U.S.To Deny Mexico Water?

In the entries I have previously written on water issues, I cannot tell you the amount of information I have gleaned and all I have learned about this issue. I have truly become much more educated on an issue that has really been a big part of my life regarding the environmental issues I have always been passionate about, and this issue in particular will always be one that I will dedicate my life to seeking truth about and relaying information about.

It is as simple as saying, WATER IS LIFE, and it is. It is to me a sacred fluid that sustains us, provides for our sustinence, cleanses us, renews us, and I believe heals us. To waste it, pollute it, defile it, or in any way keep it from sustaining others by design is immoral. And while it is a complex issue made so by the complexities of human life, it is also as simple as saying, water is a human right and should always be used within that one guideline. If only it were that easy. But I still and will always believe that, and also believe that disputes regarding water should always be mediated equitably so that all parties involved receive what they need to survive.

To knowingly deny anyone water is a human rights abuse.However, when legalities rear their ugly heads in disputes such as this one, it seems that the rights of others in regards to water are not always fully considered. In the case of the ongoing dispute between the border of Mexico (Mexicali), and the United States, I believe it has come to that in regards to the Treaty of 1944:

A Border Dispute That Focuses on Water, Not Immigration


Published: July 7, 2006CALEXICO, Calif. — For more than 100 years, as their names imply, Calexico and its much larger sister city, Mexicali, south of the border, have embraced each other with a bonhomie born of mutual need and satisfaction in the infernal desert.The pedestrian gate into Mexico clangs ceaselessly as Mexicans lug back bulging bags from Wal-Mart and 99 Cent Stores in Calexico. The line into the United States slogs along, steady but slower, through an air-conditioned foyer as men and women trudge off to work and, during the school year, children wear the universal face that greets the coming day.Now, the ties that bind Calexico and Mexicali are being tested as a 20-year dispute over the rights to water leaking into Mexico from a canal on the American side is reaching a peak.

Though the raging debate over illegal immigration in the United States has not upset border relations here, some say the fight over water could affect the number of Mexicans who try to cross here illegally. To slake the ever-growing thirst of San Diego, 100 miles to the west, the United States has a plan to replace a 23-mile segment of the earthen All-American Canal, which the federal government owns and the Colorado River feeds, with a concrete-lined parallel trough. The $225 million project would send more water to San Diego, by cutting off billions of leaked gallons — enough for 112,000 households a year — that have helped irrigate Mexican farms since the 1940's.

But Mexican farmers and their advocates say the lined canal would effectively turn off the spigot for 25,000 people, including 400 farmers whose wells rely on the seepage that has helped turn the powdery fields east of Mexicali, an industrial city, into one of the biggest Mexican producers of onions, alfalfa, asparagus, squash and other crops. The farmers and their families ask what will they do if they cannot till the fields and answer that they will cross the border, illegally if they have to, in droves. "They can't build a fence high enough to stop us," said Gerónimo Hernández, a Mexicali farmer whose family has worked the fields for generations. Juan Ignácio Guajardo, a lawyer in Mexicali who is helping a civic group there and two environmental groups in Southern California fight the canal, said, "You can't have it both ways," adding, "You can't take our water away and then say, 'We don't want immigration, either.' "

The dispute over the project was among the topics President Bush and President Vicente Fox of Mexico discussed in an April meeting in Mexico.[A federal judge ruled against environmental groups in the United States and a Mexicali civic association in a lawsuit against the project, dismissing some claims on June 26 on technicalities and deciding on July 3 that many of the predicted effects on Mexico were "highly speculative" and that the federal environmental law at issue did not apply beyond the border. The groups said they were preparing an appeal. In addition, a separate lawsuit is pending in state court.]

