The Texas Rio Grande Valley, like many spots across Texas and the Southwest, is running short on water. And it’s not just farmers suffering across the region, but cities, industry and residents as well.

A mixed group of city and county leaders, farmers, representatives of irrigation districts, and business and industry leaders gathered Monday in Weslaco to listen to regional, state and international water authorities talk about the growing water crisis the Valley is facing and, if the rain doesn’t fall soon, where the road will lead tomorrow.

The Valley’s water problem is not limited solely to a lack of rainfall because of two previous years of drought, but has now grown to become an international issue with mounting tensions on both sides of the Rio Grande River (the U.S.-Mexico International border) as stakeholders in Texas worry over legal rights to a diminishing and precious natural resource and Mexico’s apparent unwillingness to release overdue water owed to the United States according to an existing water treaty.

A “Seminar on Water Rights and Public Policy: The Lower Rio Grande” was an open community meeting staged the Knapp Medical Conference Center moderated by Dr, Guy Fipps, AgriLife Extension irrigation engineer and professor at Texas A&M University-College Station.

The seminar took the form of a planned open-discussion on water issues by a trio of panelists, Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ); Edward Drusina, commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission in El Paso; and Glenn Jarvis, an attorney and chairman of the Rio Grande Regional Water Planning Group in McAllen.

“The last water rights seminar we had in the Lower Rio Grande Valley was about ten years ago,” Fipps told reporters. “While some of the water availability issues remain the same, today’s water supply situation is probably more serious than it was ten years ago.”

Fipps has been staging community water seminars in the Valley since 1991 in hopes of providing information on the complex issue of who owns what water rights on the 900-plus miles of river that divides Texas from Northern Mexico. That question has been an issue between the two nations ever since Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836.

“Our hope is that this seminar would help stakeholders better understand the mechanisms in place and the legal basis for allocation and management of water from this shared resource,” Fipps added, saying there are water obligations required of both nations as well as the water privileges granted to each.