CASE NUMBER: 17 CASE MNEMONIC: COLORADO CASE NAME: Colorado River Water Dispute A. IDENTIFICATION 1. The Issue The 1944 United States-Mexico Treaty for Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande allots to Mexico a guaranteed annual quantity of water from these sources. The treaty does not provide specifically for water quality, but this did not constitute a problem until the late 1950's. Rapid economic development and increased agricultural water use in the United States spurred degradation of water quality received by Mexico. Much of the increased water is intended for producing agricultural products for export. With a view to resolving the problem, Mexico protested and entered into bilateral negotiations with the United States. In 1974, these negotiations resulted in an international agreement, interpreting the 1944 Treaty, which guaranteed Mexico water of the same quality as that being used in the United States. 2. Description Colorado River water quality was not an issue until 1961. Until that time Mexico received unused Colorado river flows over and above the Treaty requirements, and the quality of the water delivered to Mexico was nearly the same as that used in the lower Colorado River Basin of the United States. In the 1950s, however, several factors contributed to a serious decline in water quality. Intense development in the southwest United States and the lure of increased agricultural trade resulted in rapidly growing demands for use of Colorado River waters. The United States began diverting significant amounts of water from the Colorado River in order to irrigate new areas under cultivation. The Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation and Drainage District of Arizona was the most important of these projects. At the same time that excess water became scarce, Arizona began pumping highly saline drainage from the Wellton- Mohawk project back into the Colorado River. While the United States continued to fulfill the Treaty's water quantity requirement by returning most of the diverted water to the river before it reached Mexico, it chose to overlook the decline in water quality. This was due to the high salinity of water used in the irrigation process and pumped drainage. Ironically, the Mexican farmers denied quality water are among the most feared competitors of the U.S. agriculture industry. In November, 1961 Mexico formally protested that the waters it was receiving were not suitable for agricultural uses, and that agricultural production in the Mexicali Valley was being adversely affected. Mexico further alleged that the United States was violating the 1944 Treaty and international law. In 1972, the United States and Mexico found a "permanent and definitive solution" to the salinity problem. In addition to agreeing to provide Mexico with the quantity of water required under the 1944 Treaty, the United States said it would meet certain standards of average water quality. To meet this objective the United States built a desalinization plant in Arizona to process the water from the Wellton-Mohawk diversion. This process decreased the mineral content of the water before it was returned to Mexico via the Colorado River. The United States also constructed, at its expense, a drain to carry the waste produced by the plant directly to the Gulf of California, bypassing the Colorado River completely. In addition, the United States agreed to help Mexico obtain financing for improvements and rehabilitation of the Mexicali Valley. 3. Related Cases ISRAELH2 case ATATURK case ARAL case LESOTHO case MARSH case Keyword Clusters (1): Domain = North America [NAMER] (2): Bio-geography = DRY (3): Environmental Problem = WATER 4. Draft Author: Julie Ferguson B. LEGAL Clusters 5. Discourse and Status: AGReement and COMPlete In 1965, Mexico and the United States entered into a five- year agreement (subsequently extended for two more years) which provided for various measures to ameliorate the salinity problem. In 1972, President Echeverria of Mexico emphasized to President Nixon the importance to Mexico of the water quality problem and urged him to engage in a mutual effort to find a more permanent solution. President Nixon established a task force to study the problem. In 1972 the task force submitted its recommendations, and the two countries resumed negotiations on the basis of these recommendations. Final implementation of the international agreement came in 1974. 6. Forum and Scope: NAFTA and REGION Mexico and the United States negotiated an agreement in 1944 but it no doubt now relates to NAFTA provisions, and therefore possibly impacts Canada. The current border plan being developed by the United States includes questions of water quality covered by the 1972 accord. In the 1960s, Mexico contemplated recourse to the International Court of Justice or an ad hoc international tribunal. Both the United States and Mexican representatives agreed that a prompt, bilateral, practical, political solution would be preferable to the extent that it would save time, maintain goodwill and avoid uncertainty. In the end, the matter was referred to the US-Mexican International Boundary Waters Commission which undertook scientific studies and provided a forum for negotiations. 7. Decision Breadth: 3 (USA, Canada and Mexico) 8. Legal Standing: TREATY C. GEOGRAPHIC Clusters 9. Geographic Locations a. Geographic Domain : North America [NAMER] b. Geographic Site : Western Northern America [WNAMER] c. Geographic Impact : USA The highly saline water affects an area spanning the Colorado River Basin states, the Tijuana and Rio Grande Rivers and the Gulf of California. 10. Sub-National Factors: YES All of the states in the U.S. southwest have a stake in the water availability from the Colorado River, or tributaries to it. At minimum, this includes California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, and Utah. Colorado River tributary areas include states as far away as Wyoming and New Mexico. 