Mexico running behind on scheduled water deliveries to U.S. amid severe drought

24 Apr 2024 by The Water Diplomat

Currently, in the fourth year of a five year cycle of water deliveries, Mexico has only delivered 30% of the water that it shares with the United States in terms of a treaty from 1944.  This is the lowest amount of water delivered to the United States at this point in the cycle since 1992.    Waters entering the Rio Grande below Fort Quitman are apportioned to the United States or Mexico by terms set out in the treaty. In terms of the requirements of the treaty, Mexico is required to deliver to the U.S. a minimum of 432 million m³ of water each year, on average, over a five-year cycle. As of the 13th of April, Mexico had delivered 432 million m³, as against a release of 1,295 million m³ which should be achieved on average by the end of the third year of the five-year cycle. During the previous cycle, which ended in 2020, Mexico had indeed delivered 1,295 million m³ by the end of the third year.

Farmers in Texas are worried about the impact of the water shortages, amongst others for citrus production and stock keeping. Earlier in the year, the state’s last sugar mill closed due to lack of water. Texas’ Governor Greg Abbott has renewed the drought disaster declaration for several counties in the area, and the Texas representative to the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), Monica de la Cruz, stated that the lack of water not only impacted farmers, but also employment in the state. Manuel Morales, secretary of the Mexican section of the IBWC, stated that Mexico is working to comply with its commitments but that the water shortage is due to climate change, and he pointed out that treaty does allow more time to deliver water in the event of extraordinary drought.

The implementation of the water sharing agreement is overseen by the IWBC, which also acts to settle differences between the countries that arise as river conditions fluctuate. In the terms set out in article four of the Treaty, in the event of extraordinary drought or serious accident to hydraulic structures on the Mexican side of the border, Mexico reserves the right to make up this deficit in the course of the following five-year cycle. Already in 2020 and late 2023, Mexican farmers protested against the release of water to the U.S. during drought conditions.

The current drought is the most severe since 2011, and is currently affecting most parts of northwestern and central Mexico, with many states experiencing ‘severe’, ‘extreme’, or ‘exceptional’ drought according to the Mexico Drought Monitor .