U.S. and Mexico Sign Agreement to Manage Colorado River

Oct 13, 2017

Officials in the U.S. and Mexico have signed a binational agreement aimed at staving off water shortage on the Colorado River and restoring the delta ecosystem. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

Colorado River at Morelos Dam, April 2014
Credit Bill Hatcher, Sonoran Institute

The agreement is called Minute 323 and will remain in effect for nine years.

It renews a previous deal that allows Mexico to share in surpluses and shortages on the river. Mexico also agreed to take less water from the river before Lake Mead drops to a critical level—but only if Arizona, California and Nevada finalize an agreement to cut use as well.

The Colorado River serves about 40 million people in both countries.  

Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, says, "The fact that Mexico has agreed in this Minute to be in an equitable situation… is a really important thing moving forward. They’re becoming, as they desire, a true partner in managing the river."

In addition, the two countries promised to set aside water and money for restoration of the Colorado River Delta. Karl Flessa, geosciences professor at the University of Arizona, says, "Restoration in the delta is important because it’s a reflection of society’s values. Yes, we need water for agriculture, yes, we need water for cities, but we also need water for nature."

Water for restoration will come partly from improvements to Mexico’s irrigation infrastructure.