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US and Mexico: Critical water shortage

Mike Sullivan asks:" I was not aware of this of the critical water shortage facing both our Southwest and Mexico. What is the answer? Can it be solved diplomatically?" He attaches a long report of which here is the opening:

Water Issues Desiccate U.S.-Mexico Relations

Mexico and the United States are becoming embroiled in a dispute over Mexico's failure to live up to water supply commitments under a 1944 treaty. Mexico has accrued a water debt of about 1.5 million acre-feet over the past eight years. While some Texas state agriculture officials accuse Mexico's government of dishonesty, a STRATFOR review of the country's water resources and rainfall patterns over the past decade indicate that the government is being forthright when it says the water isn't there. On both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, rapidly expanding populations and economic infrastructures are set to collide over the next several years with dwindling water supplies. In fact, cross-border competition for increasingly scarce water supplies easily could derail commercial and diplomatic relations, damage the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and provoke violent confrontations between local governments and residents along the border.

The Bush administration said May 3 that it would decide in September whether to impose sanctions on Mexico for failure to comply with its commitments under the 1944 Water Treaty, which divides up waters from the Colorado, Rio Concho and Rio Grande rivers between the two countries. However, U.S. lawmakers at a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Water and Power in Brownsville, Texas, suggested the same day that Mexico could be slapped with punitive sanctions soon, including the possible reopening of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)".

You may remember that some time ago we posted a long piece on this problem, including a report by Jaqui White, who lives in the area. Stratfor is correct in saying that the water is not there, but Jaqui argues that even so the Mexicans are cheating. As for a diplomatic solution, diplomacy produces hot air, not water. The problem could possibly be solved with an immense water system bringing water from places where it is abundant, as has been suggested to solve the problem in Southern California, but the Northwest, which has the water, and environmentalists raise all kinds of objections. The latter will presumably rise indignantly to defend the pristine beauty of parched land; they love the word "pristine". Water is a major issue in many parts of the world, notably the Near East, where it will exacerbate the Israel-Palestine problem for decades to come, perhaps permanently.

Ronald Hilton - 5/19/02