Mexico to pay U.S. water debt

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

The Associated Press

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico proposed Monday to pay off its water debt to the United States within five years without imposing strict conservation measures on its population.

The National Water Commission proposal would increase Mexico's annual water payment to the United States under a 1944 treaty from 114 billion gallons a year to 180 billion gallons for the next five years.

That would reduce the debt from its current 502 billion gallons to 180 billion gallons. The panel did not explain how it would pay off the remaining deficit.

The commission also did not detail where it would draw the extra water from. Levels in the Mexican rivers used to repay the debts have declined 71 percent over the last nine years. And the country has been plagued by drought. Prospects for rainfall during this year's rainy season, typically running from May to October, also remain grim, Agriculture Secretary Javier Usabiaga told a news conference Monday in central Hidalgo state.

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