Mexico, U.S. talk river deal

Droughts, deluges would be shared

A proposed deal that would allow Mexico to share in deluges and droughts on the Colorado River was crafted with the involvement of the seven Colorado River Basin states, marking a departure from previous negotiations.

Officials in the United States and Mexico are circulating the proposed agreement among various agencies, including the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District.

The proposed agreement calls for a pilot program of water releases to recharge wetlands at the mouth of the river at the Gulf of California and for federal and municipal water agencies to keep some water in return for helping to construct improvements in Mexico.

More important, however, was recognition by the federal government that the states had a role to play in the discussions with Mexico, River District spokesman Chris Treese said.

“The usual approach is, we’ll tell you when it’s done,” Treese said. In this case, the State Department and Bureau of Reclamation took into account that water belongs to the states and not the federal government, he said.

The states were invited and involved in the talks from the beginning, he noted.

“I think the states are happy,” Treese said. “All of this was done within the law of the river” and the larger body of water law.

If ratified by both nations, the agreement would last for five years and Treese noted it likely would be extended.

Other parts of the agreement call for Mexico to accept less water when reservoir levels upstream are low, and for the nation to receive more water when levels are high. 

Mexico also would be allowed to continue storing water behind Hoover Dam in Lake Mead, a program that dates back to 2010, when an earthquake damaged irrigation systems in farmlands south of Mexicali.

The agreement was to be considered today by the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission.

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