WATER USE AND WATER MANAGEMENT POLICY IN THE CHIHUAHUAN DESERT ECOREGION
The Río Grande, long an adequate though never a voluminous river except in flood tide, has been attended in modern times by concerned management in its government conservancy districts; but in many places the river has become only a trickle, and in others entirely dry, to be replenished only by flood from otherwise dry or meager local tributaries and by diminishing groundwater, this always in the faceof increasing needs of its resources in both the United States and Mexico. PAUL HORGAN, GREAT RIVER: THE RIO GRANDE IN NORTH AMERICAN HISTORY (WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY PRESS:HANOVER, N.H. 1984),PREFACETOTHE 4TH EDITION,AT P.VIII.
Many areas of the ecoregion are characterized by low and sporadic rainfall, limited streamflowand low groundwater recharge rates
Dams have reduced the base flows of major riversand, in someareas, groundwater pumping has reduced or eliminated spring and stream flow or allowed the infiltration of saline water into fresh water zones. Examples of these effects abound
Table 1a. Examples ofOver-Exploited Aquifers in Northeastern Mexico
<P>1b, 1c, Table 2c. Spring losses inTexas Counties in theChihuahuan Desert Ecoregion [all very good data, pdf pg 3-4]
irrigation now accounts for 50 to over 80% of total water use. 
decline with introduction of large scale grazing and forest clearing as the region was settled, compounded byirrigation operations that began at the turn of the century. For example, Comanche Springs near Fort Stockton in Pecos County, Texas once flowed at 1,870 liters/second and provided water for an irrigation district of over 2,500 hectares. But heavypumping for irrigation eventuallylowered the water tables, leading to falling spring flows in the late 1940s. These once bountifulsprings ceased to flow in the early 1960s.
water development projects also provided water for large urban centers, influx of U.S. and Asian-based maquiladora assembly plants, [plant neds water, plus all the workers it attracts need water]
In Texas, for example, pumping of groundwater is unregulated, with anylandowner free to pump water without regard to the overall effect on aquifer levels or even nearby wells
Mexico is struggling togain controlover water uses and strengthen the technological and managerial capacity of its centralized water management agency. [centralized lol]
long-standing conflicts over ownership of water rights in someportions of the region (e.g. in the Elephant Butte/Caballo Reservoirsin New Mexico, where the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has recentlyfiled a ?quiet title? suit)
Inter-state disputes between Texas and New Mexico over distribution of waters of the Río Grande and Pecos Rivers generated extensive litigation
El Cuchillo Reservoir on the Río San Juan ignited battles between the states of Nuevo León and Tamaulipas.
legal and institutional weaknesses, as well as the limitations ofavailable supply, have been exposed byrecurrent droughts. 
many reservoirs in northeastern Mexico dropped below 30%capacity
? Arizona continues to pushimplementation of pumping controls and water resource management in active management areas, such as that for the Santa Cruz basin;
? the Texas legislature recently passed a comprehensive water planning and drought management bill;
? New Mexico has begun studies to better understand groundwater/surface water interaction in the lower portion of the Rio Grande in New Mexico, as a prelude to adjudication of water rights in that area;
? Mexico, with fundingfromthe World Bank, has been working tostrengthen and regionalize its water management structure;
To date, the consequences have included over-exploited aquifers, dry springs, substantiallyreduced instreamflows and intensive competition among agricultural, municipal and industrial users of water
(Arizona, New Mexico and Texas), state law largelygoverns the allocation of surface waterand groundwater, with some exceptions. In Mexico, federal law governs allocation of both surface water and groundwater.
Key Water Management Agencies: U.S. and Mexico International Boundary and Water Commission/ Comisión de Limites y Aguas: implements 1944 U.S./Mexico water allocation treaty, through U.S. and Mexicosections. OperatesAmistad/Falcondam system onRío Grande.
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation: constructed andoperates large irrigation projects throughout the west, includingthe Elephant Butte/Caballosystem on theRío Grande between Albuquerque and El Paso.
