Agreement and implementation of Minute 319 Binational Cooperative Measures in the Colorado River Basin
Mario Lopez Perez
National Water Commission
Northern America
The Colorado River has 2,334 km length and a basin of 637, 137 km2 and is shared by seven states in the United States of America and two in Mexico. It supplies water to a population of 30 million inhabitants that, according to projections, will reach 38 million in 2020. Ten reservoirs control the flow regime, though none of them lie in Mexico; only one is international. About 1.5 million hectares are irrigated in USA and 170,000 hectares in México. After irrigation, evaporation is the second largest water consumer.
Over the last 100 years, the total percentage of surface affected by extreme climate droughts in the US has been on average 14% annually, with a maximum of 65% in 1934. It is widely documented that the allocation took place during a wetter period (between 1905 and 1925) in a time frame of 400 years. Mexico and United States signed Minute 319 as a measure of climate change adaptation. It includes, among others, shortage and surplus allocation rules, Intentionally Created Mexican Allocation (ICMA), Mexican water stored in US reservoirs, environmental and binational water projects. The Minute is valid through to 2017 but sets bases for future water project development. It is important to mention that for the first time, the United States is collaborating to restore the riparian area of the Colorado River below the border as well as the Delta.
  • sustainable
  • environmentally sound
  • technically applicable
  • replicable and adaptable
With the implementation of Minute 319, both governments will manage the basin in an integrated manner, in order to reduce the impacts of a severe period of drought and climate change. One of the more important aspects of the Minute is the recognition, for the first time, by the US of the need to restore riparian areas of Colorado River and conserve the Delta, as well as the formal and sound participation of NGO´s. The opportunity to store water for Mexico in US reservoirs is another highlighted aspect. Water storage will help to compensate the missing volume in case of shortage as well as reduce the possibility to reach that condition. As a cooperative measure to address the growing water demand and potential low elevation reservoirs conditions in the basin in the future, a program of Intentionally Created Mexican Allocation (ICMA) is established. Mexico will be able to create ICMA by deciding to defer delivery of water volumes through adjustments to its annual delivery schedules resulting from water conservation projects or store water from other Colorado river sources developed in binational projects. In addition, the opportunity to obtain mutual benefits by undertaking construction of binational projects with joint investment would allow for water conservation or the generation of new sources to address the growing water demands in the basin and potential shortage conditions in the future. New ways to face the climate change impacts with no modification to the 1944 Water Treaty (regarding water property, annual water allocation regulation and defining extraordinary drought definition) through stakeholders and NGO´s cooperation is the binational selected and accepted approach.
  • legal and institutional aspects
  • climate change adaptation and mitigation
  • involvement of non-state stakeholders
  • water quality
  • cooperation over transboundary ecosystems and freshwater protected areas
  • monitoring and assessment
  • exchange of data
The Governments of Mexico and the US have been characterized by: - The desire of both nations to apply the basin integrated water management approach as the guide for facing climate change challenges; - Prioritized issues of common interest as the driver for collaboration and cooperation; - The willingness to promote new mechanisms for dialogue and agreements leading to the strengthening their relations of friendship and mutual productive action within the established legal framework; - The great capacity for developing joint projects in a basin wide framework; - The willingness to cooperate to improve environmental quality and optimize the quality of life of people in the border region shared by both countries.