Sorghum growing season is at risk in the northeastern area of the state. Sorghum growing season is at risk in the northeastern area of the state.

Water shortage creates emergency for 15,000 farm families in Tamaulipas

Landowners group points finger at state of Chihuahua for withholding water

Fifteen thousand farming families in northeastern Tamaulipas could go bankrupt because they can’t plant new crops due to a lack of water for irrigation, according to the president of a local landowners association.

Jorge Luis López Martínez, president of the Regional Union of Rural Landowners and a member of the Río Bravo Basin Council, told the newspaper Milenio that the water shortage in irrigation district 025 is becoming more and more serious.

Encompassing the municipalities of Matamoros, Valle Hermoso, Río Bravo and part of Reynosa, the irrigation district is one of Mexico’s largest and the country’s biggest sorghum producer. Farmers have already incurred losses of 2 billion pesos (US $102.1 million) due to the lack of water, López said.

He said water that should be flowing from Chihuahua to the Rio Grande on the Tamaulipas-Texas border has been unlawfully withheld, and criticized the National Water Commission (Conagua) for not intervening to stop what he called the illegal retention.

“We’re in an emergency that is becoming increasingly serious and causing a crisis,” López said, adding that the occupation of the La Boquilla dam by Chihuahua farmers opposed to the diversion of water to the United States resulted in about half of the water that should have been sent to Tamaulipas not arriving.

“Now even less is being received [and] new economic losses are being added to those [Tamaulipas farmers have] already suffered. … It’s unfair. They’re illegally retaining 1.1 billion cubic meters of water in the upper part of the … Conchos River in Chihuahua, they’re not allowing it to pass.”

López said the situation has been exacerbated by a dry winter caused by the La Niña weather phenomenon, adding that significant rainfall is not expected until April or May.

He said the water shortage has placed the sorghum sowing season – Tamaulipas is Mexico’s largest producer of the grain – at extreme risk. Farmers have gone into debt in order to be able to plant new sorghum crops but the lack of water will prevent them from recouping the money they have invested, López said.

“If they don’t plant, the losses will be incalculable,” he said.

Among the communities that are directly affected are Anáhuac, Santa Apolonia, Empalmes, Magueyes and El Realito, López said, adding that the entire northern region of Tamaulipas is indirectly impacted.

The landowners’ representative said that water from Tamaulipas was used to repay Mexico’s water debt to the United States and that the state of Chihuahua didn’t respect agreements to replenish Tamaulipas’ stocks.

“The consensus was to replenish” the water sent to the United States from Tamaulipas with water from Chihuahua and distribute it to farmers, López said.

“But it wasn’t done. … Natural resources should be distributed fairly … and that’s not happening, they are giving Chihuahua more” water than Tamaulipas, he said.

“… Last year there were even injunctions … to avoid paying the United States with water from Tamaulipas but it was done anyway. … It’s an injustice whichever way you look at it because Chihuahua is stealing water and now Conagua is giving it the right to more,” López said, referring to a water commission authorization that allows Chihuahua to use hundreds of millions of cubic meters of water from the Conchos River and deep wells for irrigation purposes.

“It’s a double illegality,” he charged. Chihuahua has a massive surplus of water “while Tamaulipas is dying of thirst.”

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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