Comisión Nacional de Aguas: responsible for most watermanagement in Mexico, locatedwithin the federal environmental agency, SEMARNAP; has regional offices in Chihuahua (Chihuahua, Coahuila and Tamaulipas) and Sonora and state offices ineach of northernborder states.
Texas WaterDevelopment Board and TexasNatural Resource Conservation Commission:TWDB has responsibility for water planning and funding water supply projects; TNRCC administers waterrights and has responsibility for protecting surface water and groundwater quality.
New MexicoState EngineersOffice andNewMexico Department o f Natural Resources:State Engineeradministers water rights and conducts waterplanning; DNR has responsibility for quality issues.
Arizona Department of Water Resources: deals with bothwater quality andquantity issues.
Most surface water bodies in the U.S. portion of the ecoregion are already fully appropriated,at least on paper. In such situations, no new water rights can begranted. New needs must thus essentially be met by transferring water rights among uses to meet new needs.
Texas also recognizes certain riparian water rights
riparian right must have been formally claimed before 1969
Gila River, ...12 Indian reservations. The tribes are generally seeking rights to irrigate ?all practicably irrigable acreage? on the reservations, pursuant to the holding of a U.S. Supreme Court case.
n Texas, the question of federal ownership of water fromthe Elephant Butte and Caballo Reservoirs, which were constructed bythe federal Bureau of Reclamation, is being played out in a precedent-setting quiet title suit filed in federal District Court in New Mexico.Essentially, the Bureau has claimed federal ownership ofthe large majorityof water rights in the Elephant Butte/ Caballo system. The El Paso CountyWater Improvement District No. 1 has intervened with cross-claims that the federal project managers have failed to allocate adequate water to the District. It has also raised claimsrelated tothe effects of shallow irrigation wells that may actuallybe taking water fromthe Rio Grande. Others claiming rights to the water include the farmers withinthe Rio Grande Project area and the Elephant Butte Irrigation District. New Mexico and Texas are parties to the suit. Recentlythe Tigua Indian tribe has indicated their intention to assert water right claims as well. The litigation is currently in mediation, with a gag order imposed on participants.
Two other federal laws thatmaysignificantly affect surface water allocation in these three states are the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Both the ESA and NEPA mayrequire, in some instances,that sufficient flow remainin streams or springs to preserve habitat for endangered aquatic species. Such questions have alreadyarisen in the San Pedro and Rio Grande basins.
Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution. It essentially provides the federal government with ownership of and jurisdiction over almost all water.
Once theyare registered, water rights are transferable and can be bought and sold
Improvements in the water rights registry have been financed through a World Bank loan to Mexico.
supporting efforts to strengthen the management capabilities of user associations in irrigation districts, as Mexico seeks to decentralize water management decision-making authority to these districts
Rio Grande Compact of 1938provides for distribution of the U.S. share of the waters of the Rio Grande among Colorado, New Mexico and Texas
Compact allow for certain accrued credits and debits between the states, which has resulted in long-standing controversyand lengthylitigation
1948 Pecos River Compact between Texas and New Mexico ? Compact provides that New Mexico must deliver to Texas, subject to streamflow and other conditions ? 1990, the two states settled on-going litigation, with New Mexico agreeing to pay Texas $13.8 million.
ColoradoRiver Compact of 1922 divides the waters of the Colorado River between the basin states, including Arizona ? Arizonav. California(1963), the U.S. Supreme Court held that Arizona was entitled to 2.8 million acre-feet fromthe Colorado ? now-infamous Central Arizona Project (to bring Colorado River water to the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas), it had to agree to subordinate its rights to that ofCalifornia?s full share of the Colorado (4.4 million acre-feet) in order to win Congressional approval forthe CAP. Thus, in times ofshortage, deliveries to the CAP will be cut back to the point necessaryto satisfyCalifornia?s entitlement.
