Mexico Reaches Water Deal with U.S. Ahead of Saturday Deadline

Mexico reached a deal to supply water to the U.S. under a seven-decade-old treaty, ending an escalating stalemate ahead of a Saturday deadline, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said.

AMLO, as the Mexican leader is known, announced the agreement at his morning news conference on Thursday. Under the deal, the U.S. will help supply water when needed in emergencies to the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, just across the border from Texas, Roberto Velasco, the director general for North America at the foreign relations ministry, said at the conference.

The deal also makes the water delivery schedule more flexible for Mexico, said Blanca Jimenez, director of Mexico’s national water commission. The country will pull water destined for the U.S. from more and different sources, reducing pressure on places like Chihuahua where farmers shut down a dam in protest, she said.

Mexico was under pressure to honor its obligations from the 1944 treaty and send water from its side of the Rio Grande to the U.S., with Texas politicians threatening to take action. Tensions at the border have included protests on the Mexican side by farmers suffering from drought and the shutdown of a U.S.-Mexico railway.

AMLO has sought to maintain a positive relationship with President Donald Trump’s administration as Mexico faces its worst economic crisis in nearly a century and the U.S. holds a presidential election. The efforts included a trip to Washington in July to celebrate a new free-trade deal and avoid Trump making Mexico a punching bag on the campaign trail, as he did in his first run in 2016.

In the simmering water dispute, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, had urged the U.S. State Department to help enforce the water deal, and State Representative Lyle Larson had proposed cutting off the Colorado River as it enters Mexico from Arizona. Access to the river is part of the treaty. The issue was a sensitive one in Mexico because much of the nation’s supply comes from Chihuahua, where droughts have hurt capacity to irrigate farms.

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