11. Type of Habitat: DRY D. TRADE Clusters 12. Type of Measure: Regulatory Standard [REGSTD] The final agreement with Mexico was rendered in the form of Minute Number 242 of the International Boundary and Water Commission. This minute interpreted the 1944 Water Treaty. It was an international agreement, but not itself a treaty, and in consequence did not require ratification by either side. Its implementation, however, was dependent on U.S. congressional authorization of funds. 13. Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: INDirect 14. Relation of Measure to Environmental Impact a. Directly Related to Product : YES AGRICulture b. Indirectly Related to Product : NO c. Not Related to Product : NO d. Related to Process : YES WATER 15. Trade Product Identification: WATER The 1944 United States-Mexico Treaty allots Mexico a guaranteed annual quantity of 1,500,000 acre feet of Colorado River flows. 16. Economic Data 17. Impact of Measure on Trade Competitiveness: NA The resultant international agreement between Mexico and the United States resulted in substantial cost to the United States in the amount (estimated) of $280,000,000: for (1) desalting of the Wellton-Mohawk Drainage Project; (2) extension of a lined bypass drain to carry Wellton-Mohawk drainage and brine from the desalting plant to the Santa Clara slough on the Gulf of California; and (3) financing Mexico's improvements and rehabilitation of the Mexicali Valley. 18. Industry Sector: AGRICultural 19. Exporter and Importer: USA and MEXICO E. ENVIRONMENT Clusters 20. Environmental Problem Type: Pollution Sea [POLS] 21. Name, Type, and Diversity of Species Name: Many Type: Many Diversity: NA 22. Impact and Effect: HIGH and PRODuct As mentioned above, the quality of the water delivered to Mexico was adequate until 1961. In 1961, the combination of highly saline drainage from the Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation and Drainage District of Arizona and a decrease in availability of excess waters began to take its toll in the Mexicali Valley, Mexico. The effect of these two conditions was to increase the average annual salinity of waters made available to Mexico from an annual average of 800 parts of salt per million to nearly 1,500 parts per million. Pending a permanent solution to the problem, the United States engaged in selective pumping of the Wellton-Mohawk drainage wells to alleviate salinity at certain times and constructed a channel to bypass the drainage to the Gulf of California. The United States also released approximately 50,000 feet annually of stored water to meet the Mexican entitlement of 1.5 million acre-feet. By 1971, these measures had reduced the average annual salinity of waters to Mexico to 1,245 parts per million. The Task Force investigated more permanent solutions revealed three possibilities: (1) elimination of the source of higher salinity; (2) substitution of quality water from storage for the Wellton-Mohawk drainage; or (3) desalting the Wellton- Mohawk drainage. Desalting proved to be the preferred solution. Despite being the most expensive solution, desalting had the advantage of minimizing loss of water, barriers to development and environmental problems. Additionally, it encouraged important progress in desalting technology. This solution called for construction of a "membrane process desalting plant with at least 70 percent recovery capability of about 240 parts per million quality water." There were hopes that the recovery capability of the desalting plant could be as high as 90 percent and that continued cooperation between the U.S. Government and the Wellton-Mohawk District would lead to an increase in water use efficiency. Several options as to how to dispose of the brine resulting from desalting operations exist. These included (1) evaporation ponds, (2) discharge through a lined drain to the Santa Clara slough on the Gulf of California, and (3) deep well injection. The parties settled on the lined channel to the Santa Clara slough, because they were found to be less expensive than evaporation ponds and it was unclear whether deep well injection was feasible. 23. Urgency and Impact: MEDium and 100s of years Mexico has serious concerns over the impact of highly saline water on farm production in the Mexicali Valley. 24. Substitutes: Bio-degradable [BIODG] products VI. OTHER Factors 25. Culture: NO 26. Trans-Border: YES This is essentially a trans-border problem because Colorado River water crosses an international border. Water from the river had continuously flowed into the Gulf of California until 1956, when U.S. agricultural use led to no water discharges to the gulf in some summer months. 27. Rights: NO 28. Relevant Literature Brownell, H. and Eaton S. "The Colorado River Salinity Problem with Mexico." American Journal of International Law 69/255 (1975). U.S. Congress. Congressional Record 120. S-10371 (daily ed., June 12, 1974). Hearings on H.R. 12165 and Related Bills before the Subcommittee on Water and Power Resources of the House Committee on Interior. 91st Congress, 1st Session 75 (1973). Interior Department Document released by the Bureau of Reclamation entitled Colorado River Water Quality Improvement Program (February 1972). "Symposium on the Salinity of the Colorado River." Natural Resources Journal 15/1 (1975). 88 Statute. 266, Pub. L. 93-320 (1974 bill passed by both Houses of Congress, signed into law by President Nixon). Timm, C. U.S. Department of State Bulletin, 10 (1944): 288-92. U.S. Department of State Bulletin 69/388 (September 24, 1973). United States-Mexico Treaty for Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande, (February 3, 1944, 59 Stat. 1219, T.S. 994 3 U.N.T.S. 313). Weinberg, "Salt Talks: United States and Mexican Style: A Case Study of the Lower Colorado River Salinity Dispute." In R. Sein, ed., International Responsibility for Environmental Protection (1976).