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A new agreement to implement the 1944 treaty between the U.S. and Mexico will give Central Arizona Project (CAP) additional water supplies and will help defer shortages in times of drought.
The five-year agreement, known as Minute 319, was signed Tuesday afternoon in San Diego. The wide-ranging provisions include allowing Mexico to continue storing unused Colorado River water in Lake Mead, Mexico voluntarily shares in shortages and surplus on the river and will give CAP 23,750 acre-feet of water.
"This agreement is another step in cooperation among all users of Colorado River water," said CAP General Manager David Modeer. "We all depend on the river and our willingness to work together bodes well for the future. The agreement is historic in the sense that it is a unique collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico, the seven Basin States and key water users such as CAP to resolve the significant challenges of protecting Colorado River users from shortages as well as developing new water supplies."
Mexico is not using all of its 1.5 million acre-foot allocation of water because of the 2010 earthquake. After the earthquake, an agreement was reached to allow Mexico to store its unused water in Lake Mead while repairs to water pipelines and canals are being made. The additional water helps prevent the lake from falling to elevation 1,075 feet above sea level which would trigger an automatic shortage declaration. A shortage declaration means CAP, which currently has an allocation of 1.5 million acre-feet, would lose about 220,000 acre-feet of water.
The agreement also calls for the U.S., CAP, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) and Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) to contribute $21 million to Mexico for canal lining and water fallowing in the Mexicali Valley. In return, Mexico will provide about 53,000 acre-feet of water for environmental uses in the Colorado River Delta and about 95,000 acre-feet to the U.S.
The Colorado River Delta is the region where the river flows into the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez. It is an environmentally important area and, in times of drought, there is no water flowing to the Delta.
The U.S. will use an additional 29,000 acre-feet for system losses and salinity impacts. MWD, which will play $5 million and will receive 47,500 acre-feet. CAP and SNWA each contributed $2.5 million and each will receive 23,750 acre-feet of water.