Puerto Peñasco, SONORA, MEXICO – I’m attending the fall plenary session of the Arizona Mexico Commission this week in Puerto Peñasco, known to many Arizonans as Rocky Point.
The AMC plenary is always a pleasure to attend. Not only are the panels and presentations on our cross-border relationship incredibly substantive, but a spirit of binational cooperation and neighborliness permeates every discussion. What’s happening here should be the model for the entire U.S.-Mexico relationship. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich have the set the standard for what the relationship ought to look like. (And the chance to meet Sonoran celebrities like former Major League star Fernando Valenzuela, as we did Thursday night, is neat, too!)
The issues on the agenda this week are sometimes complicated ones, but there’s a real desire to address our shared challenges together. For example, both Arizona and Mexico rely on the Colorado River and a healthy Lake Mead. We’re both better off working together to ensure our shared water security and economic development prospects.
The Arizona Legislature deserves credit for its contributions in the 2017 session to the successful effort to update the 1944 international treaty that determined Mexico’s allocation of Colorado River. That 1944 treaty has been updated various times throughout its life with new “minutes.” The existing minute – Minute 319 – was set to expire this month, which made the Legislature’s action essential.
So, the Legislature earlier this year gave authority to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the lead agency for water policy in the state, to enter into the new Minute 323, which will take Mexico, Arizona, and the other six Colorado River Basin States to 2026, and further ensure the viability of the river system and Lake Mead.
As outlined in this ADWR feature, Minute 323, like its predecessor minute, allows Mexico to create water savings in the Colorado River System in the U.S., and allows U.S. users to fund conservation programs in Mexico. New items in Minute 323 include the creation of a Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan, and it sets the stage for development of a desalination facility near the Sea of Cortez, on whose coast Puerto Peñasco is located.
Arizona is unique from other basin states by requiring legislative approval, so credit the Legislature for staying focused on the task at hand and granting ADWR Director Tom Buschatzke the ability to move forward on Minute 323.
The binational cooperation that delivered Minute 323 serves not only as a best practice for U.S.-Mexico relations on topics as knotty as water, but it also signals that the Arizona Legislature understands the importance of water to Arizona’s economic future, a positive sign as the 2018 legislative session and more necessary work on water issues fast approaches.