On the Mexico side of the international boundary, the Rio Grande has historically been called the Rio Bravo. In this appeal, we refer to this 1885-mile long international river as the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo.
The watershed of the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo covers eight states in our two countries. In the United States, that would include Colorado, New Mexico,and Texas. In Mexico the watershed includes Durango, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas.
For their agricultural, industrial, commercial,and residential existence, millions of US citizens and millions of Mexican citizens have historically relied on the natural hydrological flows of the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo and its tributaries, from its headwaters in the Colorado Rockies all the way to its mouth as it flows into the Gulf of Mexico.
Due to drought, just a few years ago, the waters of the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo dried up before it could reach the Gulf.
In this era of global climate change, the likelihood of more drought seems imminent. In this past year Texas just came out of a period of the worst drought on record. Yet, new threats are looming on the horizon for the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo, especially on the Texas-Mexico portion of the river.
The Mexico side of the border is the fastest growing region in Mexico. Similarly, the Texas side of the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo is the fastest growing region in the United States. Such growth will continue to put a lot of added pressure on the waters of the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo, both in the terms of consumption as well as contamination.
As it is, according to American Rivers, the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo is one of the most endangered rivers in North America. According the World Wildlife Fund, the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo is the seventh most endangered river in the world.
The newest endangerment to the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo is upon us. This threat is somewhat stealth, as it is under the radar of most state, federal and international agencies and organizations. For over a century, the State of Texas has regulated its waters based on the archaic “rule of capture,” or “right of capture.” Essentially, the biggest pump and pumper owns the water that can be extracted.
Based on this “rule”, an application has been made by a private party to extract 47,000 acre feet per year out of the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo watershed. An acre foot is equal to roughly 326,000 gallons of water.
The application is from Clayton Williams, Jr.’s Fort Stockton Holdings to the Middle Pecos County Groundwater Conservation District (MPGCD). The application proposes to extract 41,000,000 gallons of water a day, or about 15,000,000,000 gallons of water per year–for 30 plus years–out of the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo watershed.
If approved, the permit would allow 45,000,000,000,000 gallons of water to be taken out of the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo watershed as a result of this one application alone. Others will follow. The preliminary hearing will be held this coming Tuesday, April 20, 2010, in Fort Stockton. The final decision will be rendered on May 18, 2010.
With all this in mind, the Rio Grande International Study Center (RGISC), a non-profit organization based at the Laredo Community College on the banks of the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo, along with our sister organization in Mexico, el Centro Internacional del los Estudios del Rio Bravo (CIER), has allied with the City of Fort Stockton.
We are also allying with not only the citizens of Pecos County but also the millions of citizens of the international community who reside within and depend upon the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo for their existence. On their behalf, we are appealing to US Congressmen to help us prevent such an unprecedented action that would be taken without adequate science.
We request that Congressmen please utilize your office and position of authority to call for a moratorium on any extraction of waters from the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo watershed. Approval of such extraction of billions of gallons of water a year should NOT be granted.
There is a need for time, time for an adequate hydrological study to be performed that would reveal what impact such a diversion away from the international watershed would have. Our concern is that there is insufficient science that would show the impact on the natural hydrological cycle of the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo watershed, on which millions of bi-national citizens downriver depend.
Under the 1944 Treaty with Mexico, the waters of Fort Stockton and Pecos County, Texas, are within the geographical boundaries of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC). Never before has a massive amount of water been extracted and transferred out of the watershed and IBWC boundaries. This is a precedent-setting case. How would this impact the spirit and intent of the 1944 treaty?
The City of Fort Stockton is a small community of some 7,500 population. The total population of Pecos County is about 20,000. Alone, they are hard-pressed to handle the magnitude of this challenge. The residents there already have a historic natural spring, Comanche Springs, that is dried up most of the year due to high impact pumping of the aquifer for irrigation by the same businessman who now wishes to export water out of the watershed to Midland, Texas, for profit.
Find below a resolution drafted by the City Council of the City of Fort Stockton. Together , the City Council and RGISC appeal to you to intervene and prevent, this dangerous hydrological precedent. If this permit is allowed, others will follow. Diverting Rio Grande-Rio Bravo waters away from almost ten million inhabitants within the IBWC boundaries would be to divert water away from the fastest growing region in our two countries that already depends on this river.
This action is being done for one entity’s profit. It is also being done so that other areas outside the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo watershed region could experience economic growth. That such an action would jeopardize the growth along the border seems discriminatory against those who live on the US-Mexico border.
We are also writing the IBWC, the Council on Environmental Quality-Office of the White House, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, US Fish and Wildlife, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Water Development Board, and Texas Parks and Wildlife.
