BINATIONAL AGREEMENT (MINUTE 323) EXPANDS COLLABORATION AND SHARING BETWEEN MEXICO AND U.S. WATER USERS
In September 2017, the United States, the seven Colorado River Basin states, and key water users including Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD), executed agreements with Mexico to expand collaboration and sharing of risks and opportunities in the ground-breaking binational agreement Minute 319. The new agreement is 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 negotiations including work groups supporting the negotiation process. Minute 323 was signed and finalized by the Commissioners of the International Boundary and Water Commission in the United States and the Republic of Mexico on Sept. 26, 2017.
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 and firm CAP project 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.
MINUTE 323 IS BASED ON COLLABORATION AND SHARING COLORADO RIVER RESOURCE
- Effective through 2026, consistent with the duration of the U.S. Colorado River Operating Rules known as the 2007 Guidelines plus Drought Contingency Plans (DCP).
- 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 under the U.S. DCP and at the same elevation triggers.
In order to implement the Minute, a series of domestic agreements between U.S. parties were executed. There are eight U.S. domestic agreements necessary to implement Minute 323 in Arizona. 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 Aug. 3, 2017. 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 the Colorado River supply available to CAP.