|IN THIS ISSUE:
NEW ANGLE ON THE WATER DEFICIT
NEW ANGLE ON THE WATER DEFICIT-
Over the last several months, Mexican officials have contended that Mexico is in compliance with the 1944 water treaty, despite having accrued a deficit of more than 1.4 million acre feet of water. According to a news report last week, the Mexican Embassy in Washington was quoted as stating that the deficit that accrued during the 25th cycle of delivery (corresponding to 1992-97) was completed in May, 2001. The report further claimed that the only cycle in deficit is the current 26th one (1997-02) and that Mexico would comply with the treaty and deliver that water during the 27th cycle (2002-07).
Basically, you see, Mexico is claiming that all waters delivered during the first 44 months of the current (26th) cycle was applied to the deficit from the previous cycle-with none being applied to the annual requirement of 350,000 acre feet during that period. Thus, only waters provided since May of last year (and any to be provided through September of this year) are for the reduction of the current cycle's 1,750,000 acre feet requirement.
In other words, Mexico is using the water that is supposed to be delivered in this cycle to offset the deficit from the previous cycle-and they obviously plan to use the water that is supposed to be provided in the 2002-07 cycle to offset the tremendous deficit of the current cycle. That means that they are using our water to repay their deficit.
It is a clever ploy under which Mexico will essentially never have to cover the deficit. Moreover, it gives them virtually forever to wait for the dam-filling hurricanes that will erase the deficit for all time.
Obviously, we do not agree with Mexico's argument, though I am not sure about the exact wording of the treaty in this regard. Naturally, we want any cycle's deficit to be made up in the following cycle (as called for in the treaty) without using the current cycle's water to do so.
Nonetheless, if we survive the current season, Mexico's stated position is that they will provide the current cycle's deficit (expected to be over 1.5 million acre feet) in 2002-07. Given that it took 8 years and 8 months to provide the 1992-97 cycle?s required 1,750,000 acre feet, I don't see how they expect to provide the current cycle's 1,750,000 acre feet in only 6 years and 4 months (from last May). Frankly, I expect that they are counting on the next six hurricane seasons to take care of the problem for them.
In consideration of the apparent official position of the Mexican government regarding treaty compliance, the following statements are taken directly from the treaty (as posted on the IBWC website (http://www.ibwc.state.gov):
Section II-Rio Grande (Rio Bravo), Article 4: "In the event of extraordinary drought or serious accident to the hydraulic systems on the measured Mexican tributaries, making it difficult for Mexico to make available the run-off of 350,000 acre-feet (431,721,000 cubic meters) annually, allotted in sub paragraph (c) of paragraph B of this Article to the United States as the minimum contribution from the aforesaid Mexican tributaries, any deficiencies existing at the end of the aforesaid five-year cycle shall be made up in the following five-year cycle with water from the said measured tributaries."
It is acknowledged that drought conditions have existed-but not to such a degree as could reasonably be considered "extraordinary". After all, 80-85 percent of normal precipitation does not constitute even severe drought. Nor has there been a "serious accident to the hydraulic systems", whatever that could mean.
Regardless, the final part of the above states that "any deficiencies...shall be made up...with water from the said measured tributaries". As you will see in the following, only slightly more than half of the 1992-97 cycle deficit was made up with water from said measured tributaries?the other half came from 50-50 waters and in-storage transfers.
For you media types and others who confuse "release" with "transfer", Section I, Article 1 defines "release" to mean "the deliberate discharge of stored water for conveyance elsewhere or for direct utilization". My point is that there has not been any water "released" by Mexico, as the only water we have received is uncaptured runoff, in-storage transfers and transfers of 50-50 waters.
The following data were provided by Ken Rakestraw, Chief Supervisory Hydrologist of the IBWC Water Accounting Division. Because I took the data over the phone, any errors in accuracy are mine.
At the end of the October 1, 1992-September 30, 1997, cycle, Mexico had a total deficit of 1,023,849 acre feet. That means that during that five-year cycle, Mexico provided only 726,151 acre feet of water through the six named tributaries.
The following table shows the volume and source of water provided to the U.S. by Mexico during the current five-year cycle. During the first four years of this cycle, the named tributaries provided 516,496.84 acre feet of water in toto. Another 465,714.79 acre feet came from the transfer of ownership of 50/50 waters, with an in-storage transfer of 137,820.7 acre feet. For the record, the 92,000 acre feet that was transferred last February is credited for July-September, 2001-since that is when it was supposed to be provided in accordance with the Bush/Fox agreement. The grand total of those three sources is 1,120, 032.33 acre feet.
Table 1. Volume and source of water provided to the U.S. from Mexico during the 1997-02 cycle, in acre feet.
