Texas is fuming because Mexico isn’t sending the water it owes

February 25, 2019 0 By Ericka  Her

“This issue is life or death for some of our farmers, their ability to support their families and make a living,” said Texas state Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D), who has been leading the charge to make Mexico give from its rivers. “We’ve been good neighbors. We just want to share and share alike.”

The Amistad dam, with its one-quarter-full, border-straddling reservoir, is ground zero for the dispute. Finished during the Nixon administration in 1969, the dam is jointly administered by the two countries: Of the 16 floodgates, eight are maintained by Mexico and eight by the United States. Each country operates a hydroelectric power plant at the dam, and water levels and releases are calculated and coordinated by engineers from both countries. In the Cold War-era control rooms, clocks show both Mexican and U.S. time zones.

Mexico doesn’t dispute its water debt, but says that its own shortages make it impossible, at this point, to comply with the annual 350,000 acre-feet to be given to the United States.

“We have had a prolonged drought since 1994 until now. It has been difficult for Mexico to give this water,” said Ignacio Peña Treviño, Mexico’s representative here on the International Boundary and Water Commission. “There isn’t rain like there was in the past.”

The treaty stipulates that in the event of a dam failure or “extraordinary drought,” either side could make up its shortage in the next five-year cycle. But water officials in Texas don’t think Mexico’s weather conditions meet that standard. …

At least 34 Texas Communities have less than a 90 day supply of water. A dozen could go dry in 45 days or less.

Joe Mooneyham no longer grows any flowers or plants in his backyard. Instead, the Pebble Beach resident in Bandera County is nursing a quiet optimism that it will all come back.

“I haven’t watered since September of last year,” Mooneyham said. “Everything was just emerald green.”

He misses the greenery, the deer and the water.

Medina Lake, which used to send gentle waves lapping at his backyard dock, has receded more than a mile and a quarter away.

“Every day I go on and check the level,” Mooneyham said.

Pebble Beach is a community whose name is borne out in the field of small stones that were once covered by several feet of lake water. It’s also a community reporting less than a three-month supply of water for its residents.

Neighbors a few miles down the road are having water brought in by the truckload, or face spending tens of thousands of dollars to dig for it.

“The well-service people have been lowering pumps. Some have had to have new wells drilled. It’s just a fact of nature,” said Bandera County Judge Richard Evans.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality keeps tabs on those places where the water is scarce enough to draw concern.

Pebble Beach is on the list, and so are 33-others which could be out of water within three months.

A dozen municipalities are reporting they could go dry in 45 days or less.