Amistad water reservoirs upriver.

Monitor Metro Editor Jared Taylor contributed to this report.  

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