Total volume, all sources = 1,129,036.08 acre feet
Subtracting the 1992-97 deficit (according to Mexico's contention) from that leaves 96,183.33 acre feet of water credited against the 1,400,000 acre feet that was be due by the end of the four years (at 350,000 acre feet per year). Since October 1, 2001, the named tributaries have delivered 9,003.75 acre feet towards this year?s 350,000 acre feet requirement. In other words, Mexico has provided only 105,187.08 acre feet of water towards the total 1,750,000 acre feet that is required for the current cycle (which ends September 30, 2002). That leaves a projected deficit of 1,644,812.92 acre feet at the end of this cycle, less any amounts that might come in as runoff from the six named tributaries or as in-storage transfers.
Remember that it took 3 years and 8 months to cover the 1,023,849 acre feet deficit from 1992-97-only half of which came from the named tributaries. At that rate, it would take 6 years to cover the current deficit.
Not as we see it, for the following reasons:
1) There was no "extraordinary" drought by any reasonable definition,
as shown by the Brandeis report and other sources.
Not that we aren't appreciative of the 50/50 waters and in-storage transfers (at the expense of Tamaulipas), the treaty does not provide for that use to satisfy a deficit from a prior cycle. To comply with this specification of the treaty, Mexico must still provide 498,348.41 acre feet of water from the six named tributaries by September 30.
Congressman Ortiz is hosting a meeting of the Subcommittee on Water and Power of the House Resources Committee at UT-Brownsville on Friday, May 3. The water issue will be a major topic of discussion. The meeting is at 10:00 am in the Science, Engineering and Technology Building at UTB.
I fully expected that we would have had tremendous rainfall just before or during this meeting-as it is kinda hard to talk convincingly about drought and water shortages when all the bar ditches and drainage canals are full of rainwater runoff. But, it looks like the weather is going to cooperate (for once) and leave the Valley windy, hot, dry and dusty for the Congressional visit.
The long-awaited USDA report on the economic impact of the water situation on Valley agriculture and allied interests is apparently completed. Those who have seen the executive summary indicate that it is not very specific, which the USDA claims to reflect the lack of good data on which they could formulate their report. As one industry official put it, it is hard to understand why USDA couldn't find the $1.5 billion dollars and 30,000 jobs that other sources report as having been lost in the last few years.
Florida's Blue Ribbon Committee on the grapefruit problem just announced a proposal (narrowly passed 5-4) to provide some sort of sugar and acid ratings on fresh Florida grapefruit, perhaps as early as the coming fall season. The idea is that consumers will have a reference point regarding the taste of grapefruit. Those who like it tart can buy early while those who like it sweet may be induced to buy grapefruit when it is sweet later in the season.
TEXAS CROP FORECAST AND MOVEMENT-
The USDA lowered the forecast for Texas grapefruit and early oranges on April 10. The grapefruit estimate was reduced by 8,000 tons, which puts it just below last season's final volume. The early/navel estimate was lowered some 6,375 tons, which brings the volume fairly close to utilization. According to TVCC figures of April 20, about 150 tons of the estimate are still around-though it is more likely that the estimate is still too high by 150 tons.
In any case, the season's early and navel orange supply came in at about 75 percent of last season's crop. Fresh shipments of both were up substantially, however earlys by 16.6 percent and navels by 13.7 percent.
Grapefruit supply, even with the lower estimate, is still about double the volume that remained at this time last season, despite a 5.3 percent increase in fresh shipments. Only 65 percent of this grapefruit crop has been diverted to processing, which reflects the better quality of this season's fruit. Let's hope its quality continues to hold, as it looks like we'll still be trying to ship past mid-June.
The Valencia estimate was not changed. TVCC reports show nearly 1000 tons still available on April 20, which is only about a third of what remained last season at this time.
Still no significant rain in the Valley, so irrigation is a major priority-assuming that you have the water to apply. Fruit set has been kinda weird, with several different sizes of fruit on the trees. There were at least two blooms, in some cases three.
This April was the second hottest on record here in the Valley. The record was in 1967, which old-timers will recall also had dam-filling hurricane Beulah in September.
With the high temperatures and seemingly constant winds in the 20's, Class A pan evaporation has been very high-mostly in the range of 0.5 inch per day. Because citrus water use at this time of year is about 60 percent of pan evaporation, that adds up to more than 2 inches of water use per week.
Asian citrus pysllids have been spreading this spring, showing up in groves quite some distance from last year's initial finds in the Weslaco area. Look for them on new growth-the appearance of their numerous little spheres of whitish-colored, semi-solid, honeydew is striking.
Pests are always of concern, especially citrus rust mites, so growers should continue to monitor groves regularly. Even with recent weather trends, populations can and do reach damaging levels.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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