U.S. and Mexico Sign New Water Management Agreement

October 5, 2017

By Antonio Aviles

Representatives of U.S. and Mexico government agencies, water utilities, water users, and NGOs gathered in Santa Fe, New Mexico to witness the entry into force of Minute 323, and update to the 1944 U.S.-Mexico Water Treaty.

Officially, Minute 323 is kown as the Extension of Cooperative Measures and Adoption of a Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan in the Colorado River Basin. the minute ensures continued collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico to address potential water shortages in the Colorado River system, and sets new goals for ecosystem conservation, improving regional productivity, and sustainable water management.

Because the Colorado River is shared between the U.S. and Mexico, it is managed through a series of implementing agreements for the 1944 United States-Mexico Treaty on Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande.

Minute 323 extends measures adopted under Minute 319, and is the result of a joint between federal, state, and local agencies from both countries to provide a more certain water future to the more than 36 million people who depend on the Colorado in the United States and Mexico.

In Baja California, over 2 million residents in Mexicali, Tijuana, Rosarito, and Ensenada depend on these water, as do nearly 20,000 hectares of crops in the Mexicali, Baja California and San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora agricultural valleys.

The Colorado River is one of the most important water sources in Western North America, supplying seven U.S. states and the Mexican states of Baja California and Sonora.
Over 17 years of drought conditions have made the water supply from the Colorado less certain, leaving residents and the region’s economy exposed in the event of a water shortage.

Minute 323 enables Mexico to continue storing water at the Hoover Dam, which allows Baja California to better manage its water and address reduced water supply due to the impacts of climate change.

The Minute also allows both countries to take voluntary water delivery reductions to avoid the declaration of scarcity conditions and minimize impacts to water users.

Further, it makes it mandatory for Mexico and the United States, together with nongovernment organizations, to contribute water and funding to advance habitat restoration and scientific monitoring efforts in the Colorado River Delta through 2026.

The two sections of the Commission, Mexico’s Comisión Internacional de Límites y Aguas (CILA) and its U.S. counterpart, the International Boundary and Water Commision (IBWC), are the federal agencies in charge of coordinating and implementing binational water agreements.

The Minute provides a more certain water future for all Colorado River water users, in a spirit of binational cooperation, integrated water management, and environmental sustainability.

The signing of Minute 323 between the United State and Mexico shows the power of cooperation amongst federal governments, water agencies, and state governments, in collaboration with water user associations, academia, and nongovernmental organizations.

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