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More Protests by Mexican Farmers As US Demands Mexico Makes Up Rio Grande Water-sharing Deficit

MEXICO CITY, Mexico

This news article was updated 22 July

The head of the United States section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) issued a formal statement, 9 July, that Mexico is in violation of the 1944 Water Treaty between Mexico and the US, and requested immediate action to restore its obligations under the treaty.

Media sources have subsequenly reported that farmers again clashed with Mexican military forces in protest. Images posted on social media showed military police and National Guard trucks at the Las Virgines dam in in the northern border state of Chihuahua, and tear gas being fired over the heads of protesters.

Under the bilateral agreement Rio Grande water is allotted to the United States in cycles of five years, with the current cycle ending 24 October, 2020. Mexico is in deficit and must deliver to the United States an additional 432,360 acre-feet in the next three months.

Recent rain has eased severe drought conditions in the Rio Grande Valley and northern Mexico, but earlier this year lack of water led to confrontations at two Mexican dams in Chihuahua state.

US Commissioner Jayne Harkins has now said Mexico is in violation of the 1944 Water Treaty, which allots shares of the river’s flow to both nations: “Farmers and cities in South Texas rely on this water to get them through the summer. Some irrigation districts will run out of water this year and municipal water districts are having to expend large sums of money to purchase additional water. To comply with the treaty, Mexico must increase its water deliveries".

Recent rain has eased severe drought conditions in the Rio Grande Valley and northern Mexico, but earlier this year the lack of water led to confrontations at two Mexican dams in Chihuahua state.

As reported in OOSKAnews, following protests in March by local farmers, including blockage of a highway, seizure of a dam control room and setting fire to trucks, the National Water Commission of Mexico (CONAGUA) backed down on a plan to divert water to the United States. Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral supported Conagua’s decision, describing the previous release plan as “erratic” and “foolish.”

“Given the opposition among Chihuahua water users to complying with the International Water Treaty of 1944 and in light of the adverse social situation, Conagua has decided to return to normal-level releases of water from the La Boquilla dam," the commission wrote on its Twitter account at the time.

Chihuahua state government officials preferred preserving resources for the use of their communities and urged the strategy of “wait and hope for summer rains” that were anticipated to be sufficient to meet treaty commitments.

However, federal officials had placed a different emphasis with Mexico President saying “We do not want an international conflict...Treaties have to be lived up to. If we have signed a treaty, we have to comply with it".

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