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By KELIN DILLON

Farmers in Tamaulipas are facing a state of emergency due the lack of water available in the northern Mexican state’s 25th irrigation district, leaving 15,000 families in the region at risk.

Jorge Luis López Martínez, president of the regional Union of Rural Owners and member of the River Basin Council, warned that economic collapse in the area could be imminent if its residents are unable to plant crops as usual.

Half of Mexico’s annual sorghum production comes from Tamaulipas, but because of the lack of available water, this year’s harvest is in jeopardy.

“If (the sorghum) is not sown, the losses would be incalculable,” said López.

According to producers from the region, over 2 billion pesos of profit have already vanished due to the water crisis. 

López placed the blame squarely on the nearby state of Chihuahua, pointing to fallout following last year’s Sept. 8 storming of the La Boquilla dam by Chihuahuan farmers over tensions surrounding Mexico and the Unite4d States’ 1944 water treaty and Mexico’s subsequent water debt.

“We are in a state of emergency,” said López. “This is becoming more serious and creating a crisis. When the La Boquilla dam was taken last year, not even half of the water that corresponded to Tamaulipas arrived, and now, less is being received, to the economic losses that were had, new ones are being added and the situation is going to collapse.” 

The terms of the 1944 treaty required the United States to send 1.5 million acre-feet of water to Mexico from the Colorado River to the Baja California region every year, in exchange for Mexico providing Texas with 1.75 million acre-feet of water from tributaries of the Rio Grande over the span of five years, benefiting Mexico at an approximate five-to-one ratio.

The Chihuahua farmers, manipulated by political interests, stormed the La Boquilla reservoir last September to prevent water transfers to the United States, despite Mexico not having fulfilled its end of the treaty for the 10 years prior, culminating in the death of one protestor and the injury of several others.

Mexico ended up paying it’s long-delayed water debt before its Oct. 24 deadline by drawing water resources from both the Chihuahua and Tamaulipas regions, with promises of its replenishment, something that López said never happened.

“Natural resources must be distributed equitably so that there is development, and that is not happening, they are giving Chihuahua more,” said López.

Chihuahua’s control of La Boquilla prevents the water supply’s rundown from reaching Texas and Tamaulipas, with López claiming that “1.1 billion cubic meters of water are being held illegally” in the northern state, resulting in an already 70 percent delay in new water owed to the United States.

The River Basin Council president said the Mexican government “rewards those who steal the water by authorizing them more water,” rather than allocating the precious resource on an as-needed basis.

According to López, Tamaulipas only received 43 percent of its allocated water supply in the 2019 to 2020 agricultural season, while Chihuahua, “which is flooded and they do not let drain,” had more than 700 million cubic meters of water left over, “while Tamaulipas is dying of thirst.”

A solution to the water crisis must be found soon, as it puts Mexico’s entire food supply into jeopardy.

With economic issues already ravaging the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mexico cannot afford another setback, and steps must be taken to prevent any more hardships to the nation’s already suffering population, he said.

…Jan. 22, 2021

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