Oscar Velázquez reports for the that Rigoberto Montoya Domínguez was attacked while trying to enter the Mexicali office of the Mexican water department, Conagua for a meeting. The ex-president of the Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada (SRL) of Irrigation District 014 of the Colorado River and two (or three, according to Semanario el Pionero) other men were assaulted by the Policía Hidráulica (hydraulic police) supposedly on the orders of the subdirector of Infraestructura de la dependencia while trying to attend a meeting on what was being done with the $18 million Mexico received in a water agreement with the US.
As part of Minute 319, an amendment to the US Mexico Water Treaty of 1944, passed in 2012, the US was to invest $18 million ($10 million from California and Arizona water agencies) for conservation projects in Mexico, such as lining canals, in exchange for 124,000 acre feet (AF) (about 153 million cubic meters) of Mexico’s stored water (95,000 AF for CA and AZ). Although Conagua says this is not a sale, the agreement of which this water transfer is part has been controversial especially in irrigation districts in Mexicali where a lack of water has been the impetus for lawsuits, including one due to be filed December 12, 2016.
The men said the attack on the part of the hydraulic police is repression exercised by Conagua to keep them from participating in the meeting. One of the issues is a plan to build a reservoir that is said to only cost $3 million dollars, so the question about the other $15 million is an important one. There is clearly a lack of communication and transparency. During the summer of 2015, the San Diego Union Tribune and some Spanish-language media were reporting on the $18 million going towards the lining of the Canal Revolución. However, the most recent article to be found on this project, from June 2016, discusses reasons that that canal should not be lined, primarily the impact on the groundwater levels and thereby the wells.
Perhaps, other than being excluded from meetings, the water districts have been kept informed as to the status of the canal lining plan. One article that must be about the same meeting, of December 9th, but does not mention the attack, stated that irrigation district users could present proposals for projects before January 15, 2016. While it appears that politics among the irrigation districts are complicated, according to Semanario el Pionero, the people there need to be able to participate in these meetings in the very least.
Considering that the funds from the US are meant to create a savings in water adding up to at least 124,000 AF that the US water agencies and the Bureau of Reclamation claim from Mexico’s allocation of the Colorado River, all Mexicans should be informed about how this will be done. In the first place, the idea that the water is “saved” when it does not seep into the aquifers is debatable, as discussed in Desert Water Market.
Those of us in the US need to pay attention to what is happening with these sorts of agreements. Another agreement may be made before Trump takes office.
Read more on this incident at Pleito a golpes en las oficinas de la Conagua en Mexicali
Read more on Minute 319 and the water transfer at Desert Water Market