The U.S.-Mexican Salinity Crisis, 1961-1973: History and Significance for Colorado River Management Today mini-symposium

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 - 1:00pm to 6:15pm

Lory Student Center room 376-378

The dispute over the salinity of the Colorado River between 1961 and 1973 remains the most significant water controversy between Mexico and the United States since the landmark 1944 Water Treaty was ratified in 1945.   The salinity settlement in 1973, Minute 242 of the International Boundary and Water Commission, by which the United States agreed to sustain water quality parity at the boundary, not only consolidated binational commitment to the 1944 Water Treaty but led directly to the 1974 Salinity Control Act and comprehensive measures of salinity control throughout the U.S. portion of the Colorado River Basin.  Diplomacy during the salinity dispute and its settlement also touched on enduring challenges for binational water management including transboundary groundwater, water augmentation, desalination, and ecological preservation.   The Salinity Crisis set the parameters for contemporary U.S.-Mexico cooperation on the River and M242 continues to shape recent agreements and ongoing negotiations on drought sharing, environmental values, and the emerging potential for water commerce across the international boundary.  This symposium explores the diplomatic history, impact, and contemporary significance of this extraordinary agreement shaping binational cooperation and operations on the Colorado River.


INTRODUCTION - 1pm - Lory Student Center Room 376-378

Reagan Waskom, Chair of the CSU Water Center and Director of the Colorado Water Institute
Stephen Mumme, CSU Department of Political Science

PANEL 1 - 1:15-3pm
The U.S.-Mexico Salinity Crisis (1961-1973): Origin, Issues, and Outcomes

Moderator: Adrian Howkins, CSU Department of History
Discussant: Brad Udall, Colorado Water Institute

Evan Ward, BYU Department of History | How Salinity Saved the Delta
Steve Mumme, CSU Department of Political Science | Constructing Equity in the Salinity Crisis
Alfonso Cortez-Lara, Colegio de la Frontera Norte | Transboundary Water Conflicts in the Lower Colorado River: Mexicali and the permanent salinity problem

PANEL 2 - 3:15-5pm
The Salinity Crisis: Its Contemporary Significance

Moderator: Peter Taylor, CSU Department of Sociology
Discussant: Neil Grigg, CSU Department of Civil Engineering

Brad Udall, Colorado Water Institute | Salinity and Contemporary Challenges on the Colorado River
Jennifer Pitt, Audubon Society | Forging Peace on the Colorado River: How salinity challenges built relationships between conservationists and water users, and between the U.S. and Mexico
Jennifer Gimble, Colorado Water Institute and former Colorado Water Conservation Board | Binational Cooperation and the Colorado River: Minute 32X and Beyond

CLOSING REMARKS - 5-5:15pm | Reagan Waskom and Stephen Mumme

RECEPTION - 5:15-6:15pm - Lory Student Center Longs Peak Room
Light refreshments served.


Alfonso Cortez-Lara is Professor and Researcher at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF), Tijuana, Baja California and its Mexicali Research Campus. He is the author of Transboundary Water Conflicts in the Lower Colorado River Basin:  Mexicali and Salinity and the All-American Canal Lining Crisis (2015).


Neil Grigg is a Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado State University, has broad university and government experience across a range of water issues and serves the U.S. Supreme Court as River Master of the Pecos River.  His most recent book, Integrated Water Resources Management: An Interdisciplinary Approach, was published in October 2016.


Jennifer Gimble is Senior Fellow with the Colorado Water Institute. A Graduate of the University of Wyoming School of Law, she was until recently the Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board with extensive past service in multiple capacities at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Associate Director of Operations; head of USBR’s Policy Analysis and Environment and Water Resources offices) and the Colorado Attorney General’s office (with responsibilities for water and natural resources).
Adrian Howkins is Associate Professor in international environmental history and specializes in the history of the Polar Regions.  He has recently published Frozen Empires: An Environmental History of the Antarctic Peninsula and The Polar Regions: An Environmental History.  He is a co-PI on the McMurdo Dry Valleys Long Term Ecological Research site in Antarctica.


Steve Mumme is Professor of Political Science specializing in transboundary environmental diplomacy at Colorado State University.  He is a leading authority on the International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico as well as other binational and multilateral transboundary environmental agencies in North America.


Jennifer Pitt is the Colorado River Project Director for the Audubon Society.  
Pete Taylor (Peter Leigh Taylor) is Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at Colorado State University. His current research focuses on environmental flow cooperation on the Colorado River in Colorado and on agricultural issues in the Colorado River Basin. Pete serves as Editor-in-chief of Society and Natural Resources: An International Journal with David Sonnenfeld of SUNY-ESF.  
Brad Udall is the Senior Water and Climate Scientist/Scholar for the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado.  
Evan Ward is Associate Professor of History at Brigham Young University where he specializes in U.S.-Mexico Border history. He is the author of Desert Oasis: Water & the Political Ecology of the Colorado River Delta, 1940-1975 (2003).  
Reagan Waskom is Chair of the CSU Water Center and Director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University. He has served as President of the Colorado Water Congress and President of the National Institutes of Water Resources.  


SoGES Visiting Fellow Stephen Mumme