World leaders, diplomats and even scientists have been warning us for years that the next Great War will be over water and not oil, a resounding sentiment echoing across the U.S. /Mexico border this week as disgruntled farmers, politicians and community leaders from both sides worry about where the water will come from to grow their crops this year. 

Harsh words have already 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.

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Commissioner Carlos Rubinstein and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples are the latest to join the ranks of those opposed to the release of water from Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico that will send millions of gallons of water across the U.S. border into Northern Mexico where drought stricken farmers say they desperately need the resource to recover from last year’s mega drought.

In a joint letter from Staples and Rubinstein to IBWC Commissioner Edward Drusina last week, they urged that authorities “act immediately to rescind the decision to release the water because it will result in significant harm to American farmers and ranchers and [will be a] waste of water during this time of drought.”

The Mexican branch of the IBWC had made formal request earlier this month for the early release of water, a provision they say is authorized by a 1944 treaty between the two countries that outlines how water in the watersheds of both countries is shared.

The U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC), headed by Drusina, is an official dual government agency under the control of the U.S. State Department and is the U.S. component of the two-nation International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), which applies the boundary and water treaties of the United States and Mexico and settles differences.

The Commission was formed as a result of the Treaty of 1944, established for the utilization of waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande and to determine how that water would be shared in the international segment of the Rio Grande from Fort Quitman, Texas, to the Gulf of Mexico. This treaty also authorized the two countries to construct operate and maintain dams on the main channel of the Rio Grande.

The Convention of May 21, 1906, provided for the distribution between the United States and Mexico of the waters of the Rio Grande above Fort Quitman, Texas, for the 89-mile international boundary reach of the Rio Grande through the El Paso-Juárez Valley. This Convention allotted to Mexico 60,000 acre-feet annually of the waters of the Rio Grande to be delivered in accordance with a monthly schedule at the headgate to Mexico's Acequia Madre just above Juárez, Chihuahua.

To facilitate such deliveries, the United States constructed, at its expense, the Elephant Butte Dam in its territory. The Convention includes a provision that says in case of extraordinary drought or serious accident to the irrigation system in the United States, the amount of water delivered to the Mexican Canal shall be diminished in the same proportion as the water delivered to lands under the irrigation system in the United States downstream of Elephant Butte Dam.