U.S. and Mexico near border water-sharing agreement

Government leaders in the United States and Mexico are close to signing a pact to add areas south of the border to Colorado River water sharing agreements involving seven Western U.S. states, officials said Friday. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials characterized the talks as delicate while final documents circulate among 15 water agencies and state officials in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

“The concern is that these are sensitive negotiations,” said Kip White, a bureau spokesman in Washington, D.C. “It has taken a long time to get here. We’re looking forward to a culmination of this later this month.”

The framework of the five-year agreement became public with agenda items for a meeting next Thursday in Las Vegas involving the Southern Nevada Water Authority and Colorado River Commission of Nevada. The Las Vegas Review-Journal first reported it on Friday.

The pact is an addendum to a 1944 U.S.-Mexico water treaty. It developed from talks that started when the seven Colorado River states signed a landmark agreement in 2007 to share the pain of shortages and the wealth of surpluses from the Colorado River reservoirs of Lake Mead and Lake Powell. The water users called at the time for federal officials to get Mexico to participate.

The agreement would also link Mexican and U.S. water allocations from the Colorado River during surplus and drought. The documents never refer to shortage, but instead cite “low reservoir conditions.” “Provisions include Mexico agreeing to adjust its delivery schedule during low reservoir conditions, Mexico having access to additional water during high reservoir conditions, and a commitment to work together on a pilot program that includes water for the environment,” according to a summary submitted to voting SNWA and Colorado River Commission members.

The agreement would let Mexico continue an emergency program begun two years ago to store water in Lake Mead, the reservoir behind Hoover Dam near Las Vegas.

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