Table 4. 1944 TREATYALLOCATIONS [pdf pg 13]
International Boundaryand Water Commission (IBWC)is responsible for implementation of the 1906 Convention and the 1944 Treaty and it also operates the Amistad and FalconInternational Reservoirs on the main channel of the Río Bravo. TheU.S. shareofthe water from theRío Bravo basin is managed by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC), through the Rio Grande Watermaster program.
No interstate or binational agreements for allocation of transboundary groundwater
Texas, there is essentially no regulation of groundwater withdrawal, as the state still operates under the ?rule of capture? or ?absolute ownership?. Under this doctrine, the surface estate owner has ownership rightsto all the groundwater she can pump for use at anylocation, without bearing responsibility to neighboring landowners. Texas is the only state which still adheres to this approach, which has often been labeled as ?the biggest pump wins?
Texas state law does provide that the state may act to ?make and enforce rules and regulations for conserving, protecting and preserving, and distributing underground,subterranean, and percolating water? and to?do all things necessary for these purposes.? Despite this broad language, neither state leaders nor the state?s water agency have been willing to restrict pumping from over-exploited aquifers.
New Mexico has the most advanced system of groundwater regulation, essentially applying a prior appropriation-based permitting systemto all groundwater uses
1953, the Arizona Supreme Court decided that the state?s prior appropriation doctrine did not apply to groundwater extraction and use. The effect of this decision was to allow senior surface water rights to be negatively affected by subsequent groundwater pumping
artificial separation of surface and subsurface water rights has had significant implications for the Santa Cruz and San Pedro watersheds, with groundwater pumping diminishing surface water flow in both basins.
1980 ? Arizona Groundwater Management Act ? control severe groundwater overdraft and more efficientlyallocate limited groundwater resources ? ?Active Management Areas? ? New groundwater withdrawals for irrigation are prohibited.Grand-fathered irrigation uses must be metered and are subject to an annual fee for each acre-foot of water pumped. The major goal of the AMA structure is to reduce pumping to a ?safe yield? state by 2025 (i.e. balancing annual groundwater extraction against natural and artificial aquifer recharge).Other criteria for the AMAs include a requirement of ?assured water supply?for 100 years for new residential subdivisions.
The Arizona law also established two irrigation non-expansion areas (INAs), oneof which is located near Douglas. Thisarea had been designated as a critical groundwater area prior to thepassage of the 1980 act. Nonew groundwater withdrawals for irrigation can be made in an INA.
In 1988, an Arizona lower court case linked surface flow rights to groundwater int hose cases where 50% of the pumped water affected surface flows after 90 days. This ruling, however, was overturned in a 1993 Arizona Supreme Court case which linked surface water to?subflow?, defined as adjacent and below surface flows. As the court itself acknowledged, the ruling ignores hydrological science, which suggests that ground water pumping some distance away from a river can interrupt or redirect flow which would eventually reach the river.
Mexican federal government has authoritytoregulate groundwater pumping and use in the public interest, including requiring permits to be obtained for groundwater drilling and use.
inter-state compacts discussed above do notdeal with allocation of groundwater resources that span the boundaryof two states, nor do theyconsider the hydraulic connections between groundwater and surface water
farmers in the Elephant Butte to El Paso region have drilled thousands of groundwater wells asa back-up supply, even though Rio Grande surface water furnishes the principal source of rechargeto groundwater supplies
After 10 years of costly litigation, El Pasoand New Mexico recently settled a lawsuit brought by El Paso in an attempt to secure the right todrill groundwater wells inthe Mesilla Bolson in New Mexico and pumpthe water to El Paso for municipal use. The settlement established the New Mexico/Texas Water Commission, with the mission of seeking cooperative solutions to groundwater/surface waterallocations in this area.
