56. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon1


  • Status of the Colorado River Salinity Negotiations with Mexico

The first round of the negotiations on the Colorado River salinity issue was conducted by your Special Representative Herbert Brownell in Mexico City June 11–13. The Mexicans initially responded to our proposal with an unrealistic counterproposal. A private conversation between Mr. Brownell and Foreign Secretary Rabasa revealed considerable flexibility in their position, however, and the principal remaining issues have been fairly specifically defined as:

1. The degree of differential in water quality between that delivered to United States users from Imperial Dam and that delivered to Mexican users from Morelos Dam.

2. The timing of providing the agreed-upon water quality, through substitution for Wellton-Mohawk drainage, during the interim period before a desalting plant can be completed.

3. The means of achieving an interim understanding which will protect United States waters from Mexican pumping, pending a general agreement on groundwaters.

4. The means of disposing of the issue of past damages which Mexico alleges have been caused by overly saline water.

Mexico appears to desire an agreement by September 1 in order to permit President Echeverria to refer to it in his mid-term address to the nation. We will know more when Secretary Rabasa comes to Washington for the second round of negotiations beginning July 3. Between the first and second round of negotiations, consultations are being undertaken within the Executive Branch, with the Committee of Fourteen which represents the seven Colorado River Basin States, and with Congress.

William P. Rogers
  1. Summary: Rogers reported on the first round of talks between Brownell and Mexican officials on the proposed resolution to the Colorado River salinity problem.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files, National Security Study Memoranda, Box H–197, NSSM 173. Confidential. In telegram 4356 from Mexico City, June 18, McBride reported on a discussion with Echeverría in which the Mexican President noted that Rabasa was “optimistic that a settlement would soon be reached” after his meetings with Brownell. Echeverría also expressed concern that the issue of illegal immigration to the United States “might prove to be more serious and even more difficult of solution” than the long-running salinity problem. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–1973, POL 33–1 MEX–US)