U.S., Mexico agree to share abundance or shortage of Colorado River water

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U.S. and Mexican officials signed an agreement Nov. 20 to adjust the amount of Colorado River water allocated to Mexico according to whether there is an abundance of water or a drought.

The International Boundary and Water Commission, which oversees U.S.-Mexico treaties, said (.pdf) in a release that the agreement, known as Minute 319, was the culmination of several years of discussions. It amends the 1944 Water Treaty between the two countries, which allotted Mexico 1.5 million acre-feet per year of water from the Colorado River.

Mexico can store some of its allotted water in Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in North America, located along the Colorado River in Arizona and Nevada, because of a prior amendment to the treaty, Minute 318, which the countries agreed to in 2010. They made that agreement in the aftermath of a magnitude-7.2 earthquake that damaged Mexico's water infrastructure.

The new agreement extends the measures that have allowed Mexico to defer delivery of some of its Colorado River water. It also makes Mexico's allocation dependent on the water level in Lake Mead.

When the water level drops below 1,075 feet above sea level, Mexico will lose some of its portion of the water, and it will receive extra water when the level exceeds 1,145 feet, the Associated Press reports.

The new agreement will remain in effect for 5 years. In a release, Edward Drusina, the U.S. commissioner of the IBWC, said the agreement will help the countries cope with the impacts of drought and climate change.

After 5 years, the IBWC says it expects to sign another agreement or extend substantial portions of Minute 319.

For more:
- download the IBWC release (.pdf)
- download Minute 318 (.pdf)

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