Since September 2015, the United States, the seven Colorado River Basin states, and key water users including CAWCD, have been working with their counterparts in Mexico to develop a successor agreement to Minute 319, now known as Minute 323.
The direct negotiations with Mexico included the Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) representing the interests of Arizona. CAWCD staff participated in several work groups supporting the negotiation effort. The Minute was finalized by the Commissioners of the International Boundary and Water Commission in the United States and the Republic of Mexico on September 27, 2017.
The Minute provides significant and lasting benefits to water users in Mexico and the United States, including CAP water users. The Minute provides for new investments in water conservation infrastructure in Mexico which will make water uses in the Mexicali Valley more efficient for the long-term. Mexico and the U.S. agreed to share the risks of shortages and to share opportunities for surplus Colorado River water. In addition, Mexico agreed to participate in additional actions to protect Lake Mead, in the event that the U.S. water users implement a Drought Contingency Plan in the U.S. The new Minute is an extension and expansion of the collaborative and cooperative efforts to protect Lake Mead and sustain the shared resources of the Colorado River.
CAWCD has participated in the binational process between the United States and Mexico since 2008 to achieve four main goals, which have been included in Minute 323:
- Decrease the duration or magnitude of shortages by seeking Mexico’s voluntary agreement to share in Colorado River shortages with U.S. water users.
- Increase the storage in Lake Mead through the development and implementation of water conservation projects in Mexico.
- Augment CAP water supplies through the implementation of conservation projects in Mexico and explore binational desalination projects to benefit Arizona and Mexico water users.
- Manage salinity compliance operations so that river operational changes made as part of these agreements will not reduce Arizona’s return flows and thereby reduce CAP deliveries.
The key components on Minute 323 are:
- Effective through 2026, consistent with the 2007 Guidelines.
- Shortage is shared – if one country is in shortage, then the other country is in shortage with the same triggers that are identified for U.S. water users in the 2007 Guidelines; this is similar to Minute 319.
- Surplus is shared – if one country can receive surplus, then the other country can receive surplus with the same initial trigger as U.S. water users as identified in the 2007 Guidelines; this is also similar to Minute 319.
- Binational conservation projects have been expanded through the commitment to fund specified conservation projects in Mexico, to develop and fund additional projects, and to study binational desalination in the Gulf of California region.
- Environmental flows and habitat restoration in the Colorado River delta region in Mexico will continue to be funded.
- Salinity management projects will be expanded to improve the water quality of deliveries to Mexico while minimizing the impact to U.S. water users.
- Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan has Mexico taking additional voluntary reductions upon the implementation of the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, with the Mexico reductions similar to the Lower Basin states at the same elevation triggers.
In order to implement the Minute, a series of domestic agreements between U.S. parties were also executed. Overall, there are eight domestic agreements necessary to implement Minute 323 in Arizona and CAWCD is a party to six of these agreements, including a Memorandum of Agreement with ADWR. The CAWCD Board approved the execution of these agreements at the Board meeting on August 3, 2017. The domestic agreements were executed simultaneously with Minute 323. These agreements will serve to provide additional protection for CAP water users, and further CAWCD’s cooperative actions with its interstate and international partners to protect its Colorado River supply.