Evolution of Irrigation Districts and Operating Institutions: Texas, Lower Rio Grande Valley


The growing population in the Texas Lower Rio Grande Valley, shortfalls in water deliveries from Mexico, and multiple years of drought have placed an increased need for efficient water management and allocation in the Rio Grande Basin. These improvements are essential regardless of the treaty compliance issues between Mexico and the U.S. for improved water deliveries to satisfy the 1944 Water Treaty. This report presents a broad overview of how the history of settlement and development shaped current water rights and laws, how the waters of the Rio Grande are divided between the two nations, and how the U.S. and the State of Texas manage their portions. Legal rules and regulations, both current and past, represent the complexity of water allocated in the region. The paper overviews characteristics of the 1944 International Water Treaty and management of Amistad and Falcon international reservoirs by the International Boundary and Water Commission. This overview provides insight on history and the basics of the current set of water allocations, rules and regulations, and some discussion of evolving institutions, i.e., water authorities. Knowledge of the background of the region facilitates ongoing water management policy deliberations, revision/development of policies, and future management of limited water resources. A review of selected Rio Grande Basin irrigation districts and associated operating principles will follow in subsequent reports.