Memorandum by the Adviser on Political Relations (Duggan) to the Secretary of State

Discussions at El Paso Regarding the Division of International Stream Waters

These discussions started Monday, September 6, with representatives attending from the two sections of the Boundary Commission, the Mexican Foreign Office and the Department.

The discussions opened with respect to the division of the Colorado River waters. The offer previously advanced by Commissioner Lawson [Page 623] of 1,250,000 acre feet was reiterated. The Mexicans made a vague counterproposal which seemed to be based upon an average of 1,700,000 acre feet. On Friday, September 10, we made a new proposal to the Mexicans which was well within the maximum limits of the formula approved at the Sante Fe Conference. Although at the time I left on Tuesday afternoon no reply had been given by the Mexicans to this proposal it is known that the Mexican representatives recommended to the Foreign Office that they accept the formula with certain modifications. The extent of these suggested modifications is not known. The Mexican representatives indicated that the pressure for 1,700,000 acre feet came from the Department of Agriculture and that that Department therefore might be expected to be least easy to convince of the desirability of a settlement based upon our formula presented on Friday, September 10.

Since last Friday discussions have revolved around division of the waters of the Rio Grande. In the first conversations, each side presented its well-known position. Technical studies made by engineers of the two groups brought out the existence of sufficient water to meet the reasonable demands of both countries. The difficulty was to find a formula satisfactory to both countries that would make available to each country water necessary to cover existing uses and for a reasonable expansion. Our position was that an agreement with Mexico, in order to be attractive to us, would have to provide at least as much water as that which could be available to the United States with the development of Project No. 5 providing for taking flood waters from the Rio Grande through a gravity canal for storage and distribution in the United States. At the time I left each side was endeavoring to devise a formula that would satisfy both the principles for which each country stood and the practical necessities of the case.

In general, I am most encouraged by the tenor of the conversations. Although they were slow getting under way, they have now reached a point where both sides are using their best efforts to work out formulas and plans that will present acceptable solutions for both rivers.

In the event that agreement in principle is reached, which should be known within another week or two, approximately six weeks to two months would be required to make certain preliminary engineering studies essential to a well founded treaty and for the drafting of the treaty itself. In other words, provided an agreement can be arrived at by October 1, the treaty should be ready for signature by December 1.

Laurence Duggan