U.S. and Mexico finalizing Colorado River deal

Desert Sun:

The U.S. and Mexican governments may be sharply at odds on President Donald Trump’s plan for a border wall, but when it comes to water – and the potential for a major shortage along the Colorado River – the two sides seem to be on the same page.

Mexican and American officials are finalizing a water-sharing deal for the Colorado River, and a newly released summary of the accord’s key points shows negotiators have agreed on a cooperative approach geared toward boosting reservoir levels and trying to stave off a severe shortage.

The document, which federal officials have circulated among water agencies, outlines a series of joint measures that build on the current 5-year agreement, which expires at the end of this year.

The new accord – titled Minute No. 323 to the 1944 Mexican Water Treaty – is expected to be signed sometime this fall, perhaps as early as September, and would remain in effect through 2026.

It would extend provisions in the current agreement, known as Minute 319, that specify reductions in water deliveries during a shortage, as well as increases in water deliveries during wet periods. The agreement also provides for Mexico to continue storing water in Lake Mead, near Las Vegas, helping to boost the reservoir’s levels, which in the past few years have dropped to historic lows.

The accord would also establish a “Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan,” in which Mexico would join U.S. states in temporarily taking less water out of Lake Mead to reduce the risks of the reservoir reaching critical levels.

Those commitments by Mexico would only take effect if California, Arizona and Nevada finish their own Drought Contingency Plan, under which the states would forgo larger amounts of water than they’ve previously agreed to as the reservoir’s level declines.

“The Mexicans have demonstrated their interest in pursuing this…”

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