Gov. Perry: Mexico Agrees to Pay Texas Entire Water Debt
New Agreement Between U.S. and Mexico Also Ensures Future Deliveries
Gov. Rick Perry announced today that Mexico has agreed to pay off its entire water debt to Texas by September, under terms of an agreement reached between the United States and Mexico. The agreement, reached late last week, ends a 12-year international dispute over Mexico's water debt.
"Today we are here to announce tremendous news for farmers, ranchers and residents of the Rio Grande Valley," Perry said. "The 12 year wait is over, our diplomacy has been successful and every drop of the water owed you by Mexico is on the way."
Mexico currently owes Texas approximately 733,000 acre feet of water under terms of the 1944 Water Sharing Treaty. At one point, Mexico's water debt had reached 1.5 million acre feet.
"This is not only great news for the people of the Rio Grande Valley, it is a historic day for all of Texas, the United States and Mexico, because it marks the end of a contentious issue that has clouded our friendship for too long and marks the beginning of a new era of cooperation," Perry told a group of farmers, ranchers and businessmen and women.
The new agreement calls for Mexico to:
* Transfer water from the Amistad and Falcon reservoirs to Texas, raising U.S. reserves from 95 percent of storage to 103 percent.
* Deliver at least the average minimum of 350,000 acre-feet of water per year for the remaining three years of the current cycle, and end the cycle without a deficit.
The water will be allocated to water rights holders in the Rio Grande for use in 2005 and 2006.
"These transfers will ensure that Texas growers have the water they need in time for the planting season and give our farmers, their families and employees some much needed piece of mind," Perry said. "And not only will Mexico's existing water debt be totally paid off in short order, but South Texas farmers and ranchers can also expect consistency and certainty in future water deliveries."
The United States and Mexico have agreed to continue to work together to clarify and formalize key provisions in the 1944 treaty, including determining how both countries will define conditions under which water transfers can be modified, such as in the case of extraordinary drought conditions. Additionally, the United States will continue to receive one-third of the water arriving in the Rio Grande from six Mexican tributaries specified in the 1944 Water Treaty.
The new agreement also calls for Mexico and the United States to meet annually to review basin conditions, develop firm water delivery plans for the next cycle year, and work cooperatively on drought management strategies that can benefit both countries.
"These efforts will increase transparency and accountability, and help ensure that both sides live up to their obligations consistently in the future - not just when Mother Nature is generous," Perry added.
The agreement is the culmination of more than two years of determined, quiet diplomacy by state and federal officials working with Mexican officials to reach an agreement that will benefit citizens on both sides of the border.
Perry and Mexican President Vicente Fox met in Austin for face-to-face discussions on the water debt in November 2003, at which time Perry proposed that Mexico could repay its water debt by using water available in other Mexican reservoirs than Falcon and Amistad.
Perry also traveled to Mexico for further discussions with President Fox in June 2004, and he has met on several occasions with the Mexican border governors to discuss the water debt. At Perry's direction, the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality and the Texas Watermaster have worked consistently with the International Boundary and Water Commission to help Mexico recognize its obligation to the 1944 Treaty.
"Today the relationship between Texas and Mexico is stronger than ever because we have kept the lines of communication open and talked as friends - even on this most contentious of issues," Perry said. "The agreement we have announced today sends a strong message that we will continue to pursue a common path to that future - together as friends and neighbors."