October 28, 2020

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Mexico fights against the current to comply with the Water Treaty with the United States

Photo: EFE / Luis Torres

MEXICO – With a week to go until the deadline of the Water Treaty with the United States expires, Mexico fights against the current to meet the remaining 10% of its debt in a historical conflict over the liquid and with an outcome still uncertain for the Government, peasants and specialists.

Mexico still has to deliver 230.5 million cubic meters to the United States of its five-year obligation, which is why it has 89.3% compliance, explains Blanca Jiménez, general director of the National Water Commission (Conagua), in an interview with Efe.

“We have several ‘plans b’ to be able to fulfill because, as a Mexican state, it is not a problem of the federal government, it is a problem of the three levels of government, it is a problem of all states. In other words, as a Mexican State, we do not think not to comply, ”he declares.

The Water Treaty establishes that Mexico must deliver about 2,160 million cubic meters to the United States every five years through the rivers they share along the border, although Mexicans receive almost four times more: 9,250 million cubic meters.

Although the treaty dates from 1944, the head of Conagua now perceives that the main challenge is that Chihuahua, the border state that concentrates 54.1% of the liquid that Mexico must deliver, complies with its contribution.

“The vision that Chihuahua has on the issue of water, they see it as their own good. It is a state that has repeated that the water in Chihuahua is from Chihuahua, ”laments Jiménez.


The Ministry of the Interior (Segob, Interior) met this week with the Association of Irrigation Users of the State of Chihuahua and federal and local legislators of the entity.

But so far there is no agreement because the representative of the peasants did not give in, says farmer Victor Velderrain, spokesman for nearly 10,000 families and 10,000 agricultural users.

Sowers in Chihuahua only have 30% of the water needed for next year’s agricultural cycle, he says.

“We do not have water, right now we cannot allow a single liter of water to be drawn from the La Boquilla dam because any amount of water that comes out is going to be hitting us directly in our cultivation program for the coming year,” he says. .

La Boquilla dam, the most important in the state and in the agreement, has been a battlefield since September, when a peasant woman died during a protest held by the National Guard.

Velderrain accuses the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of lying, who has argued that the demonstrations are “electoral rallies” of the opposition National Action Party (PAN, conservative), which controls the state government, heading for the midterm elections in 2021.

“We are only there peacefully and we are not willing to get out of there unless our demands are met, which would be to guarantee that our rights will be respected and the non-extraction of the little water that we have left,” he warns Velderrain.


While López Obrador has warned of sanctions from Washington if Mexico breaches the treaty, the head of Conagua indicates that the United States would react with new, stricter and more disadvantageous conditions for the country, such as including groundwater in the agreement.

“I do not think there will be retaliation, at the moment in the United States there are elections, so the priority is the elections, not an issue that could be minuscule,” says Gonzalo Hatch Kuri, researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. (UNAM).

The geographer specialized in transboundary waters predicts that Mexico will end up with a debt “not less” than 200 million cubic meters.

Although Conagua does not rule out using other sources, such as international dams and dams from other states, Hatch Kuri points out that the Government is also “facing nature” because evaporation and filtration would prevent Mexico from complying these days.

The researcher points to the agreement published in April in the Official Gazette of the Federation (DOF), where Conagua decreed the “beginning of emergency due to the occurrence of severe, extreme or exceptional drought” in several basins this year.

For the geographer, the water conflict in Chihuahua shows a new hydrometeorological regime on the border and is one of the first visible effects of the climate crisis.

“What we are seeing are the effects of climate change already, today. So it is telling us that if both governments do not take immediate action to reorder their shared basins and groundwater, we are going to have increasing problems, “he concludes.

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