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Mexico behind on giving Texas water

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

The southern part of Texas is parched. So dry, managers of irrigation districts servicing large cities like McAllen, as well as individual farmers, are issuing a warning: trouble may be lurking.

The answer to the problem may come from the water flowing into the river separating Texas from Mexico. Despite drought conditions in the region, fisherman report favorable levels.

"It's pretty high, one said, as he pointed to a landmark. " Last time I came it was under that thing right there."

The problem is Rio Grande is controlled by the International Boundary and Water Commission, an agency responsible for enforcing the 1944 water treaty between the United States and Mexico. That treaty governs the flow of water from the river and requires Mexico to send the United States 350 thousand acre feet of water every year.

Unlike this southern region of the United States, Mexico is not in a current drought . It has the water. It's just holding on to it, which is affecting everything in this region, even firefighting operations.

"Not in the city because we have water systems," said Rolando Espinoza, Alamo Fire Chief. " But get out in the brush land and those canals we drop water out of might be dry."

The drought and Mexico's lack of payment are also affecting the way many make a living here. Agriculture is big business in the Rio Grande Valley, and with the exception of farmers who rely on rain to moisten the ground for their crop many growers rely on irrigation districts. The agriculture industry in this region is reportedly worth an estimated 1 billion dollars, but farmers and irrigation managers say there may not be an upcoming growing season.

This isn't the first time honoring the treaty has been a problem.

Things got so bad a decade ago, Governor Rick Perry met with Vicente Fox, the then President of Mexico to figure out a way to get the debt paid. It eventually was. Rice University Political Science Professor Mark Jones is an expert on Latin American policies. ("Mexican agricultural producers compete with valley agricultural producer," he said. " So if the valley producers can't produce tomatoes, they get produced on the other side of the border and get shipped here in Houston. Who suffers? Houston consumers paying a higher price and the Texas economy because it's not occurring in Texas. Its occurring in Mexico."

 

It's not just higher grocery prices that have a far reaching effect.

"The valley economy is part of the state economy and if the valley agricultural producers suffer, that's less jobs in Texas and that's less tax revenue," Jones said.

Which may be part of the reason why lawmakers from both political parties are pressuring Mexico to pay up. Republican Senator John Cornyn took to Twitter Tuesday to announce his involvement. Others are also involved, which could also make this issue a game changer when it comes to politics.

"Democrats are at some risk because the valley has been traditionally very democratic," Jones said. "Yet if a democratic president Barack Obama can't come through for the bluest area of Texas, then that's going to cause doubts on valley Hispanics who look republican in 2014 or 2016."

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