New U.S.-Mexico agreement slated for signature for management of overused Colorado River water

By on September 28, 2017

An agreement between the U.S. and Mexico was slated for signature earlier this week for the management of the overused Colorado River water. The agreement details the investment of $31.5 million by the United States in conservation improvements to aid in shoring up Mexico’s water infrastructure to reduce losses to leaks and other problems.

“There is an interest on both sides of the border into continuing the cooperative measures outlined in this agreement,” said Tina Shields, Imperial Irrigation District (IID) Water Department manager. “This allows for the continued operation of the river system as a basin partnership, and provides benefits to both countries’ water users by more specifically defining reservoir management strategies during this historic drought. This leads to a higher level of operational certainty, particularly for lower basin water users that rely upon water deliveries released from Lake Mead.”

The Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors approved a series of agreements to Minute No. 323, the proposed amendment to the 1944 treaty with Mexico, which spells out the continuing cooperative efforts on both sides of the border in support of the Colorado River system through 2026. Current interim binational cooperative measures and shortage sharing provisions on the river under Minute No. 319, which was executed in 2012, are set to expire on December 31, 2017.

IID is among a number of Southwest water agencies slated to sign the new agreement. “It’s good news for both nations, for water users in the U.S. and Mexico,” said Chuck Collum of the Central Arizona Project (CAP), another of the Colorado River users.

The agreements build on the coordinated operations and water management concepts implemented by the 2007 Interim Guidelines. The new agreement will also extend or replace binational cooperative measures from Minute No. 318 addressing the April 2010 earthquake in the Mexicali valley as well as Minute No. 319, the five-year interim shortage and surplus agreement that defines additional operational coordination when Lake Mead drops below 1,075 feet.

The agreement continues to allow Mexico to store water in Lake Mead and provide for Mexico’s continued sharing of shortages and surpluses through 2026. The agreements also provide for a potentially larger drought response partnership with U.S. water users through the development of the Basin States drought contingency plan and Mexico’s binational water scarcity contingency plan. Bill Hasencamp of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) told the Associated Press that the agreement specifies that Mexico is to develop specific plans for reducing consumption if the river runs too low to supply everyone’s needs.

“It’s an acknowledgement that the U.S. and Mexico both share risk due to a hotter and drier future,” Collum said.

The $31.5 million that the U.S. is dedicating to Mexico’s conservation efforts includes a pilot water conservation program south of the border that is designed to conserve 229,100 acre-feet of water. Approximately 70,000 acre-feet of this conservation is designated for Mexican environmental purposes, 50,000 acre-feet will benefit the Colorado River system and 27,275 acre-feet will be assigned to each of the four partnering U.S. water agencies — the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, IID, MWD and the Southern Nevada Water Authority. The four U.S. agencies will fund $3.75 million each over 10 years would fund (for a total of $15 million) and the Bureau of Reclamation will provide $16.5 million.

The potential exists for a second round of binational conservation projects upon completion of these projects.