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- Harsh words have started to fly over a recently announced International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) plan to release water from the Rio Grande River to Mexico this month, earlier in the year than usual, a move Texas and New Mexico irrigation districts say will cause serious loss of water to evaporation at a time when U.S. farmers are going to need every inch they can find following last year’s drought.
Last year’s troubling drought, the worst in Texas and North Mexico’s history, again has caused troubles to brew on both sides of the border. Mexican farmers, desperate to irrigate crops in the warm spring of 2012, made formal request to receive their water allotment from Elephant Butte Reservoir in April, at least a month ahead of the normal schedule. But Texas and New Mexico farmers and ranchers say such an early release will cause farmers to lose valuable water during peak need in a drought year. If Mexico gets its water far in advance of the U.S. districts, who are not ready to receive their share of the reservoir water, a lot of water will be lost to seepage and evaporation, causing additional water shortages for U.S. farmers.
In spite of the early release date, the IBWC granted the request and a release from the New Mexico reservoir is expected to take place in early April.
That decision has been met with opposition in Austin where Rubinstein and Staples are speaking out about the move and have petitioned the IBWC to reverse its decision.
“In the wake of the worst one-year drought in Texas history, we are asking this federal commission, run by an appointee of President Obama, to act immediately to rescind this devastating decision,” Commissioner Staples said. ”Sending water to Mexico at a time when Texas reserves are extremely vulnerable further jeopardizes our water resources and jobs here at home.”
As Texas struggles with nearly $8 billion in agricultural losses attributed to the drought, Staples says Texas citizens continue to face severe water shortages and restrictions, and he is calling the IBWC order to release water early to Mexico “contrary to the welfare of U.S. citizens” and one that “disrupts the strategic plans Texas and New Mexico water users have put in place to address drought; wastes water; and sets a dangerous precedent of catering to Mexico’s demands for water.”
“As I expressed to IBWC Commissioner Drusina in the halls of the Texas Capitol, his decision focused only on the interests of Mexico,” said TCEQ Commissioner Carlos Rubinstein in a press release this week. “What he should have done is negotiate with Mexico, keeping American irrigators foremost in mind to ensure that their interests were protected under the terms of the 1906 Convention.”
In their letter to Drusina, Rubinstein and Staples say: “We are also concerned about the decision making process that seems to be used for the delivery of water for Mexico. It appears that your decision to deliver water to Mexico under the current circumstances is inconsistent with the terms and conditions of the Convention, and results in the protection of Mexico’s citizens at the expense of U.S. citizens, namely those who rely on Rio Grande Project water.”
The Texans say they are greatly concerned that last year’s drought has caused Texas farmers and ranchers to lose access to their water, and the IBWC’s move is a choice to “forego negotiations with Mexico and meet their call for water, to the detriment of the water resources and the interest of your constituency, the American irrigators.”
“We are gravely concerned that the 1906 Convention is being implemented in a way that discriminates against U.S. water users [and] respectfully urge you to resolve these issues in a manner that restores the confidence of Texas water users in the U.S. Section of the IBWC,” the letter states.