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Bill seeks to address Mexico water debt

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Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 10:00 am

Federal legislation has been filed that would prevent the U.S. government from extending benefits to Mexico in an attempt to get the U.S. State Department more involved in the ongoing water-sharing dispute between the two countries.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, filed an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act that would prohibit the U.S. secretary of state from extending benefits to Mexico if the State Department fails to submit quarterly paperwork to Congress that describes Mexico’s efforts to comply with a water-sharing treaty that governs the countries’ use of common water sources, such as the Rio Grande and its tributaries.

As of May 4, 2013, Mexico’s deliveries during the current 5-year cycle totaled 411,779 acre-feet, the International Boundary and Water Commission reported.

Cornyn filed the amendment Tuesday to try to get the U.S. State Department to address Texas’ water shortage and Mexico’s non-compliance with a 1944 water-sharing treaty between Mexico and the United States.

“The water debt and uncertainty about supply harms Texas farmers, ranchers and small businesses who rely on regular, reliable sources of water,” Cornyn said in a news release. “Unfortunately, over the past two decades, Texas farmers alone have lost hundreds of millions of dollars during the shortfalls, and the Obama Administration must step up pressure on Mexico before it’s too late.”

If the secretary of state does not comply with the quarterly report requirement, the amendment would prohibit the department from extending benefits to Mexico, the legislation reads.

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, earlier this month drafted a similar House bill that also would require the secretary of state to send Congress a report on water sharing with Mexico.

Vela said Mexico is not complying with the agreement between the two countries under the 1944 treaty, which he described as ironic because the United States is complying with a similar treaty that pertains to the California-Arizona-Mexico border.

“We comply with that and do more all the time,” Vela said at the time. “On the Texas-Mexico border, they are supposed to deliver 350,000 acre-feet (of water) per year, and they are not complying with that, and they have historically failed to comply with their part of the treaty.”

Although Mexico recently released water held in its reservoirs, Valley officials said it is not enough to help alleviate the extreme and exceptional drought conditions in the area.



Laura B. Martinez is city editor at The Brownsville Herald. She can be reached at


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