I grew up in South Texas not far from the Mexican border. Every morning the news would inform us of the aquifer levels as well as the water restriction for that day. If the town was at a restriction of 3 we were experiencing severe drought and instructed to use as little water as possible. Lawns turned brown and childhood memories of floating the river and playing in the streams ran dry.
The drought has been the main cause for many of the water issues in this region. Each year we are informed that even with abundant amounts of rain our rivers and aquifers will barely reach the level to meet the demands. If you drive across the region you will find handmade signs posted on dried up farms that display the words “pray for rain.” What used to be the flowing waters of the Rio Grande are now in some places dried up bits of rock and dirt.
It wasn’t until I moved away that I realized the severe difference in what this region experiences as compared to others. I assumed it was normal for people to worry about the amounts of water they were using when they brushed their teeth or when they ran a bath. It is a different perspective when a region is hoping for a hurricane to replenish their water supplies, while in other regions they fear hurricanes.
Desperate for water, Texas continues to turn to the 1944 U.S. and Mexico Water Treaty to receive water from the trans-boundary rivers/aquifers. Parameters of the agreement have not been re-negotiated or re-addressed since 1973, which means nearly forty years have passed without implementing new conditions of drought, climate change or population increase. With such extreme weather conditions in Southern Texas how can we expect it to be any different across the border?
With that question in mind, I had the opportunity to speak with a friend who grew up in and is currently living in Monterrey, Mexico. He says that commercials are broadcasted by the water and sewage systems of Monterrey informing kids to save water by chanting in Spanish “ciérrale,” which means “to turn off the water.” The word to save water has spread through various social media platforms under the water campaign known as “Andale Asi Asi.” Very similar to Texas, these kids are taught to turn the faucets off while brushing their teeth. Kids are even informed of the exact amounts of liters they will save by adopting certain water saving habits.
Recently, negotiations have taken place to discuss how Mexico could make up the amounts of water they have not been able to fulfill via the 1944 agreement. As extreme drought conditions continue, neither Texas nor Mexico are in a condition to owe the other large amounts of water. Rather than worry about what is owed, the two should form a new joint committee or trans-boundary water management initiative that aims to work together to collect and share scientific data. This may reveal the necessity and dire need of not just Texas, but also Mexico.
Until we come together and realize the common need for water we are at risk for a future filled with violent conflicts. In the meantime, Texans and Mexicans will continue to “pray for rain” and hope for their livelihoods.