Texas Congressman Urges Emergency Declaration Over Water Shortage


On Wednesday, a South Texas congressman requested that Governor Greg Abbott declare an emergency in response to what he called a “water crisis” in the Rio Grande Valley.

Texas state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, wrote Abbott on Wednesday, requesting greater state support to safeguard agriculture in the region, which is suffering due to a lack of water to cultivate crops. A 50-year-old sugar factory closed last month, and border communities are exploring harsh water conservation measures, such as blocking future building expansions, due to depleting water reserves owed to the United States by Mexico.

“Please declare a state of disaster in our region,” Canales said. “The situation has reached a point of crisis, and I believe a declaration of emergency is essential to mobilize the necessary resources and support for our community.”

Canales also asked the Republican governor to press the Democratic-led Biden administration and its State Department to take action to force Mexico to pay water owed to the United States under a 1944 international treaty.
According to the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), Mexico has only paid for one year’s worth of water during the current five-year water cycle, which ends in October 2025.

Technically, Mexico is not in debt until the 5-year cycle concludes, but environmental experts believe that unless a huge hurricane strikes the region, Mexico will be unable to pay the water owed in the next 19 months.

The pact requires Mexico to contribute 1.75 million acre-feet of water by the deadline, an average of 350,000 acre-feet per year. However, as of Saturday, Mexico had paid only 382,538 acre-feet of water, according to the IBWC.

“Farmers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley are running low on irrigation water. Mexico’s failure to comply with the 1944 Water Treaty has worsened the water deficit for local farmers. “We must find a way to put pressure on Mexico to comply with the treaty and release the water owed to the United States,” Canales stated.

Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers Inc. in Santa Rosa, Texas, shuttered last month, laying off over 500 workers. The sugar mill was one of just three in the country, the other two being in Florida and Louisiana.

The City of Mission is seeking a 60-day freeze on new house complexes larger than five acres to conserve water. Mission Mayor Norie Gonzalez Garza told Border Report that the city could vote on it at its April 8 meeting.

Canales said he submitted the letter to get Austin and Washington, D.C.’s attention on a possibly fatal border scenario.

“The Rio Grande Valley cannot continue to rely on luck to provide enough water for its farmers and residents. The time to act is now. The only way forward for our area is to work together more closely to secure new water sources on a regional scale.

This will necessitate a collaborative effort and coordination among irrigation districts, water providers, and regional leaders, and I am confident that with the governor’s backing, we can work together to pave the path for a sustainable and secure water future for our region,” Canales said in a statement.

Border Report contacted the governor’s office and inquired whether he planned to take action. This story will be updated as more information is received.

IBWC U.S. Commissioner Maria-Elena Giner will visit the Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday for an agency meeting in the border town of Mercedes.

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