Fall 2017 - 60665 - PA 680PA – Policy Research Project
Sustainability of Engineered Rivers in Arid Lands: The Paso del Norte
This PRP will study options for sustainable water management in the Rio Grande/Bravo segment between Elephant Butte Reservoir and Fort Quitman, a watershed shared by two U.S. states (New Mexico and Texas) and a Mexican state (Chihuahua). The PRP contributes to an international project (SERIDAS) that projects future water supply and demand in response to climate change, reservoir sedimentation and population growth in ten river systems. Findings and policy recommendations on dealing with increased water scarcity will be published by Cambridge University Press in their UNESCO Hydrology Series.
The legal context in which river water shared by Mexico and the United States is managed is unique in international law. A 1944 treaty created the International Border and Water Commission (IBWC/CILA) which is charged with managing river water on the entire U.S./Mexico border from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. Emerging problems can be addressed by drafting amendments (“Minutes”) to the treaty for approval by the two governments—an option which has been used 320 times. A 2015-16 PRP (https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/16482) studied the “Minute process”, conducted a survey of water stakeholders in the Paso del Norte and organized a binational meeting of the Paso del Norte Water Task Force. The workshop was attended by the IBWC and CILA commissioners, as well as water experts and agencies from New Mexico, Texas and Chihuahua. Attendees reviewed our survey results and voted on regional water priorities. Better drought management and improved stakeholder cooperation across political borders received special attention.
The 2017-18 PRP team will review the action priorities discussed at the workshop and select two or three for detailed study. Students will conduct interviews with irrigation districts, city water utilities, bi-national and national water agencies, environmental groups and water experts. They will study the literature on sustainable development and draft proposals for sustainable water management in the Paso del Norte, possibly including a draft “sustainability minute” for the IBWC/CILA. The PRP will work closely with the Universidad Autónoma de Cd. Juárez and key principals of the Paso del Norte Water Task Force from both sides of the border. This PRP is open to both MPAff and MGPS students. Students with knowledge of Spanish are especially welcome. Enrollment is limited to fifteen students.