Mexico transfers millions of gallons of water to Texas to help repay debt

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Chairman Kathleen Hartnett White announced that during the March 19 weekend, Mexico transferred to the United States more than 210,000 acre-feet of water at the Amistad International Reservoir. The water immediately comes under Texas' control. When coupled with a recent transfer of more than 56,000 acre-feet of water at the Falcon Reservoir, plus conveyance and evaporative loss credits, which are required under the 1944 Water Treaty, Mexico has now eliminated more than half of its entire water debt. The transfers come less than two weeks after an agreement was signed by the United States and Mexico that calls for the entire debt elimination by this September.

"The weekend water transfers are significant for several reasons," said Chairman White. "Not only does this water transfer repay a major portion of the debt, it also signals Mexico's sincere intentions to meet its future obligations to retire the debt on time and on schedule. Let there be no doubt, the water is under our control and on the way to Rio Grande Valley growers, ranchers, farmers and residents."

This week's Amistad Reservoir report will reflect that by Saturday, March 19, Mexico transferred to the United States an additional 210,785 acre-feet of water. This increases U.S. reserves by an additional 6.4 percent.

Also as part of the agreement, on March 12, the United States acknowledged Mexico's transfer of 56,750 acre-feet of water to the United States at the Falcon Reservoir. This increased U.S. reserves by 1.7 percent.

Mexico will also receive conveyance loss credits totaling 154,846 acre-feet. These do not in any way represent nor should they be interpreted as a forgiveness of any portion of the debt. The fact remains, the debt is being paid in full. Once the water from Mexico enters the Rio Grande and is assigned to the United States, the U.S. is charged for conveyance and evaporative losses as water travels downstream and while it remains in storage. These credits are typical accounting procedures required under the treaty and inescapable.

The 717,000 acre-feet of water owed to Texas from Mexico as of October 2004, has been reduced by more than 422,000 acre-feet, leaving a debt of approximately 295,000.

An additional transfer by Mexico to the U.S. ownership of 145,928 acre-feet from the Amistad and Falcon Reservoirs will take place by September.

Under this agreement Texas will also utilize up to 149,981 acre-feet of water at Anzalduas dam near Mission, Texas. The United States began using this water on Saturday, March 12, at a rate of approximately 1,221 acre-feet per day.

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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