Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Mexico, U.S. plan talks on river use

Arizona Republic: The United States and Mexico agreed Monday to open talks about how the two nations share the Colorado River and what happens if the river's flow runs short.

Among the issues expected to come up during discussions are the ongoing drought, the potential effects of climate change, protection of the river's damaged delta and emerging water technologies that would encourage recycling or desalination.

The seven U.S. states that rely on the river want Mexico to include itself in a proposed drought plan that would spread future shortages among all users. Under the plan, which is undergoing review by federal officials, Arizona and Nevada would lose the most water in a severe drought. Without Mexico's involvement, those losses could grow if a drought persists.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said the discussions could start within a few weeks and would involve the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the river on the U.S. side, and the International Boundary and Water Commission, which administers treaties governing the river.

"The issues facing the Colorado River basin are complex, and increasing our dialogue with Mexico will make the path to resolving them much easier," Kempthorne said.

Mexico is entitled to 1.5 million acre-feet of water from the river each year. An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons, enough to serve one or two households for one year. Mexico's share represents about 11 percent of the river's average flow of about 14 million acre-feet a year.

The two countries have clashed in recent years over several issues including: Increasing efficiency in water deliveries…. protecting riparian habitat. …[and ] protecting future supplies. The river is already overallocated most years and faces further pressure from drought and climate change, which could reduce its flow. The two sides are expected to discuss new studies and technology that could augment the Colorado's flow or create new water sources, such as desalted seawater.

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