With thirsty, knee-high corn, cotton and sorghum cropping up across the Rio Grande Valley, the focus moves from getting seed into the ground to orchestrating weed, pest, and water management strategies to help the plants survive what promises to be another punishing South Texas summer.
The need for additional water tops the list of concerns across the region for city and county leaders, Valley farmers and ranchers in South Texas, and state and local water officials who expect much hotter and drier times are coming.
Across the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV), when talk turns to hot summers and water shortages, the 1944 International Water Treaty between the U.S. and Mexico pops up. Apparently, most South Texans believe Mexico is slow to deliver water to the Valley as agreed in the terms of the treaty. Almost every town council and commissioner’s court in the Valley have passed resolutions calling for U.S. State Department officials and the Obama Administration to pressure Mexico into fulfilling its water payment obligations.
State and local water officials have set a date for a special media event designed to explain the terms and requirements of the treaty as part of an effort to inform the community of the serious threat non-compliance poses for the Valley's economy and standard of living.
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State Representative Eddie Lucio III and Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) Chairman Carlos Rubinstein will host the public information session beginning at 10:30 Tuesday, May 13 at the Brownsville Public Utilities Board's office located at 1425 Robinhood Drive. Brownsville PUB and the Rio Grande Partnership will co-host the session, which will focus on issues related to the United States and Mexico water treaty.
The 1944 Water Treaty, also known as the "Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande," was signed by the United States and Mexico on February 3, 1944. The treaty requires Mexico to deliver a prescribed amount of water over a five-year cycle. Many South Texas officials believe those terms include annual deliveries of water versus a one-time, five-year surge into the tributaries that feed into Amistad and Falcon Reservoirs and eventually down the Rio Grande to the Lower Valley.
"The session we are hosting in Brownsville is an important opportunity to explain the issues and significance of the 1944 Treaty to area citizens. The Rio Grande is vital to our area's economy, but it's a resource we share with other states and Mexico," said Lucio.
"The treaty directs water allocations on the Rio Grande from Fort Quitman, Texas, to the Gulf of Mexico, which covers some of the state's most critical agricultural areas and rapidly growing population centers," said Rubinstein. "Unfortunately, Mexico has failed to deliver the water owed to Texas, which has resulted in significant hardship for Texas' water users. I'm eager to participate in this session and explain what Mexico's deficit means to the Rio Grande Valley."
Pressure over the issue of when Mexico will provide what most South Texans consider past due deliveries has been mounting among Valley officials and echoed by state officials, state agencies and by Congressmen and Senators from Texas.
The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) says the failure of Mexico to consistently deliver water in accordance with the 1944 water treaty significantly harms Texas interests, especially near the Mexican border.
TCEQ says the treaty requires delivery from certain tributaries in Mexico to the United States of not less than an average of 350,000 acre feet annually, in cycles of five consecutive years. They claim Mexico has failed to deliver the amount of water owed resulting in hardship for Texas' water users and farmers and ranchers who rely on that water for irrigation, as well as municipalities that need the water for public drinking water supplies.
The International Boundary and Water Commission and the U.S. State Department are responsible for enforcing the treaty, but have not been successful according to Texas Water Development Board officials.
The meeting is open to the public.