Many transborder aquifers locatedin the Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion
Upper San Pedro (where groundwater pumping in Mexico is thoughtto alreadybe affecting stream flows in the San Pedro) and the Doña Ana/Juárez/El Paso area (where the Rio Grande recharges the Mesilla Bolson and where there is heavy dependence on the transboundary Mesilla and Hueco Bolsons)
conservation and drought management measures have been wholly voluntary in Arizona, Texas and New Mexico
?conservation plan?, TX 1997, for large holders[cities, irrigation districts, large individual users]
Treaty uses the term ?extraordinary drought?, which is not defined
?waterstored in theinternational storage reservoirs and belongingtothe countryenjoying?abundant water supply maybe withdrawn, with consent of the [IBWC]for use of the country undergoingthe drought.?
?any deficiencies existing at the end of the ?five-year cycle shall be made up in the following five-year cycle with water from the measured tributaries to which the U.S. has the right to a 1/3 share.? ? Due to the recent persistent drought,Mexico was notable to meet its 350,000AF/yr average over the last five-year cycle. Thus, under the Treaty, it is obligated to make up that difference in the next five years.(**CHECK WITH IBWC, BUT THIS IS WHAT WE UNDERSTAND FROM REGIONAL PLANNING PROCESS DISCUSSIONS**).
The problem with the Treaty, in addition to failing to define ?extraordinarydrought?, is that it does not provide a framework for allocation whenbothportions of the Rio Grande basin are suffering drought
The data presented inthispaper aregenerallyfor human consumptive use ofwater?that iswater usedin humanactivities
municipal useis defined to include household, commercial and other uses supplied bypublic or quasi-public water supply systems. Agricultural use is defined to include waterused for irrigation and livestock watering. Industrial use encompasses water used bymining, oil and gas exploration, manufacturing and other industries where that water is not supplied by a municipal water system.
Mumme, Stephen,?ManagingAcute Water Scarcity on the U.S.-Mexico Border: Institutional Issues Raised by the 1990s Drought?, inTRANSBOUNDARY RESOURCES REPORT (INTERNATIONAL TRANSBOUNDARY RESOURCES CENTER,UNIV.OF NEW MEXICO SCHOOL OF LAW,11:1,SUMMER 1998,P. 6).
Municipal use in the U.S. portion of theChihuahuan Desert Ecoregion generally accounts for less than 10 toabout 30%of total human consumptive
In the Texas portion of the ecoregion, 1996municipal water use totaled an estimated 150,500 acre-feet (AF)/yr (185.8 million cubic meters-Mm3/yr), or about 18%of total human consumptive water use. About 70%ofthe municipal water demand was supplied by groundwater.
Municipal water use inthe New Mexico portion of the ecoregion totaled about 60,000 AF/yr(74.1 Mm3) in 1995. Over90%of this municipal use was supplied by groundwater. Municipal use accounted for about 7% of total human consumptive water use in the New Mexico
Arizona. In the Santa Cruz Active Management Area (AMA), 1995 municipal use was about 6,900 AF/yr (8.5Mm3 /yr), amounting toabout 33%of human consumptive water use in the AMA.
El PasoCountythat donot haveaccess tocentralized potablewater service and whose water consumption is therefore substantially less than 180 gpd.
average per capita demandin the SierraVista area is reported to be about 164 gpd (621 liters/day).
Agricultural use in the U.S. portion of the Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion generally accounts for from50 to 80+%of the total consumptive water use (with irrigation far outstripping water for livestock use
Irrigation efficiencies are generallylow throughout theU.S. portion of the ecoregion. In Arizona, for example, the use of sprinkler systems (50 to60%efficiency) andflood irrigation (40%efficiency) is much more common than the use of moreefficient drip irrigation systems.
El Paso CountyWCID No. 1 has historicallyoperated with irrigation efficiencies of from40 to 66%.
Texas portion of the ecoregion, agricultural use in 1996was about 656,000 AF/yr (810 Mm3/yr), accountingfor over 79%of total human consumptive water use in the area. Groundwater supplied about 50%of the overall agricultural demand
El Paso and Hudspeth Counties together accounted for over 65%of the region?s agricultural water use. Primarycrops irrigated included cotton and pecans, as well as some vegetables and melons.
