How Will ‘America First’ Policies Impact Water Security on the Colorado River?

Water security on the Colorado River faces an ambiguous future, with the Minute 319 agreement set to expire.

By:  Meghan Curran, Lynx Global Intelligence

 

Tensions between the United States and its southern neighbor have risen steadily over the last few months. In January, a diplomatic standoff ensued as President Donald Trump announced his decision to move ahead with the construction of a border wall preceding Mexican President Pena Nieto’s White House visit, which was thereafter canceled.  The implications of President Donald Trump’s proposal to fund the building of a wall along the U.S-Mexico border by applying a 20% tax on Mexican imports disproportionately effects certain U.S. states. Colorado is one of these states.

Mexico is Colorado’s second largest market for export goods, besides Canada. In 2015, Colorado exported $1.08 billion in goods to Mexico, an 83% rise from 2010 levels, according to Commerce Department data (Denver Business Journal, 2017). Additionally, Colorado imported $1.72 billion in goods from Mexico in 2015 (a 164 % increase from 2010 levels). While there are numerous negative implications regarding trade between Colorado and Mexico under ‘America First’ policies, there are also human security concerns relevant to the increasing tension between the United States and Mexico.

One potential human security concern is water security, and the future of agreements between the U.S. and Mexico regarding the Colorado River. In 2012 the U.S. signed an agreement with Mexico establishing rules for managing water from the river, which runs from the Colorado Rockies to the Gulf of California. The river passes through seven states, and provided water for 33 million in the United States and Mexico. Under the 2012 arrangement, called Minute 319, the United States and Mexico agreed to share surpluses and shortages from the river.

In times of drought in the United States, Mexico agreed to accept less water in exchange for being able to store water in the United States during times of surplus, reducing the potential for harmful flooding. Prior to the 2012 agreement, the United States had sent the same amount of water to Mexico every year, despite the river’s waning levels and increasing concerns over drought in the U.S. southwest. Mexico, which has limited capacity for water storage, in return could store surplus water in Lake Mead, of great benefit to the U.S. since the lake is crucial to supplying water to the Las Vegas area. The United States also agreed as part of the arrangement, to support improvements to Mexico’s water infrastructure. Additionally, both the United States and Mexico agreed to provision a specific amount of water annually to the Colorado River delta area, which has become desert-like in recent years, endangering native plant, fish, and animal species. (New York Times, 2012)

Water security on the Colorado River faces an ambiguous future today, with the Minute 319 agreement set to expire at the end of 2017. With tenuous relations between the United States and Mexico persisting, and a water shortage on the river projected to be declared as early as 2018, the future of Colorado River, a lifeline for tens of millions of people on both sides of the border, is uncertain. It is still unclear how President Trump’s ‘America First’ policies might impact resolutions regarding future management of the river, but the delivery of water to 3 million Mexican households could potentially be at stake. Additionally, in 2016 Lake Mead recorded its lowest water levels since the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s. Mexico’s willingness to continue to store water in Lake Mead in accordance with Minute 319 has the potential to significantly impact over 1 million people in the Las Vegas Valley, as well as the area’s massive tourism industry. (San Diego Union Tribune, 2016)

With water levels expected to continue to drop in the coming years, a renewed emphasis on binational cooperation between the United States and Mexico on the issue of water security is essential. Colorado, as both the source of this crucial waterway, and a key trading partner for Mexico, will no doubt have an essential role to play in helping to broker this future cooperation.

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

Mexico is Colorado’s second-largest market for export goods, after Canada. Colorado exported $1.08 billion in goods to Mexico in 2015, up 83 percent from 2010 levels, according to Commerce Department data.

Manufactured food products represented about 25 percent of Colorado’s exports to Mexico in 2015, valued at $269.6 million. That was followed by chemicals (18 percent, $192.9 million), non-electrical machinery (10 percent, $112.1 million), and fabricated metal products (9 percent, $100.2 million).

And Colorado imported $1.72 billion in goods from Mexico in 2015, up 164 percent from 2010. Roughly half of those Mexico-to-Colorado imports were classified as computer and electronics products, valued at $856.3 million.

No. 2 was plastics and rubber products (9 percent, $150.8 million), followed by non-electrical machinery (8 percent, $135.6 million) and electrical equipment, appliances and components (5.5 percent, $95.3 million).