Irrigation officials and local leaders say Mexico is behind in delivering large volumes of water for use in the Valley, a major contributor to the Valley’s water woes.

Joe Barrera, Executive Director of the Rio Grande Regional Water Authority, says the Valley’s water shortage could be solved if Mexico makes good on delivery of water owed to the United States, a development he fears won’t happen in time to save this year’s crops.

“Mexico is once again failing to comply with treaty provisions governing equitable water-sharing in the Rio Grande basin, despite that it has more than sufficient supplies held behind dams in northwestern Mexico. Under terms of a 1944 treaty, Mexico is supposed to release water from its side of the Rio Grande into that waterway for use by the U.S.—specifically, a minimum average of 350,000 acre-feet of water annually for use by South Texas,” Barrera said.

The burden of this deficit falls first on irrigated agriculture. Already, several irrigation districts in the Valley shut off deliveries from the Rio Grande to producers, severely impacting an important economic pillar of the region.

Meanwhile, Cowan says while rain is always welcome, heavy showers over the weekend may delay harvest of onions in the Valley and has caused a temporary suspension of harvesting efforts for Valley citrus crops.

“A couple of onion growers are saying their crop has been damaged and they will suffer losses,” Cowan says.

But Dr. Juan Anciso, AgriLife Extension vegetable specialist in Weslaco, says most white onion growers have completed harvest of a bumper crop and only a few fields await harvest.

“Onions are a dry weather crop,” Anciso reports. “And until Sunday, onions had had perfect weather, and production was going through the roof.”

But he admits if fields don’t dry quickly or if more rain falls in the next few days, remaining onions in the field are at risk.

Last year the onion crop was hit hard by late season rains that saw many fields saturated. Onions are sensitive to wet soil and much of the crop was lost. This year, however, growers were hoping for a good year to recover. Growers planted some 7,300 acres of onions, roughly the same amount as last year, but Anciso says high market prices early in the season began to drop quickly.

“Prices started out strong in early April when the harvest began,” he said. “The national supply of onions was short so the demand was high. But with our high yields this year, actually through-the-roof yields of up to 1,000 bags per acre, the supply eventually exceeded demand and prices started dropping in mid-April.”

Early in the season, depending on the size of onion harvested, yellow onions were fetching $15 to $20 per 50-pound bag, and $20 to $25 for white and red onions. But current prices range from around $8 for yellow and white onions and around $15 for red onions.