September 27, 2017 / Modified sep 27, 2017 4:24 p.m.

US, Mexico Sign On to Boost Conservation of Colorado River

'Minute 323' calls for the U.S. to invest $31.5M to modernize Mexico's infrastructure.

Colorado River Delta hero The dry Colorado River Delta in 2009.
Pete McBride, U.S. Geological Survey

An agreement signed by the United States and Mexico is intended to improve conservation of Colorado River water, Arizona water officials said.

The river supplies drinking water for seven U.S. states, including Arizona, and Mexico. Agreements set how much water each state can take from the river, and treaties specify how much water Mexico gets.

The new agreement, referred to as “Minute 323,” calls for the United States to invest $31.5 million dollars in Mexico’s water infrastructure.

The Central Arizona Project (CAP) and other U.S. water users will pay $15 million of that.

“That new investment, that $15 million, will generate more than 100,000 acre-feet of savings in the near term as well as making water uses in Mexico more efficient in the long term,” said CAP’s Chuck Cullom.

The hope is that modernizing the system to reduce leaks and improve conservation will put less stress on the Colorado.

When water on the Colorado was divided among the stakeholders, the river was at historically high levels.

Years of drought have increased the possibility of officially declared shortages on the Colorado.

If that happens, Arizona and other states will face cuts to the amount of water they receive from the river.

One aspect of Minute 323 negotiated by Arizona water officials makes Mexico come up with drought contingency plans much like those in place for U.S. states that use the river.

Arizona’s loss would be felt most strongly by the agriculture industry.

The agreement also further defines how U.S. states and Mexico will share the burden if a shortage is declared.

“The U.S. and Mexico are willing to share both the risks and the opportunities to improve the Colorado River through investment and management of the shared river system,” said Cullom.

The plan will also help maintain habitat-restoration efforts in the Colorado River Delta in Mexico.

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