Mexican ruling on water debt a 'nightmare' for Valley

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Mexican ruling on water debt a 'nightmare' for Valley By Bob Richter Express-News Austin Bureau

Web Posted : 08/14/2001

AUSTIN A Mexican judge's ruling that excuses Mexico from delivering into the lower Rio Grande 300,000 acre-feet of water, which Mexican President Vicente Fox promised President Bush earlier this year he would deliver, is the latest setback in a 57-year-old U.S.-Mexico water treaty.

The ruling comes at a critical time for parched, thirsty Valley agriculture on both sides of the slow-flowing river.

"This has literally turned into a nightmare. It is a series of scenarios that is akin to a soap opera," said Jo Jo White, general manager of the Cameron and Hidalgo Counties Irrigation District No. 9 in Mercedes.

White thinks the United States should withhold water it agreed to deliver to northwestern Mexico under terms of the treaty as "leverage," but another Valley water official says that would be counterproductive.

"It doesn't really solve the problem, and it really doesn't get us any more water," said Glenn Jarvis, a McAllen lawyer and chairman of the Texas Water Development Board's regional water planning group in the Valley.

"Mexico intends to pay that water back," he said.

Kathy Walt, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, said: "We hope and expect that Mexico will live up to its agreements."

Perry, saying Texas has suffered some $400 million in crop losses from lack of river irrigation water, pressured Mexico last month to repay all the water it owes Texas more than 1.3 million acre-feet.

(One acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons of water).

Mexico now owes the United States more than 1 million acre-feet from the 1992-1997 period, plus an additional 300,000 acre-feet from the current five-year treaty cycle.

Under terms of the 1944 treaty, Mexico agreed to deliver 350,000 acre-feet of water per year into the Rio Grande below El Paso from reservoirs on the Rio Conchos in the state of Chihuahua.

Meanwhile, the United States agreed to provide a like amount to northwest Mexico from the Colorado River in Arizona.

Valley farmers depend on the water for irrigation of crops.

White said it is too late to save cotton and grain crops.

But it's not too late, White said, to salvage citrus, cane and fall vegetables, which could benefit if Mexico releases some of the water quickly.

That isn't likely following the Aug. 6 ruling by Mexican federal Judge Oscar Javier Sanchez Martinez, acting on a lawsuit brought by farmers in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.

The judge's ruling postponed delivery of Mexico's latest water installment, heightening aggravation by irrigators and water officials on this side of the border who want Washington to make Mexico City abide by the treaty.

Fox promised Bush he would deliver 600,000 acre-feet into the Rio Grande in a written agreement in March. Mexico released 300,000 acre-feet of it, but the judge's ruling postpones delivery of the rest.

Both White and Jarvis are baffled by the ruling and why the lawsuit was brought by Tamaulipas farmers, who would benefit from the release of water.

Under terms of the treaty, Jarvis explained, Mexico must release more than 1 million acre-feet of water into the Rio Grande annually, two-thirds for Mexican use, one-third for U.S. use.

White, speaking for all Valley irrigators, wants the Bush administration to pressure Mexico into compliance with the treaty before the Valley's fall crops fail and not wait till Fox makes a state visit to Washington on Sept. 5.

"Five years ago, we were frustrated," he said of initial efforts through the Clinton administration to enforce the treaty. "Then, after two or three years, we were angry. Now we're afraid."

brichter@express-news.net

By Bob Richter Express-News Austin Bureau

Web Posted : 08/14/2001

AUSTIN A Mexican judge's ruling that excuses Mexico from delivering into the lower Rio Grande 300,000 acre-feet of water, which Mexican President Vicente Fox promised President Bush earlier this year he would deliver, is the latest setback in a 57-year-old U.S.-Mexico water treaty.

The ruling comes at a critical time for parched, thirsty Valley agriculture on both sides of the slow-flowing river.

"This has literally turned into a nightmare. It is a series of scenarios that is akin to a soap opera," said Jo Jo White, general manager of the Cameron and Hidalgo Counties Irrigation District No. 9 in Mercedes.

White thinks the United States should withhold water it agreed to deliver to northwestern Mexico under terms of the treaty as "leverage," but another Valley water official says that would be counterproductive.

"It doesn't really solve the problem, and it really doesn't get us any more water," said Glenn Jarvis, a McAllen lawyer and chairman of the Texas Water Development Board's regional water planning group in the Valley.

"Mexico intends to pay that water back," he said.

Kathy Walt, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, said: "We hope and expect that Mexico will live up to its agreements."

Perry, saying Texas has suffered some $400 million in crop losses from lack of river irrigation water, pressured Mexico last month to repay all the water it owes Texas more than 1.3 million acre-feet.

(One acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons of water).

Mexico now owes the United States more than 1 million acre-feet from the 1992-1997 period, plus an additional 300,000 acre-feet from the current five-year treaty cycle.

Under terms of the 1944 treaty, Mexico agreed to deliver 350,000 acre-feet of water per year into the Rio Grande below El Paso from reservoirs on the Rio Conchos in the state of Chihuahua.

Meanwhile, the United States agreed to provide a like amount to northwest Mexico from the Colorado River in Arizona.

Valley farmers depend on the water for irrigation of crops.

White said it is too late to save cotton and grain crops.

But it's not too late, White said, to salvage citrus, cane and fall vegetables, which could benefit if Mexico releases some of the water quickly.

That isn't likely following the Aug. 6 ruling by Mexican federal Judge Oscar Javier Sanchez Martinez, acting on a lawsuit brought by farmers in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.

The judge's ruling postponed delivery of Mexico's latest water installment, heightening aggravation by irrigators and water officials on this side of the border who want Washington to make Mexico City abide by the treaty.

Fox promised Bush he would deliver 600,000 acre-feet into the Rio Grande in a written agreement in March. Mexico released 300,000 acre-feet of it, but the judge's ruling postpones delivery of the rest.

Both White and Jarvis are baffled by the ruling and why the lawsuit was brought by Tamaulipas farmers, who would benefit from the release of water.

Under terms of the treaty, Jarvis explained, Mexico must release more than 1 million acre-feet of water into the Rio Grande annually, two-thirds for Mexican use, one-third for U.S. use.

White, speaking for all Valley irrigators, wants the Bush administration to pressure Mexico into compliance with the treaty before the Valley's fall crops fail and not wait till Fox makes a state visit to Washington on Sept. 5.

"Five years ago, we were frustrated," he said of initial efforts through the Clinton administration to enforce the treaty. "Then, after two or three years, we were angry. Now we're afraid."

brichter@express-news.net

http://news.mysanantonio.com/story.cfm?xla=saen&xlb=180&xlc=275529&xld=180



-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), August 14, 2001


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