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House to Feds: Pressure Mexico to Release Water

The Texas House on Thursday voted to formally ask the U.S. State Department to apply pressure on the Mexican government to release water owed to Texas under the terms of a treaty signed in 1944.

The Rio Grande is the ending place of many high-speed pursuits. People escape consequences by driving their vehicles into the water and swimming to Mexico.

The Texas House on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution that urges the U.S. State Department to pressure the Mexican government to release water owed to Texas under the terms of a 70-year-old treaty.

House Concurrent Resolution 55 by state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, addresses the Treaty of Feb. 3, 1944 — also called the “Treaty of the Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande.”

Under its terms, Mexico is to deliver water to the U.S. from tributaries that feed into the Rio Grande, in exchange for water from the Colorado River. The Mexican government is required to release 1,750,000 acre-feet of water every five years. (An acre-foot is nearly 326,000 gallons of water.) Ideally Mexico would deliver an average annual amount of 350,000 acre-feet.

“This is a serious issue, and this is a serious amount of water owed to Texas,” Lucio told his House colleagues. “They’re not motivated at this time to truly deliver the water the way they’re supposed to.”

Mexico technically has five years to meet the terms, meaning it could release the entire amount still owed in the last year of the current cycle, which began in 2010. In terms of yearly delivery, however, Mexico is short by more than 410,000 acre-feet.

But if current drought conditions persist, irrigation districts in South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley could be tapped out by this summer if Mexico does not release more water, Lucio said.

Thursday’s action marks the latest in a series of moves by state and federal lawmakers urging Mexico to comply. On Tuesday Gov. Rick Perry sent a letter to the Obama administration accusing it of not supporting Texas’ efforts.

Instead, Perry said, his office has been left to deal with the International Boundary and Water Commission, an agency composed of officials from both governments that oversees the terms of the treaty, without federal help.

Last month, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, wrote to the IBWC and urged it to apply more pressure on Mexico, which he said has fallen short in prior five-year cycles. He said in a statement that from 1992 to 2002, Mexico’s water debt reached as high as 1.5 million acre-feet, and it was not repaid until 2005. Texas farmers in the affected area lost hundreds of millions of dollars worth of crops, he added. 

The U.S. office of the IBWC said last month it was working diligently with its Mexican counterparts to resolve the matter amicably.

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