Mexico misses deadline to repay Rio Grande water debt, U.S. farmers angry : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Mexico misses deadline to repay Rio Grande water debt, U.S. farmers angry

By LYNN BREZOSKY The Associated Press 7/31/01 4:59 PM

HARLINGEN, Texas (AP) -- The target date for Mexico to release water into the Rio Grande came and went Tuesday without the addition of a single drop.

It was clear that the remainder of what Mexico owes for this year would not be delivered Tuesday, said Sally Spener of the International Boundary and Water Commission.

The pact gives Mexico extra months in case of persistent dry weather, and both sides of the border are suffering from one of the worst droughts on record. Officials from Mexico's embassy in Washington, D.C., had no immediate comment, but Mexican officials have said it could be September before water is released.

Texas farmers said Mexico had water available in reservoirs and that it was time for the United States to get tough.

Jimmy Steidinger, 60, who farms 175 acres in Hidalgo County, says he's already torn up some of his orange trees for the fall planting and brought in a meager cotton crop. He has spaced his watering to once every 24 days instead of every 18 days.

"Two things you always worry about -- the market and the weather. Now there's a third problem, the water problem," he said. "If you don't have water, you can't raise citrus. Without water I'm dead."

Since 1944, the U.S. and Mexico have shared water from the river that marks much of their international boundary.

Mexico has fallen behind on its commitment and owes now 1.3 million acre feet of water. An acre-foot is the quantity of water that would cover one acre to a depth of one foot, or about 326,000 gallons.

Under the presidential agreement signed in March, Mexico is to gradually pay back what it owes with 600,000 acre-feet of water due by October and every year until the debt is paid.

Engineers had calculated that this year's debt could be paid by July 31. So far, however, Mexico has released only about half that amount from dams near El Paso.

-- Martin Thompson (, July 31, 2001

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