U.S. and Mexico delegations held an official signing ceremony of Minute 319 to the 1944 Treaty with Mexico in San Diego. The agreement, reached through periodic negotiations over the past three years, runs through 2017.
"The Colorado River is the lifeblood of local communities from the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park to the mouth at the Sea of Cortez, supplying water for millions of Americans, irrigating our farms, and helping to power our cities and towns," U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a release. "The Department of the Interior recognizes the many challenges facing the Colorado River, and this bi-national agreement demonstrates our shared commitment to cooperation and partnership to protect and promote its future."
Under the new arrangement, regional water agencies in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada will purchase nearly 100,000 acre-feet of water from Mexico's share of the Colorado River, enough to cover the requirements of 200,000 families for a year, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Mexico will receive $10 million, earmarked to repair damage caused by a 2010 earthquake to Mexicali Valley irrigation canals, a reconstruction effort described by Jorge Zazueta Camacho, president of an irrigation district, as "very slow, and sometimes it stops for months because there's no money."
Officials said they hope for a longer-term deal down the road.
"It's a good way to open the door," said Jeff Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.