In the February issue of Texas+Water, Texas+Water Editor-in-Chief Todd Votteler, Ph.D., interviewed Adriana Reséndez Maldonado.
Reséndez is a civil engineer with a master’s degree in hydraulic resources in arid zones, with a specialty in water use and water quality. She has 23 years of experience in the Mexican section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), in the department of engineering as deputy director of the Colorado River and in operations as principal engineer.
In the IBWC, Reséndez has performed functions to ensure compliance with the current treaties between Mexico and the United States regarding the distribution of the waters of the international rivers, as well as the supervision of the operation and maintenance of the hydraulic projects built in the Rio Grande and Colorado River, the operation and maintenance of the hydrometric system of the Mexican section of the IBWC and the accounting of water allocations of the Rio Grande and Colorado River.
During her career in this institution, she has participated in the negotiation of several minutes of the IBWC, as well as in the inter-institutional and binational coordination for the development of projects of great relevance in the border region.
As of September 15, 2021, she holds the position of Mexican commissioner of the IBWC.
What do you consider to be the most important function of the IBWC?
The most important function of the IBWC/Comisión Internacional de Límites y Agua (CILA) is to ensure compliance with the boundary and water agreements and treaties. In this regard, it is important to highlight the compliance with the International Waters Treaty of 1944 (Treaty of 1944) as well as other treaties such as the Boundary Treaty of 1970, among others.
Based on the 1944 treaty, one of the most important functions is to monitor the fulfillment of water deliveries from both the Colorado River to Mexico and the Rio Grande to the United States. To achieve this, it is necessary to perform the accounting of water of the Rio Grande and the Colorado River through a network of hydrometric stations, as well as with the operation and maintenance of the border infrastructure that includes Amistad, Falcón, Anzaldúas and Retamal International Dams and Morelos Dam.
What aspect of your previous experience do you consider to be the most valuable to you in your new role as commissioner?
I have worked in the IBWC for 23 years, for 20 of which I had the opportunity to work with the issues of the Colorado River Basin and participated in the search for cooperation schemes through a comprehensive vision of the basin. This process led the IBWC to sign several Colorado River minutes, which established innovative actions for the benefit of both countries. Later as principal operation engineer, I learned in detail about the problems of the Rio Grande Basin, including Mexico’s commitment to water deliveries to the United States from the tributaries of the Rio Grande, as well as the operation and maintenance of the dams by the Mexican section of the IBWC.
The knowledge of the issues on the IBWC agenda has allowed me to have a clear vision of the great binational challenges and how to address them.
What are your top priorities for the IBWC in the upcoming years considering current scenarios of climate change in the Colorado and Rio Grande basins?
With respect to the Colorado River, it is a priority to work with both countries to identify preventive and proactive cooperation measures that allow the sustainability of the basin and achieve its balance. To achieve this objective, the exchange of information and joint efforts carried out through the binational working groups established within the framework of Minute 323 are fundamental.
The impacts of climate change do not exclude the Rio Grande Basin; therefore it is a priority to explore the effects on the runoff of Mexican tributaries to the Rio Grande and explore methodologies that allow meeting the commitments of water deliveries established in the Water Treaty of 1944.
What are the current water conditions in the border region and what will be the role of Minute 325 in the upcoming months and years?
We are currently experiencing drought conditions in much of Mexico’s Rio Grande Basin, which is reflected in the low runoff from Mexican tributaries reaching the Rio Grande. The extent of the drought is such that the first year of the current five-year cycle (October 25, 2020–October 24, 2021) was the second year on record with the lowest allocations to the United States coming from these tributaries. Therefore, I emphasize the importance of Minute 325, which establishes the framework to identify, through a binational working group, water management scenarios including potential water conservation projects.
Based on the results obtained and the experience of the IBWC, a new minute of the IBWC is foreseen that will provide greater certainty in the deliveries of water from the Rio Grande to users in Mexico and the United States.
Do you think the existing agreements between Mexico and the United States provide sufficient framework to determine how to share transboundary groundwater resources?
Yes, the mechanism of the IBWC minute process provided in the Water Treaty of 1944 provides the necessary instruments for both governments to establish the agreements that are required to address the issue of shared groundwater as they consider appropriate.
On the topic of groundwater, Minute 242 of the IBWC establishes the commitment to reciprocal consultation between the two governments before undertaking new development of surface or groundwater or before making substantial modifications to its current developments that could affect the other country. Minute 242 also establishes the distribution of groundwater between the two countries in the border area of the San Luis region between Sonora and Arizona.
Agreements have also been signed within the IBWC that have allowed for the exchange of information and development of joint studies to improve knowledge of shared aquifers. Transboundary groundwater issues have also been addressed on a case-by-case basis.
What do you consider to be the biggest challenge(s) facing Mexico and the United States over the next 20 years regarding the water resources that we share?
The effects of climate change that are being reflected in the prolonged droughts in the shared basins will lead us to seek innovative cooperation schemes for the management of our shared waters. We need to establish rules and guidelines to meet the needs of water uses from each country and, at the same time, be in compliance with international commitments. These schemes should lead us to achieve a long-term balance between water availability and increased demand.
Therefore, the topics of water reuse, border sanitation, water quality and groundwater management will be the big challenges for the future.