On the American side, managers of the Imperial Irrigation District, which controls the canal and a vast water system that has turned swaths of the California desert in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys into some of the most fertile farmland anywhere, defend the plan.They say the 1944 international treaty on the distribution of water from the Colorado River, which feeds the canal, does not prohibit the concrete lining. New agreements among the states and water utilities along the Colorado have imposed limits on how much water can be tapped from the river, making every drop count that much more. "There is more need than water available," said the general manager of the irrigation district, Charles Hosken. "When you find a point to access water, I think it is our duty to go after it."Mr. Hosken acknowledged that the project, which has been mired in legal challenges and planning since the 1980's, "will have impact" on Mexico, but said, "The fact is, the water belongs to the United States, and we have never been compensated for it." He said he was particularly angry at opponents of the project who invoke the immigration debate, which while discussed here, has not set off the fiery passions found elsewhere.The notion that cutting off the leakage would drive up illegal immigration, he said, was "quite a stretch" and a "scare tactic" intended to take advantage of the charged atmosphere surrounding the debate. But opponents said the project was moving forward without enough consideration of its potential effects. The federal lawsuit contended that a study in 1994 of the project's environmental consequences was outdated and should be revised to take into account changes of the last 12 years.
Continued at the link.

In a moral sense, I would say that if the people of San Diego truly needed this water to live (which I don't know is true,) that they should be able to take it as long as no undue harm is done to the livelihoods of the Mexican farmers who have relied upon this water since the 40s. In reading what I could of the Treaty of 1944 between the U.S. and Mexico, the U.S. cannot divert water from Mexico in this shared area if it would cause harm to the Mexican people who have been benefitting from it. From reading this article, it would appear that would be the case. And actually, bringing up the immigration debate may be warranted in that should this water that is necessary for Mexican farmers be diverted from them, where will they get water?

It would appear California wants to build this concrete retainer bridge to divert water from the run off so they don't have to tap the Colorado River. Is this then a true case of really needing it, or just doing it to have it all?And how can the laws regarding environmental effects that would most certainly cause undue harm to farmers on both sides of the border not go beyond the border of the U.S. in this case, when clearly the Treaty of 1944 does?

Here is a bit of background regarding the establishment of boundaries and water related treaties between the United States and Mexico:

Treaty of 1884- Established the rules for determining the location of the boundary when the meandering rivers transferred tracts of land from one bank of the river to the other.

Convention of 1906

Treaty of 1944
Look at Article 9, Section (d)

March 2005
According to this report, the Mexican government owed the US water debt due to its not being able to keep up its end of the treaty due to drought, but that had now all been forgiven as of March 2005. These entries prove that the Mexican government is essentially providing the amount of water allowable to the U.S. under Minute of the 1994 Treary which is carried out by the IBWC (International Boundary Water Commisssion.)

It actually boggles my mind that water is treated like money in as far as being called a debt, but I guess that really is what it boils down to, especially financial loss when drought and the effects of climate change cause water levels to become lower, and more water needs to be diverted because of population growth, industrialization, and other factors not taken into account in the treaty of 1944. How could they then have foreseen the current state our Earth now finds herself in, and how will those climate changes and other current factors be taken into account with building this concrete diverting trough that may well cause these farmers to feel desperate enough to cross the border to get water?

Mexico Deliveries

The Rio Grande

I do not know where this will lead legally in the end. I do know that it is incumbant upon those who believe in the rights of all humans to have access to water to watch this very closely. It would appear to me from reading this that if taking this water from the farmers in Mexicali would definitlely cause undue harm to them, especially in light of the drought now in place that is exacerbated by climate change, industrialization, etc., that the building of this concrete trough would be prohibited by Treaty of 1944, Article 9, Section (d).

I believe it could also be argued that the current drought conditions not only being felt in Mexico but in the entire Southwestern U.S. are the direct result of the behavior of the humans who live in this United States, which has the highest rate of COs emissions in the world. It is truly a very emotional issue in also realizing that people on this side of the border are also experiencing repercussions from drought, and the need for water on all sides is increasing.

And people I have talked to about this issue thought this could only happen in Kenya, and that disputes over water are not real. They are most definitely so, and with a future upon us that gives us only a ten year window to do all we can to reverse the effects of climate change, this is just but the tip of the iceburg.I believe we will have to see a revamping of the Treaty of 1944 to bring all parties in this into the 21st Century to deal with it amicably, so that no side is without the water they need to live. At what point does legality trump morality? I suppose if these farmers were rich, it would be a different story.