El Centro, California - During yesterday’s regularly scheduled meeting, the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors approved a series of agreements to Minute No. 323, a potential amendment to the 1944 treaty with Mexico, which would be key to continuing cooperative efforts on both sides of the border in support of the Colorado River system through 2026.

Directors approved seven domestic agreements that serve to implement Minute No. 323, an international agreement that is expected to be executed before the end of the year by the United States and Mexican governments. The district is one of a number of water agencies in the Southwest to have signed the agreements.

Current interim binational cooperative measures and shortage sharing provisions on the river under Minute No. 319, which was executed in 2012, are set to expire on December 31, 2017. These would continue with the execution of Minute No. 323.

“There is an interest on both sides of the border into continuing the cooperative measures outlined in this agreement,” said Tina Shields, IID Water Department manager. “This allows for the continued operation of the river system as a basin partnership, and provides benefits to both countries’ water users by more specifically defining reservoir management strategies during this historic drought. This leads to a higher level of operational certainty, particularly for lower basin water users that rely upon water deliveries released from Lake Mead.”

The agreements build on the coordinated operations and water management concepts implemented by the 2007 Interim Guidelines. They also extend or replace binational cooperative measures from Minute No. 318 that address the April 2010 earthquake in the Mexicali valley, and Minute No. 319, the five-year interim shortage and surplus agreement that defines additional operational coordination when Lake Mead drops below 1,075 feet.

In conjunction with the execution of Minute No. 323, the agreements continue to allow Mexico to store water in Lake Mead and provide for Mexico’s continued sharing of shortages and surpluses through 2026. The agreements also provide for a potentially larger drought response partnership with U.S. water users through the development of the Basin States drought contingency plan and Mexico’s binational water scarcity contingency plan.

Additional components include binational cooperative conservation projects, environmental programs, salinity management efforts and the opportunity for additional conservation and desalination projects in Mexico.

The agreements also authorize $31.5 million in U.S. funding for pilot water conservation programs in Mexico that would generate 229,100 acre-feet of conservation. Approximately 70,000 acre-feet of this conservation is designated for Mexican environmental purposes, 50,000 acre-feet will benefit the Colorado River system and 27,275 acre-feet will be assigned to each partnering U.S. water agency (IID, Southern Nevada Water Authority, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District). The four agencies would fund $15 million ($3.75 million each over 10 years) and the Bureau of Reclamation would provide $16.5 million. The potential would then exist for a second round of binational conservation projects upon completion of these projects.

The U.S. and Mexico sections of the International Boundary and Water Commission are developing Minute No. 323.