Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

November 26, 2012


Host: Ted Simons

U.S.-Mexico Colorado River Water Agreement


  • The United States and Mexico have a new agreement on Colorado River water. The new deal will allow the U.S. to get a one-time increased allotment from the river in exchange for $10 million and helping Mexico to repair canals damaged in a 2010 earthquake. It also lets Mexico store water in Lake Mead, which will boost water levels by 15 feet and could lead to more tourism at the lake.
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: mexico, U.S., colorado river, agreement, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The United States and Mexico have agreed to new rules that govern the sharing of Colorado river water. The five-year agreement, known as minute 319, allows Mexico to continue storing unused water in lake mead that, and other provisions in the agreement will help the central Arizona project manage Arizona's share of Colorado river water. Here to explain all of this is cap General Manager David Modeer. Good to have you here
David Modeer: Glad to be here.
Ted Simons: Before we get started, minute 319 what is that all about?
David Modeer: I’d liken it to you have a set of rules, and now we are going to have referees administer them, and that's how you would look at minute, and it's not really part of the basic treaty between the United States and Mexico over water, but it defines how you are going to operate underneath that treaty so there have been a lot of minutes over the years. Obviously, we're up to 319 now. And they all deal with this specific area of concern between the two countries.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about this particular agreement. It's U.S. deal. Regarding Colorado river allocations, and we helped Mexico with canal repair? Something along those lines?
David Modeer: It's deeper than that. But, the basics of this were the differences between Mexico and the Colorado river basin states over how to implement items like shortage sharing during shortage on the river, was Mexico going to take it or not. The treaty calls for, for them to share in extraordinary doubts but that's never been defined, this is the first time that we've been able to reach a comprehensive agreement about how we would share the resources of the Colorado and how we would all share in deficits. And surpluses along the Colorado. So, it's a historic agreement, and that, in that context, and although there are 319 minutes to the treaty, this is one of the most significant.
Ted Simons: But again, the idea of moving this along, or being part of this particular deal, is the idea of helping Mexico with some damage repair, correct?
David Modeer: That's right. We will provide funding out of the United States to both help them recover from the damage that they experienced in the earthquake, and also to create some conservation projects that will conserve water in Mexico, and that will give us a good basis for understanding how the United States and Mexico can cooperate in water conservation projects on both sides of the border to ensure the long-term sustainability of the flows of the Colorado.
Ted Simons: It's bad damage that they had?
David Modeer: They had significant damage to, to their canals, in particular, where subsidence created by the earthquake, created water flowing in the wrong directions, and the canals, and it's a substantial amount of money, which they don't simply have the resources to, to effect all the repairs.
Ted Simons: Is this one-time increase in water for America and Arizona?
David Modeer: Yes. This is one-time five-year deal, which expires December 31st of 2017. It provides for specific amount of water that will go to, to the three lower basin states. California, Nevada, and Arizona, through the cap and Arizona. And the amount of money that will be provided by the Federal Government and the three states and in funding these pilot projects and repairs in New Mexico.
Ted Simons: Impact to Arizona, how much water are we talking about?
David Modeer: 23,750-acre foot of water. From Mexican's water apportionment left in lake mead, and we have several decades of which we can choose how to use that water.
Ted Simons: When you talk about acre feed, that's, that's -- it sounds like a lot but what does it mean in real term?
David Modeer: 326 gallons of water each acre. So it's enough to serve between two and three families in the Phoenix area.
Ted Simons: And that's over --
David Modeer: On an annual basis.
Ted Simons: A five-year period here. And as far as Mexico is concerned, they get to store unused water at lake mead, correct?
David Modeer: That's correct. We have had a previous agreement which allowed Mexico to store some of their unused water, which is, which has been unused because of the results of the damage from the earthquake. And we've been allowed them to use it on a temporary basis by storing it in lake mead. This will codify that under minute agreement that allows them a certain amount to store on an annual basis. A certain amount that they store, about 250,000 acres, that they can use about 200,000 on an annual basis. And that water stored is subject to the same criteria of the state storing water in lake mead subject to evaporation and the other criteria that go along with that.
Ted Simons: This agreement, is it something unusual? Have we had similar agreements in the past?
David Modeer: We have had similar agreements, but not to this magnitude. We have had agreements related to salinity in the river and how to do some other issues about water flows to Mexico, but none of them, of this significance. It not only provides water to, to us here in Arizona, and to, to California and Nevada. It also provides water to the Mexicans, that they can have pulse flow and see whether flows can go through this system and reach all the way to the gulf of California for the first time in a number of years. Not generated by flooding condition. So, I think that both countries are benefiting significantly out of this arrangement. Provides the framework for the future where we can work together, to begin to find ways to augment the Colorado river for the systemic shortages that are going to happen over the next 50 years or so, and we need each other in this ball game working together.
Ted Simons: Before I get back to the agreement, you mentioned systemic shortages. What do you see and hear as far as the future is concerned? It seems like there is a lot of skepticism that we're going to have enough water?
David Modeer: I think that under any criteria that we have looked at and particularly, in terms of the bureau of reclamation's basin study, which is, which is taking a look at the demands, and water flows in the river over the next 50 years, there's no scenario, that doesn't say that we have a gap in the amount of water that is needed. And the amount of water that will be present in the river. So, there has to be some extraordinary measures taken by the states, and in regards though that, and that includes conservation. It includes reuse of water. It includes augmentation of finding another source to augment the supply of the Colorado, and it's important for both Mexico and the United States to be involved in this process.
Ted Simons: And as far as this deal is concerned, how did it take players, how long of a process was it? We know 319 minutes were involved but this is significant. This had to have taken a long time.
David Modeer: This has been going on for 4.5 years. Constant meetings. Both on the technical side of it, and on the principle side, like the department of waters, resources director. My staff. Myself. Same way in California and all the other states.
Ted Simons: So, it had been a long process, and again, significance, it's hard to overstate this. People don't realize, do they, how important water is?
David Modeer: I think that the water is getting to be understood to be important. I think that the basis of Arizona's economy in the last 15 years, and certainly go forward in the future, is, is largely dependent on the consistency and sustainability of supplies of water. Both out of the central Arizona project, and out of the Salt River Project. It's critical. People don't make long term commitments to, to developing businesses or building homes or whatever it is, if you don't have, a sense that there is going to be sustainable supply of the things that make the quality of life, and water is one of those indispensable commodities, and I think that it's, it's critical to the State of Arizona.
Ted Simons: Thank you very much for joining us, and congratulations on the deal, and we look forward to hearing more about it, thank you very much.
David Modeer: Thank you, glad to be here.

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