Water deal not so good

I represent one of 26 irrigation districts totaling over 1.5 million acre feet of water rights in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

Both our cities and farmers are dependent on water from the Rio Grande and the compliance of the 1944 Treaty between the United States and Mexico that governs the division of water between the two countries.

Recently, an article was printed regarding Mexico paying their water debt in full. I want to comment on this article and bring to light the other side of the story … the side that was not told.

Under the 1944 Treaty between the United States and Mexico, the U.S. is entitled to 1/3 of the water flows from six named tributaries reaching the Rio Grande. This amount shall not be less than, as an average in five consecutive year cycles, 350,000 acre feet annually.

At the end of the previous 5-year cycle which ended Oct. 24, 2015, Mexico accumulated a water debt to the United States of 263,250 acre feet of which most was paid through transfers of ownership of existing water in the River and stored water at Amistad Reservoir.

What was not mentioned is that prior to the transfers, 184,340 acre feet was credited to Mexico from a tributary that is not one of the six named tributaries, which is inconsistent with the terms of 1944 Treaty.

The Treaty was specific in naming six tributaries and does not speak to allowing credit from any other tributary, yet the credit was given to Mexico.

In addition to wrongfully issuing Mexico a credit towards their debt, IBWC’s action deprived the River from Presidio, Texas, downstream and the Falcon/Amistad Reservoir system, of 553,000 acre feet of water (184,340 acre feet x3) which not only hurts the health of the River but also the eco-tourism in the cities that depend on reservoir and River levels, such as Zapata, Del Rio, surrounding communities, and the Big Bend area of Texas.

So this is how Mexico was able to “pay” their debt. It is difficult to understand IBWC’s statement which states that this “success exemplifies the cooperation that now exists between the United States and Mexico to address the water needs of both countries.”

Seems like the cooperation is a one-sided one at the expense of the Texas farmers and cites that depend on IBWC’s responsibility to ensure treaty compliance and allow an equal opportunity for economic growth.

Sonia Lambert

General Manager of Cameron County Irrigation District #2 San Benito