U.S. & Mexico sign water deal that's expected to affect Arizona - Tucson News Now

U.S. & Mexico sign water deal that's expected to affect Arizona

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Here in the desert, without water, Tucson has no future.

There's now a deal to help Arizona and other western states defend ourselves against drought.

The U.S. has just inked a new agreement with Mexico that will help ensure there's enough water for the seven states that depend on Colorado River water.

That includes Arizona.

Tuesday afternoon the U.S. and Mexico signed the amendment to the 1944 Mexican Water Treaty.

It will make more water available when possible, and make shortages easier to bear.

Water from the Colorado River feeds seven western states and Mexico.

The Central Arizona Project, or C-A-P, brings that much-needed water to Tucson, providing 70% of our drinking water.

The other 30% percent is groundwater.

The new treaty agreement with Mexico allows that country to store its share of Colorado River water over the long term in Lake Mead in far northwestern Arizona.

Without the new agreement, Mexico has had to use its allocation of water every year, or lose it.

Storing its surplus will mean more water in Lake Mead, lowering the potential for a water shortage for U.S. water users.

Mexico also will share the load when there is a water shortage.

That's crucial to the C-A-P because when water levels in Lake Mead fall to a certain level, Arizona is the lowest priority, and bears the brunt of the loss.

"With C-A-P being the lowest priority on the river, we would bear the brunt of that shortage. Mexico's entry into this new agreement allows Mexico to take a portion of that shortage, which means that C-A-P has access to more of the water than we otherwise would," Basefsky says.

Plus, the C-A-P and water agencies in two other states, California and Nevada, will join the federal government in improving Mexican water canals that are used for agriculture.

"In exchange for funding that project, we are all sharing in some of the water that will be saved by using cement-lined canals instead of dirt channels," Basefsky says.

Mexico has never shared in water shortages and surpluses before.

This is a five- year pilot project to see how it goes.

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