Mexico will transfer thousands of acres (hectares) of water to the United States to end a long-standing feud that led U.S. farmers to sue the country for failing to comply with a decade-old water treaty, officials told The Associated Press on Thursday.
WASHINGTON Mexico will transfer thousands of acres (hectares) of water to the United States to end a long-standing feud that led U.S. farmers to sue the country for failing to comply with a decade-old water treaty, officials told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The agreement will end a 12-year-old dispute that has largely affected Texas farmers over 733,000 acre-feet of water that Mexico owes the United States under a 1944 treaty. An acre-foot is 326,000 gallons (1,234,700 liters), enough water to flood an acre(0.4 hectare) of land one foot (0.30 centimers) deep.
Under the agreement, Mexico agreed to deliver 578,000 acre-feet of water to the United States. And the United States will credit Mexico with 154,846 acre-feet by Sept. 30 and deliver 470,000 acre-feet a year over the next three years to keep current with the 1944 treaty, the offices of Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said.
"What this really signals is a fresh start and a fresh positive start for relationships with our good friend and neighbor. The water problem had, I think, soured our relationships," said Texas Agriculture Secretary Susan Combs.
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was to announce the agreement Thursday in Mexico. A State Department spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment by the AP. Perry and Combs planned a simultaneous announcement in Mission, Texas, also on Thursday.
The agreement was worked out Feb. 18 and stems from meetings in Washington and Texas between Mexican officials and the governor's office. To end the dispute, Perry proposed Mexico pay the water debt with water from other parts of that country rather than areas designated in the treaty, according to information from Perry's office.
In November, Mexico said would be able to pay off its pending water debt to the United States "in the next few years.
The 1944 water-sharing treaty requires Mexico to send the United States an average of 350,000 acre-feet of water annually from six Rio Grande tributaries. The United States in return must send Mexico 1.5 million acre feet from the Colorado River.
Abundant rains in 2003 and 2004 largely replenished South Texas' two Rio Grande reservoirs and allowed Mexico to reduce its water debt from 1.5 million acre-feet to less than 800,000 acre-feet.
A group of Rio Grande Valley irrigators and farmers sued Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement signed by Canada, Mexico and the United States. They are seeking $500 million for crop loss and damages they say were caused by Mexico failing to comply with the treaty.
Mexico has owed water for the past decade. By the summer of 2002, Rio Grande farmers were going out of business and municipal water stores were running low while Mexican produce flowed into the state.
Texas and federal officials pressed the Bush administration to make the debt a national priority.
Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Hutchison urged Rice to press Mexico to pay off its water debt during her meeting in Mexico with Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez.
Source: Associated Press