In a major show of cooperation between the United States and Mexico, representatives from the Colorado River Basin States, the United States government, and the government of Mexico signed an historic agreement that furthers the commitments of both countries to the 1944 Water Treaty between the U.S. and Mexico, while recognizing that increasing water demands on the Colorado River will require creativity and flexibility.
Under this five-year agreement, Mexico has committed to accept voluntary shortages when Lake Mead reaches certain levels, while gaining opportunities to receive surplus water under certain conditions.
The agreement, known in treaty parlance as "Minute 319," also includes a water conservation demonstration project, salinity management language, potential opportunities for Mexico to release its storage for environmental flows in Mexico and the opportunity for Mexico to store some of its treaty allocation for delivery in subsequent years.
Jennifer Gimbel, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, called the agreement "monumental" and said it's important to Colorado for furthering the state's ability to work collaboratively with the entire river basin – including Mexico – "to use our water resources in an equitable and appropriate manner pursuant to the Law of the River."
"This agreement is monumental. It is important because the agreement recognizes the finite resources of the Colorado River but it is monumental because it allows both countries, along with the states and other entities in both countries to work together and use infrastructure to allow the finite resources to be shared during surplus conditions and reduced in times of shortages," Gimbel said.
Sen. Mark Udall added, "Mexico is one of Colorado's and our nation's most important partners in trade and the Western Hemisphere, not to mention an indispensable partner on the Colorado River. This agreement will continue our mutually beneficial relationship and help ensure that the Colorado River remains strong from its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California."
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, elements of the agreement include:
• Implementing efforts to enhance water infrastructure and to promote sharing, storing, and conserving water as needed during both shortages and surpluses;
• Establishing proactive basin operations by applying water-delivery reductions when Lake Mead reservoir conditions are low in order to deter more severe reductions in the future;
• Extending humanitarian measures from a 2010 agreement, Minute 318, to allow Mexico to defer delivery of a portion of its Colorado River allotment while it continues to make repairs to earthquake-damaged infrastructure;
• Establishing a program of Intentionally Created Mexican Allocation (ICMA) whereby Mexico could temporarily reduce its order of Colorado River water, allowing that water to be delivered to Mexico in the future; and,
• Promoting the ecological health of the Colorado River Delta.blog comments powered by Disqus