We are writing all the members of Congress who have border districts. We are writing the Governor of the State of Texas as well as all the members of our Texas Legislature that represent the border.
In Mexico, we are writing the Comision Internacional de los Limites y Agua, Comision Nacional del Agua, Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturals, and the governors of the five states within the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo watershed.
Editor’s Note: Article adapted from letter to Congressman Cuellar from Jay J. Johnson-Castro, Sr., Executive Director of the Rio Grande International Study Center–gm
RESOLUTION NO. 1O-111R
A RESOLUTION BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF FORT STOCKTON JOINING FORCES WITH THE RIO GRANDE INTERNATIONAL STUDY CENTER IN ITS PLEA FOR A MORATORIUM & INTERVENTION TO PREVENT WATER FROM BEING TRANSPORTED, EXPORTED OR PUMPED FROM THE PECOS RIVER AND RIO GRANDE RIVER WATERSHEDS & REQUESTING THAT A HYDROLOGICAL STUDY BE PERFORMED OF THE SUBTERRANEAN WATER FLOWS OF THE EDWARDS-TRINITY AQUIFER TO DETERMINE WHAT UNFORESEEN ADVERSE IMPACTS COULD OCCUR ON THE FLOW OF WATER INTO THE INTERNATIONAL BODY WATER OF WHICH MILLIONS OF INHABITANTS IN THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY DEPEND ON FOR EXISTENCE.
WHEREAS, The Pecos River is an integral part of the Rio Grande watershed, which is an
international body of water under the 1944 treaty between the United States and Mexico; and
WHEREAS, Downriver from the mouth of the Pecos River in confluence with the Rio Grande is
unity of some 6-10 million inhabitants that solely rely on the Rio Grande as
a source of existence; residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural usage; and
WHEREAS, Pecos County is confronted with an enterprise that is attempting to extract
approximately 15 billion gallons of water per year from the Pecos watershed under the Texas “rule
of capture”; and
WHEREAS, If successful, that would become a precedent for other water marketing enterprises;
WHEREAS, The Rio Grande International Study Center is a non-profit organization with the
stewardship of protecting the Rio Grande watershed; and
WHEREAS, The board of directors of the RGISC has voted unanimously to support Fort
Stockton in attempting to protect the Pecos River watershed; and
WHEREAS, RGISC and the City of Fort Stockton will jointly submit correspondence to the
International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), Environmental Protection Agency,
Comision Internacional de los Lirnites y Agua (CILA), CONAGUA (Comision Nacional del
Agua), SEMARNAT (Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturals), Texas Water
Development Board (TWDB), Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), along with
the four Congressional representatives from Texas bordering Mexico; Congressman Silvestre
Reyes (Dist. 16), Congressman Ciro Rodriguez (Dist. 23), Congressman Henry Cuellar (Dist. 28)
and Congressman Solomon Ortiz (Dist. 27); and
WHEREAS, A request will be sought for a moratorium and an intervention regarding plans to
transfer, export or pump water out of, along with the protection of, the Pecos River and Rio
Grande River watersheds until additional hydrological studies of the subterranean water flows of
the Edwards-Trinity aquifer can be made to determine what unforeseen adverse impacts could
occur on the flow of water into the international body water of which millions of inhabitants in the
international community depend on for existence; and
WHEREAS, Input will also be solicited from the Texas Parks and Wildlife, National Parks
Service, US Fish and Wildlife, as well as other local, state, national and international organizations
and agencies; and
WHEREAS, A joint press conference will be held to inform the media about our request for
– – NOW THEREFFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE FORT STOCKTON CITY COUNCIL,
THAT IT HEREBY ENDORSES:
JOINING FORCES WITH THE RIO GRANDE
INTERNATIONAL STUDY CENTER IN ITS PLEA FOR A
MORATORIUM & INTERVENTION TO PREVENT WATER
FROM BEING TRANSPORTED, EXPORTED OR PUMPED
FROM THE PECOS RIVER AND RIO GRANDE RIVER
WATERSHEDS & REQUESTING THAT A HYDROLOGICAL
STUDY BE PERFORMED OF THE SUBTERRANEAN WATER
FLOWS OF THE EDWARDS-TRINITY AQUIFER TO
DETERMINE WHAT UNFORESEEN ADVERSE IMPACTS
COULD OCCUR ON THE FLOW OF WATER INTO THE
INTKRNATIONAL BODY WATER OF WIllCR MILLIONS OF
INHAB1.TA.””I!TS IN THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
DEPEND ON FOR EXISTENCE.
PASSED AND APPRGYED by the Fort Stockton City Council on this 23rd day of February,