Agricultural use of water in the New Mexico portion of the ecoregion was about 741,000 AF (915Mm3) in 1995, with about 62%of the consumptive use supplied by groundwater. Agricultural use accounted for 88% of the total human consumptive
Doña Ana County,where the Elephant Butte/Caballo systemsupplied about 77%of the irrigation demand. Chaves and EddyCounties also accounted for a significant portion ofthe agricultural water use, with groundwater supplying over 90%of demand in Chaves County, but onlyabout 60%of the agricultural water demandin EddyCounty. Primarycrops are cotton, pecans, chiles, melons and other vegetables.
Arizona. In the Santa Cruz AMA, agricultural water use in 1995 was about 12,500 AF (15.4 Mm3), primarilyfor alfalfa, pasture and oats, accounting for about 60%of total human consumptive water use in the AMA
largest irrigator is Rio Rico Properties, which accounts for more than half the agricultural water use inthe AMA, operating at less than 40% efficiency
Sierra Vista sub-basin has about 2,600 acres (1,050 hectares) of groundwater-irrigated land, primarilypasture, alfalfa and higher value crops such as pecans and grapes
Industrial water use in the U.S. portion of the Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion is not extensive relative to municipal and agricultural use. It generally accounts for about 1to 7%of total human consumptive use
Industrial wateruse in the Texas portion of the Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion was an estimated 15,500 AF (19 Mm3) in 1996, or about 1.8%of the total human consumptive water use for the area. Industrial water use is most extensive in the El Paso area, with the ASARCO smelter, Chevron refinery [plus others]
primarily related to oil and gas exploration and production activities. Groundwater supplied an estimated 76%of the industrial use in El Paso County, while supplying about 84%of industrial demand in this sub-region as a whole (i.e. in every county but El Paso County, groundwater supplied 100%of industrial water demand).
Industrial use of water in the New Mexico portion of the ecoregion was about 40,000 AF (49.4 Mm3) in 1995, with about 96% of the demand supplied by groundwater? 4.7%of the total human consumptive ? Grant County, which has large copper mines and copper processing
Industrial water use in the Santa Cruz AMA was about 1,500 AF (1.85 Mm3) in 1995, accounting for about 7%of the total human consumptive use. ? golf course irrigation [primarily]
Water use estimates are much more difficult to obtain for the Mexican portion of the ecoregion. ? difficult to even estimate use.
Table 5. Municipal Use in Selected Coahuila Urban Areas
Table 6. Water Accounting for Various Municipal
Water Systems in the MexicoPortion of the Ecoregion
Municipality %Water not accounted for[1-(volume ofwater
billed divided byvolume produced)] x100
Monterrey, NuevoLeón 20.4%
Delicias, Chihuahua 32.7%
Jimenéz, Chihuahua 45.7%
PiedrasNegras, Coahuila 33.0%* </UL>
significant gap in assessing water use patterns for this portion of the region
information on industrial water use inthe Mexican portion of the ecoregion is quite scarce
primary water user in the Mexican portion of theSan Pedro basin is the Cananea copper mine and smelter which obtains water fromboth the San Pedro and the Río Sonora basins. It is estimated to use about 12,500 AF/yr (15.4 Mm3/yr) of groundwater, though theinstalled groundwater pumping capacityfor the Companía Minera de Cananea is over 32,000 AF/yr(39.5 Mm3/yr).
dominant water use throughout the Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion is irrigation.
conservation in the agricultural sector presents the greatest opportunityfor restoring instreamflows
In addition, reducing agricultural water use will be absolutely necessaryto meeting growing municipal and industrial water needs throughouttheregion
municipal and industrial (M&I) use is projected to increase substantially throughout the ecoregion, especiallyin urbanized areas. Even with conservation, municipal use will increase due to new demand created byan increasing population
Agricultural use is also projected to decline in almostevery partof the ecoregion
Accordingtothe National Water Commission:
Irrigated agriculture has shown peculiar conditionsinthe last few years. The total irrigated croplandfarmed decreased from5.5 million hectares in1982 to5.1million hectares in1994. In irrigation districts, it hasdecreasedfrom 3.4 millionhectares in1985 to3.1millionhectares in 1994. Amongthe reasons[for this decline], are the droughtofthe lastfewyears, as well as problems resultingfromfailure to maintain the [irrigation]infrastructure.
