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Texas - Mexico Groundwater and Global Applications

Daniel R. Stein

The debate over groundwater aquifers that underlie more than one sovereign nation is not particular to Texas and Mexico. When one nation withdraws groundwater from a transboundry aquifer, the other side may perceive that it loses a portion of its own supply. Groundwater users are typically unwilling to surrender their beneficial utilization of these waters, even while this use causes damage and depletion of the aquifer or exacerbates existing tensions with a neighboring state. Unlike surface water, groundwater flows through underground geologic formations, so it is less tangible, measurable and quantifiable than surface water. The facts regarding aquifer capacity or quality can be difficult to estimate, particularly as the volume of recharge in a given year is hard to predict. National and state groundwater laws among different nations can conflict or be incompatible. In the absence of a common policy on groundwater, neither party is obligated to conserve the resource.

The establishment of jointly accepted rules on aquifer withdrawal, whether or not through a groundwater treaty, would be a tangible step toward conserving a natural resource and improving relations with a neighboring country. In the case Texas and Mexico, there is a need for such rules due to patterns of groundwater mining both in Mexico and the United States over the past five years.

This thesis does not seek to argue for a common transboundary groundwater policy between the United States and Mexico. It does suggest options for the administration Texas-Mexico aquifers, should the parties decide to develop common groundwater policies. These options are based on a review of current studies of bilateral transboundary groundwater management between Texas and Mexico and between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

At the author's request, TWRI will not post the whole report on our Web site. However, if you would like a copy of the complete Thesis, email TWRI Assistant Research Scientist Ric Jensen at He will email it to you as a PDF file.

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