A select group of elected officials from Texas took a major step forward in keeping their promise this week to lawfully force the U.S. Secretary of State to lean on the Mexican government to comply with terms of a 1944 International Water Treaty with the United States or otherwise run the risk of losing U.S. benefits in the future.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and U.S. Reps. Filemon Vela (TX-34) and Mike Conaway (TX-11) introduced joint legislation in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S House Monday, June 10, in the form of an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act, fulfilling promises made to residents and agricultural interests in drought-stricken Deep South Texas who have been suffering severe water shortages since the first of the year.

Several communities in the Rio Grande Valley have been limiting water use, and irrigation districts have curtailed water allotments in recent months forcing many farmers to forgo planting schedules this year and causing cities to buy "push water" in an effort to continue providing water to homeowners and businesses.

Officials at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality say the South Texas water crisis is the joint result of drought conditions and Mexico's failure to deliver water according to the treaty.

Under terms of that treaty, Texas farmers and irrigation officials say Mexico is behind in delivering nearly a half million acre-feet of water it owes the U.S. for the current five- year cycle, which began in October of 2010. In all, Mexico is required to deliver 1.75 million acre-feet of water over the five-year period. So far they have delivered only about 412,000 acre-feet about half way through the cycle.

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“The water debt and uncertainty about supply harms Texas farmers, ranchers, and small businesses who rely on regular, reliable sources of water,” said Cornyn. "Unfortunately, over the past two decades Texas farmers alone have lost hundreds of millions of dollars during these shortfalls, and we must step up pressure on Mexico before it’s too late.”

As a result of the water crisis, Texas AgriLife Extension specialist Brad Cowan in Hidalgo County estimates nearly all dryland cotton will be lost this year. Other crops, including grain sorghum, sugarcane, pecans and the Valley's citrus production, are at high risk if the summer season is dry again as forecast.

“As Texas faces one of the most severe drought conditions in recent memory, it is crucial that Mexico begin meeting its obligations to its water agreement with the U.S.,” Sen. Cruz said. “Ensuring that Texas farmers and ranchers have the water they need for their operations is a critical issue for our state, and I am pleased to work with my colleagues to ensure steps are taken to secure the water that Texas is owed and that is essential to the livelihood of countless Texas families.”