Early this month the United States and Mexico renewed a long-term arrangement to preserve the overdrawn Colorado River. The international pact includes spending millions of dollars on conservation, environmental projects and drawing up plans to deal with future water shortages.
The nine-year renewal expands on the original 1944 water treaty that governs how the U.S. and Mexico share and manage the river. A vital source of freshwater for the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico, the Colorado provides water to 40 million people and more than 6,300 square miles of farmland in the U.S. alone.
In a report by the Denver Post, Roberto Salmon, Mexico’s representative on the International boundary and Water Commission commented that the agreement is a commitment to future generations to solve the river’s problems “so that they don’t say that our generation stood there with our arms crossed.”
The deal allows Mexico to store water in U.S. reservoirs but also requires the United States to invest up to $31.5 million on water conservation efforts in Mexico, such as repairing leaks in irrigation canals and helping farmers implement water-efficient technology. Water saved through efficiency upgrades will be divided among both countries and environmental conservation projects.
The deal also sets aside 210,000 acre-feet of water that will be allowed to flow freely into the beleaguered Colorado River Delta. Decades of improper water rights allocations and dam construction has reduced the delta to a remnant system of small wetlands and brackish mudflats.
“There is a provision in this agreement that allows water to be routed to benefit those little oases of natural environment. That’s a really good thing,” said Jake Schmidt a professor of watershed sciences at Utah State University, in an interview with Utah Public Radio.
With the Colorado River continuing to be the foundation of communities and commerce across the region, this renewed agreement will create a more resilient future for one of the most critical water bodies in North America.
 Elliott, Dan & Morgan Lee. U.S., Mexico reach deal to conserve Colorado River Water. Denver Post, September 27, 2017. Web. http://www.denverpost.com/2017/09/27/colorado-river-conservation-us-mexico-deal/
 Bland, Alastair. Environment is Big Winner in U.S. – Mexico Colorado River Agreement. News Deeply, October 5, 2017. Web. https://www.newsdeeply.com/water/articles/2017/10/05/environment-is-big-winner-in-u-s-mexico-colorado-river-agreement
 Taylor, Katherine. U.S. and Mexico Reach Agreement on Colorado River Water Use. Utah Public Radio, October 17, 2017. Web. http://upr.org/post/us-and-mexico-reach-agreement-colorado-river-water-use
Image Credit: Flickr, Sharon Mollerus