(1) less irrigated acreage in production due land being converted to residential, commercial or other uses, with the water rights sold, leased or otherwise re-allocated to municipal and industrial uses;
(2) government policies that decrease agricultural subsidies, especiallyfor low value/high water demand crops; and (3) irrigation systemefficiency improvements. ? potential savings fromcanal lining, better metering, and more widespread use of drip irrigation
Arizona Department of Water Resources projections for 2025 the Santa Cruz AMA range from a surplus of almost 43,000 AF/yr (53 Mm3/yr)--if uses of treated effluent increase and agricultural use declines--to a 15,500 AF/yr(19.1 Mm3/yr) deficit if populationand industry grow rapidly</UL>
Year Groundwater Deficit
1990 - 9,990 AF/yr(12.2Mm3)
2000 -7,400 AF/yr(9.1 Mm3)
2030 -12,670 AF/yr (15.6 Mm3)
Source:Public Review Draft, Sustaining and Enhancing RiparianMigratory Bird Habitat onthe
Upper San PedroRiver(preparedfor the Commissionon Environmental Cooperation, June 1998).</UL>
No data were readilyavailable for projected municipal use in the Mexico portion of the basin, but increases are likelybased on both (1) increases in population and (2) the extension of centralized potable water service to more people
Discharges of wastewater and irrigation return flows can diminish the qualityof rivers, streams and aquifers. Damscan reduce instreamflows, exacerbating quality problems. Over-pumping of aquifers can result in infiltration of saline waters into the fresh water zone.
? toxic water pollution, particularly near the industrialized areas of the border (Ambos Nogales, Agua Prieta/Douglas, Cd. Juárez/El Paso, Del Rio/Acuña and Eagle Pass/Piedras Negras);
? water pollution from major industrial andmining operations (e.g. copper mining in Arizona, New Mexico and Sonora, paper mills in Cd. Cuahtemoc, Chihuahua and Durango and large industrial operations in cities such as El Paso, Monterrey,Saltillo, Monclova, San Luis Potosí, etc.);
? untreated or poorlytreated municipal wastewater, especiallyin the Mexican portion of the region, but also fromseptic tanks or poorlydesigned systems serving colonias in the Texas and New Mexico border regions;
? non-point source run-off and/or aquifer contamination from confined animal feeding operations, particularlydairies, in Torreón, along the Río Bravo between Las Cruces and El Paso, Gómez Palacio yLerdo and Laguna Bustillos; and
? run-off or seepage fromagricultural operations that can add excessnutrients and pesticides.
in the La Laguneraarea near Torreón, over-pumping has allowed high arsenic water to reach freshwater wells; saline water has also infiltrated fresh water zones in the Valle de Guadiana in Durango andthe Valle de Juárez in Chihuahua. Reduced instreamflows have increased salinityof the Río Grande, allowing saltwater species to move much further up the river.
lack of sufficient resources for inspection, enforcement and water qualitytesting
effective enforcement can sometimes be limited byan unwillingness of oversight agencies to fullyuse the penaltyand other authoritytheydo have.
