In recent years, Mexico and the United States have clashed over water
shortages on either side of the Rio Grande River in South Texas. Mexico's
failure to abide by a 1944 water treaty since 1992 has severely damaged
U.S. agriculture. While Mexico seems largely unrepentant and unwilling to
release water to the U.S., U.S. officials have been accused of ignoring the
issue in the wake of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
While steps are being made to address the issue, including water
conservation and the release of some water owed to the U.S., much remains
to be done to solve the shortage. Changes to international law involving
the use of shared water resources may provide some long-term relief while
the creation of more water conservation measures will likely help alleviate
the shortage in the short-term.
For Mexican farmers in Chihuahua State, water from the Rio Grande is
necessary to maintain and grow an agricultural business that has expanded
considerably in the past several decades. At one time, land in Chihuahua
State was arid and desert-like, but the building of joint border reservoirs
brought the potential for irrigation. In response, families and
agricultural companies have created a farming industry in the region that
is highly dependent on water from these reservoirs on the Rio Grande
(Hawkes; Mexico-U.S. Water Treaty).
On the other side of the border, U.S. agriculture interests in the
Rio Grande Valley in Texas complain of being starved for water. A recent
drought has compounded events that have forced many Texan farming
operations out of business (Hawkes; Mexico-U.S. Water Treaty).
At the heart of the matter is the failure of the Mexican government
to uphold a 1944 water treaty. In 1992, Mexico stopped honoring this water
treaty, by failing to allow one third of water in the Rio Grande to flow
downstream to the U.S. (Jacobsen). A Texas A&M study has es...