SAN DIEGO (AP) — The United States and Mexico are rewriting rules on how to share water from the Colorado River, capping a five-year effort to form a united front against future drought in their western states.
The far-reaching agreement to be signed Tuesday gives Mexico rights to put some of its river water in Lake Mead —which stretches across Nevada and Arizona — giving it badly needed storage capacity. Mexico will forfeit some of its share of the river during shortages, bringing itself in line with western U.S. states that already have agreed how much they will surrender in years when waters recede.
Water agencies in California, Arizona and Nevada also will buy water from Mexico, which will use some of the money to upgrade its infrastructure.
The agreement, coming in the final days of the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, is a major amendment to a 1944 treaty that is considered sacred by many south of the border. The treaty grants Mexico 1.5 million acre-feet of river water of water each year — enough to supply about 3 million homes — making it the lifeblood of Tijuana and other cities in northwest Mexico.
Mexico will surrender some of its allotment when the water level in Lake Mead drops to 1,075 feet and reap some of the surplus when it rises to 1,145 feet, according to a summary of the agreement prepared by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which will buy some of Mexico's water.
The agreement expires in five years and is being billed as a trial run, potentially making it more palatable in Mexico.
"These are big political steps for Mexico to take," said Jeffrey Kightlinger, Metropolitan's general manager. "Chances are we won't have a surplus and we won't have a shortage but, if we do, we'll have the guidelines in place on how we're going to handle it."
In 2007, facing an eight-year drought, California, Arizona and Nevada agreed on how much each state should sacrifice during shortages on the 1,450-mile river that flows from the Rocky Mountains to Mexico. That same year, the U.S. and Mexico promised to work on ways to jointly address shortages.
The negotiations gained a sense of urgency for Mexico in 2010 after a magnitude-7.2 earthquake damaged canals and other infrastructure, forcing it to store water temporarily in Lake Mead.
"They have some storage but it's not enough for drought and emergencies," said Halla Razak, Colorado River program director at the San Diego County Water Authority.
Roberto Salmon, Mexico's representative to the International Boundary and Water Commission, was scheduled to attend a signing ceremony in Coronado, near San Diego. He didn't respond to a phone message left at his office after business hours Monday.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was expected to attend. The Colorado River is also a key source of water for Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
A San Diego police officer has been arrested in connection with a domestic violence incident that occurred in La Mesa on Tuesday, says La Mesa police.
The City Council is scheduled Wednesday to take the first step in calling for residents to conserve water on a voluntary basis following the third straight winter with below-average rainfall.
Testimony is set to resume Wednesday in a preliminary hearing for a former San Diego police officer accused of groping and illegally detaining women while on patrol last year.
Jury selection was scheduled to begin Wednesday in the trial of a man accused of gunning down his ex-wife in their Lakeside home and then trying to commit suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide.
A San Diego State student awoke to find a man rummaging through her apartment near campus early Wednesday, police said.
Three months after proposing a ballot measure to increase the minimum wage in San Diego, City Council President Todd Gloria is scheduled Wednesday to release details of the plan, including an amount.
An 18-year-old student has been hospitalized and is undergoing a psychological evaluation after allegedly threatening her parents with a knife.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled Tuesday for a former San Diego police officer accused of groping four women during pat-down searches last year.