Mexico has just 38 days to send 319 million cubic meters of water to the United States in order to meet its commitments under a 1944 bilateral water treaty.
According to the agreement between the two countries, Mexico is required to deliver just over 431 million cubic meters of water annually during the current five-year cycle that will end on October 24.
Over the five-year period, Mexico’s obligation adds up to 2.158 billion cubic meters of water.
But according to the International Boundary and Water Commission, it had only delivered 1.839 billion cubic meters as of Thursday, leaving it with a 319-million-cubic-meter water debt to be settled in less than six weeks.
Efforts by the National Water Commission to divert water north from a dam in Chihuahua have been met by numerous protests by farmers in the northern border state, where many municipalities are in a state of drought.
With time running out for Mexico to meet its obligations, Texas Governor Greg Abbott wrote to United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday to urge him to ensure enforcement of the 1944 treaty.
“The Mexican-controlled waters of the international Rio Grande Basin are vital to ensuring that Texas’ water right holders can irrigate crops, supply water to municipalities, and conduct industrial operations along the Rio Grande,” he wrote.
But “as we approach the end of the current five-year cycle on October 24, 2020, Mexico once again has a significant deficit in its delivery,” Abbott said.
“Unfortunately, Mexico ended the last cycle in a debt and has not remained current on its treaty deliveries, as only limited progress has been made to ensure that this cycle does not end in a deficit,” he wrote.
“Only recently, after the peak irrigation season, has Mexico begun to make minor progress on deliveries through direct transfers of water from the international reservoirs. Significant work remains and time is of the essence.”
The governor highlighted that the United States continues to meet its treaty obligations by sending “significantly more water to Mexico than we receive in return.”
Indeed, the United States sends four liters of water to Mexico for every one it is supposed to receive from its neighbor.
Abbott asked Pompeo to emphasize three points to the Mexican government.
“Mexico needs to end the cycle without a debt. Mexico ended the last cycle, as well as several previous cycles, in a debt. This trend cannot continue,” he wrote.
The governor also said that “with only six weeks remaining, Mexico must deliver more water immediately.”
“Mexico currently has enough water within its interior reservoirs and international reservoirs, which could be utilized to meet treaty requirements,” he wrote.
Thirdly, Abbott said that the United States section of the International Boundary and Water Commission “must remain steadfast in their refusal to take water from the San Juan River [a tributary of the Rio Bravo] to fulfill treaty obligations, as Texas needs the ability to store treaty waters within the international reservoir system to maximize the resource.”
“Accepting offers of water deliveries from the San Juan River in the Lower Rio Grande, which cannot be stored and is outside of the six named tributaries within the treaty, is not advantageous to Texas.”
The National Water Commission (Conagua) called on Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral, who has opposed the diversion of water, to support the efforts to settle the debt to the United States.
“It’s time to work together toward a common goal: Mexico meeting its binational commitments and guaranteeing the continuity of an agreement that is highly beneficial for Mexico,” it said in a statement.
Conagua said it has met its commitments to ensure the success of the current agricultural cycle for farmers in Chihuahua, adding that it is prepared to address Corral’s concerns about the illegal use of water in the state.
“With regard to the concern expressed by Governor Corral about water theft in different parts of the state, the National Water Commission is ready, once security conditions allow it, to restart the inspection of wells and presumably illegal water extractions in the Conchos River basin.”