Currently, manylow incomepeople in both countries end up payingproportionatelymore for their water than middle or high income populations, because they have to haul itor by fromthe ?pipa? trucks
The relatively lower price of water for the middle and highincomeportions ofthe population, however, discourages serious conservation efforts.
conservation-based water rate structures:i.e. the morewater used, the higher the price
discouraging excessive usefor landscaping, pools, and other high consumption uses
keep cities from draining rural aquifers or diverting wholestreams and rivers to municipal uses
old saying?well-used in Texas?that ?whiskeyisfor drinkin?and water is for fightin??
municipal water supplyentities, irrigation districts, rancher and farmer associations, environmental and conservation organizations, communityorganizations representing low-income residents lacking access to clean water, industrial water users, state water agencies, inter-state compactcommissions, the federal Bureau of Reclamation and, to a lesser extent, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Major actors in Mexican water policy are the Comisión Nacional de Aguas (Mexico Cityand regional offices), other directorates of SEMARNAP, irrigation districts and agricultural users associations, municipal water supplysystems, industrial users, residents associations and, in some cases, environmental and conservation organizations.
At a binational level, water managementis largelyin the realmof the IBWC, though the Border Environment Cooperation Commission and NADBank maystart to playmore important roles
In neither country,however, is water management policyfree of political partyinfluence
In the U.S., one of the most difficult barriers tochange has been and will likelycontinue tobe ?propertyrights?-based resistance to change
President?s Western Water Policy Review Advisory Commission, Water in the West:Challenge for the NextCentury (June1998)
?When water is undervalued, either because the price is partially subsidized or because the opportunity cost is not taken intoaccountin use decisions,careful use ofthe water is discouraged.This undervaluing contributes to unsustainable uses?.Sustainable developmentrequires new standards to value waterand the use oflonger timehorizons tomake the valuation calculations?The problemwithwater is that water prices have notalways been a reliable measure of thevalue ofwater. Oftenthe price is subsidized or the price does not include theexternal costs of using the resource.?
?Recent experimentation with increased water and power marketing in the West suggests that additional reforms inthis direction[i.e. eliminating price-distortingsubsidies association with federal reclamation and other water supply projects] will likely discourageirrigation, while favoring M&I water supply uses and many instreamuses, including power production, recreation andenvironmentalrestoration.This would not onlyincrease economicefficiency, but would provide astrongincentive forreduced water usageinthe irrigation sector. Achieving these efficiency benefitst hrough the reduction orelimination ofirrigation subsidies,however, wouldfundamentallyundermine the historicjustification ofthe western reclamation programand would negatively impact many farmingc ommunities, suggestingthat the truevalue of water in the West can onlypartially be understoodby the conceptof pricing. Itisthisissue of social value, rather than the narrower concern of economic subsidies,that must ultimately guide public policy.?
?Reclamation contractors and farmers arenot the only beneficiaries ofsubsidies. Urban consumers have alsobenefitedfrom utility pricing mechanisms that oftendeliver water at average rather than marginal costs, somany usersarenot faced withthe full cost of their water use?water rates for use atpeak demands shouldreflect the value of supplying that amount of the resource at peakdemand time.?
discussion of water managementissues is often confined to groups ofprofessionals, academics and interest groups instead of taking place in newspapers, on television or inother spheres ofgeneral public participation. While there have been public education efforts directed toward water conservation, there has beenless effort towards educating the public about overall water supply/demand issues. [except in droughts]
In the U.S., there are several opportunities, including water rights hearings, rulemaking, planning processes (such as the regional water planning in Texas and the AMA processin Arizona) and open forums where interested parties are encouraged to openly discuss water issues. Suchopportunities are fewer and farther between in Mexico,
lack of access to basic information also limits effective public participation. [both sides]
dominant issue in water politics in Mexico, however, is money:more resources are needed to improve government data collection and analysis; to strengthen the agencies responsible for water management;to actuallyimplement decentralizationthrough the Consejos de Cuenca and to improve the water management capabilities and infrastructure of irrigation districts and municipal water supply systems
Given that agricultural irrigation is by far the dominant use throughoutthe ecoregion, and given the relatively low to modest use efficiencies, it is the sector where conservation will have the most benefit.
Development of viable markets for water rights.
native plant landscaping and increased use of treated effluent for golf courses and, in someareas,aquifer recharge
More and better data on water use and water supply and accompanying public education efforts.
<P>Fish of cuatrocienegas