Facing dry season, Valley farmers push for Mexico to deliver water

6 months 3 weeks 1 day ago Tuesday, March 07 2023 Mar 7, 2023 March 07, 2023 9:10 AM March 07, 2023 in News - Local

Rio Grande Valley farmers say they are already heading into a bad spring following a 20-year low in water supply at Falcon Dam last year, which hasn't improved much going into 2023.

"We're looking at a very, very dry spring,"  Texas Citrus Mutual President Dale Murden said.

Water restrictions are still in effect for the irrigation districts that serve farmers, meaning they can't get much water for their land.

"In my own operation, I've got one irrigation to try to figure out when's the best time to use it," Murden said.

Murden said under ideal conditions, he would water his crops once a month during the hot summer months.

There's little rain to refill the U.S. Falcon and Amistad Reservoirs, but in Mexico, a series of 14 dams are grabbing water and holding it before it reaches the Rio Grande in the United States.

RELATED: Valley cotton farmers concerned over low water levels

The largest of them, the Boquilla Dam on the Rio Conchos, is about four miles wide and 20 miles across. It's currently at 77% capacity.

"Looking at the reservoir levels in Mexico, there's eight or nine that are at 100% capacity or right there abouts," Murden said.

Mexico has a right to use water from rivers that feeds into the Rio Grande, but under a 1944 treaty, Mexico has an obligation to deliver more than 1.75 million acre-feet of water every five years to the United States.

The U.S. is in year two of this cycle.

Merden said U.S. officials should ask Mexico to release their surplus ahead of time.

"All we're asking is that, rather than wait till the end of the fifth year, is that if you have the water, and it looks like they do, and the other party is in desperate need, make the payment. Murden said. "Make the annual payment rather than the five-year cycle payment. It's a little unusual, but we don't see why it couldn't be done." 

In a statement, the International Boundary and Water Commission said in a written statement,"Mexican dams in the Conchos River basin are relatively full. We have notified Mexico of the need for water deliveries, since Texas farmers are currently making decisions regarding this season's crops. In this five-year water cycle, to date, Mexico has made less than 50% of expected deliveries."

Murden hopes relief for farmers doesn't come at the end of a five-year cycle.

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