Here's what U.S. negotiattors agreed to in a June 28 Border Water Commission meeting in Ciudad Juarez.

The National Water Commission will request that the Mexican Section of the Commission — as part of normal joint accounting of storage of both countries at the international Amistad and Falcon dams — to account in favor of the United States a contingency assignment of 90,000 acre-feet, subject to the following understandings:

The commission will continue its weekly preliminary accounting of the inflows, releases and storage at the international dams.

At the accounting period ending Oct. 26, 2002, the Commission will issue a joint report of new Mexican inflows to the international dams recorded since the date of entry into force of this Minute.

If, by Oct. 26, 2002, the new Mexican inflows have replaced the volume of 90,000 acre-feet, this volume will remain assigned to the United States in the Commission's final accounting. At that time, the losses to conveyance of this volume to the international dams, estimated at 28,845 acre-feet will be accounted in favor of Mexico.

So, the Lower Rio Grande Valley region will get 90,000 acre-feet of the more than 1.5 million owed by Mexico — not much of a dent in the overall obligation, but perhaps an acknowledgement that the debt is due.

But, there are catches. For instance:

If, by Oct. 26, 2002, Mexican inflows have not replaced the 90,000 acre feet, the Commission will make a compensating adjustment in Mexico's favor equal to the difference between 90,000 acre-feet and the quantity of Mexico's inflows.

So, if it doesn't rain enough in Chihuahua by October to make up for the 90,000 acre-feet they are paying to service part of their debt, U.S. authorities have to send it back, or at least an amount equal to the difference between their inflow and the 90,000 acre-feet. If they get enough rain to record 30,000 acre-feet, U.S. negotiators have agreed to return 60,000. If they turn dry as toast, we return all the water.

Other agreements instruct the United States section of the commission to make allowances to Mexico if water in the reservoirs drop below a specified point to provide for communities on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande.

Other discussions included:

  • Efforts to finance modernization and technical enhancement for sustainability in irrigated areas of the districts and irrigation units in the Rio Grande Basin and to improve water use efficiency in the border cities.

  • Mexico proposes a capital investment of $1.535 million pesos in the next four years. In this period, approximately 321,041 acre-feet could be conserved in the irrigation districts. The conserved volume could increase by 46,210 acre-feet with an additional expenditure of $310 million pesos.

  • The need of both governments to increase data exchange regarding management of hydrological systems in both countries in a timely manner to enable the Commission to adopt principles under which both Governments provide the highest priority to fulfilling obligations under the 1944 Water Treaty.

  • Financial measure proposed to support water conservation projects, including those to be carried out through the North American Development Bank.

  • Desire to observe and review water conservation projects and provide findings to the two governments and appropriate international funding institutions concerning estimated volumes of salvaged waters and the measures necessary to ensure their conveyance to the Rio Grande.

The commissioners also considered application of Recommendation 3 of Minute No. 307, dated March 16, 2001 in the following manner:

  • Measures of Cooperation on Drought Management: Mexico's National Water Commission will present to the International Boundary and Water Commission a progress report concerning drought management planning to support the Commission as a forum under which the proper authorities in each country may coordinate drought management plans.

  • Sustainable Management of the Basin: The Commission noted the desire of both governments to convene a bi-national summit of experts and water users from each country to inform authorities and stakeholders of sustainable management of the Rio Grande Basin.

    Taking the recommendations of the summit into account, the two governments will consider a bi-national sustainable management plan for the basin.

  • International Advisory Council: The Commission, subject to financial and personnel resources to each Section by the respective governments, to strengthen the Commission's role in sustainable management of the basin and drought management planning, will establish a forum for exchange of information and advice to the Commission from government and non-government organizations in their respective countries.

rsmith@primediabusiness.com