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Mexico, U.S. Ink New Water-sharing Deal
November 21, 2012

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The United States and Mexico have signed a major water-sharing deal, a major update to a treaty first agreed to in 1944. The deal includes new rules for sharing and managing water from the Colorado River, which flows 1,450 miles through a total of nine states in both countries.

The original treaty required the U.S. to send a set amount of water to Mexico each year no matter how low the river's water level was. This requirement has made it difficult in times of drought and with recent increases in population along the river. Now, Mexico will get less money when the U.S. is in drought but will be allowed to store surplus water in Lake Mead, near Hoover Dam. Mexico currently has little water storage capacity. In addition, Mexico will receive $10 million for needed repairs to irrigation channels disrupted during an earthquake two years ago; in exchange, water agencies in increasingly drought-ridden Arizona, California, and Nevada will buy water from Mexico.

The new treaty will be in effect until 2017.

In a related development, the U.S. Department of the Interior has intentionally flooded the Grand Canyon in an effort to restore the natural environment of the Colorado River, which formed the Grand Canyon a great many years ago. The controlled flooding, one of several "high-flows" planned in the next eight years, is aimed at depositing sediment high on the walls of the Grand Canyon, to help bring back the disappearance of many natural habitats created by the completion of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1966. Natural flooding once played a more active part in controlling the growth of vegetation, which now threatens many river-borne species, archaeological sites, and riverside camping sites.

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