Mexico warns US about environmental costs of Colorado River alteration

The Mexican government has warned the United States about damage to the environment from a plan to alter the water distribution system of the Colorado River, shared by both countries.


On 6 February, the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a warning to the new US Government that an approved plan enabling ‘water banking’ to become a reality in Nevada and Arizona along the 1,400 mile (2,300 km) long river, would cause a deterioration of the volume and quality of water received by Mexico. It urged the new administration to “adopt measures to prevent negative impacts” which will be caused by modifying “the operation of the river basin’s hydraulic system and the distribution of excess water reaching the international border over the next 15 years”.

The Ministry stressed that it had warned of the plan’s detrimental effects on both countries “during all of last year” which include the following:

  • a deterioration of the quality of water received by Mexico, especially in terms of volume and salinity;
  • the increased salinisation of 775 square miles (2,000 sq km) under cultivation in the Mexicali valley;
  • endangered species, species in need of special protection, and commercial fishing would be affected in the upper part of the Gulf of California;
  • damage to the ecosystem and to the existing flora at the outlet of the Colorado River to the Gulf of California.

Mexico urged the US to take the necessary measures to prevent these impacts on the country, reminded its neighbour of 1984’s La Paz Agreement to protect and improve the border environment and invited it to talks on preventing harm to the environment.

Local environmental group, the International Sonoran Desert Alliance (ISDA), however, believes that the plan will help restore wildlife in to parched areas.

President George W. Bush is due to visit Mexico on 16 February to meet his Mexican counterpart, Vicente Fox, for the first time. Farmers in the Mexican states of Baja California and Sonora and in the US’s Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming all depend on the river.

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