South Texas leaders in Mexico to discuss water debt, border restrictions and new trade deal

Border Report

EDITOR’S NOTE: The amount of water Mexico owes has been updated.

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A delegation of local South Texas leaders led by U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, met with Mexico’s foreign minister in Mexico City on Tuesday as part of ongoing meetings that continue Wednesday over a number of issues affecting U.S. border communities, including Mexico’s water debt to the United States.

Cuellar, along with Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz and Laredo City Manager Robert Eads, on Tuesday met with Secretario de Relaciones Exteriores de México Marcelo Ebrard, according to a tweet by Cuellar.

On Wednesday, Border Report was told that they discussed the 1944 Treaty between the United States and Mexico and the implementation of the new U.S./Mexico/Canada trade agreement that began on July 1, but no specifics on the talks were released.

Mexico and the United States have been at odds over past-due water that Mexico owes the United States under the international water treaty, which is governed under the International Boundary and Water Commission. Because Mexico defaulted in its water payments during the previous five-year water cycle, it cannot default on its payments this current water cycle, which ends in 14 days on Oct. 24, according to the treaty.

In July, IBWC U.S. Commissioner Jayne Harkins took the unusual step of publicly demanding that Mexico quickly make good on its water debt, saying Mexico must “take immediate action to deliver Rio Grande water to the United States to comply with the bilateral 1944 Water Treaty.”

An IBWC official told Border Report that as of Sept. 26, Mexico owed 222,430 acre-feet (275 million cubic meters) of water. Under the treaty it must pay the United States a minimum annual average of 350,000 acre-feet. However the country fell behind during this last cycle that began on Oct. 25, 2015. And it cannot end this current cycle in a debt again, according to the international treaty.

The owed water is causing ranchers and farmers in South Texas along the Rio Grande to suffer. It also has led to a feud between the government and Mexican farmers and ranchers who on Sept. 8 forcefully took over La Boquilla dam in the state of Chihuahua just as Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador started routing water from the reservoir to the Conchos River.

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