North American Environment Commission Responds To Public Concerns Over Water Problems Along Arizona-Mexico Border

Montreal, 5/27/1997-The Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) is launching an independent report examining water problems in the San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area, along the Arizona-Mexico border. The area is home to an extensive expanse of fragile forested land that serves as an important resting place for migratory birds.

“Diminishing water supplies is one of the major challenges facing the border region,” says Victor Lichtinger, Executive Director of the CEC. “Water shortages may cause further cross-border conflicts, harm the environment, and become a real obstacle to economic development. This report will assess how the region can ensure sustainable use of water.”

The CEC Secretariat’s decision to launch the border water study is in response to a public request by a local non governmental organization, The Southwest Center for Biological Diversity. The group is concerned about the impact of human activity on the long-term health of the San Pedro River, a stretch of water originating in Sonora, Mexico, before flowing north into Arizona.

The CEC Council — composed of US EPA Administrator Carol Browner, Canadian Environment Minister Sergio Marchi and Mexican Secretary of the Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries Julia Carabias — last year recognized the San Pedro Conservation Area as an important corridor for millions of migratory songbirds that winter in Mexico and breed during the summer months in the United States and Canada.

The CEC — otherwise known as the NAFTA environment commission — was created by the environmental side accord to NAFTA, the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC). The Secretariat will prepare the report under Article 13 of the NAAEC, which enables the Secretariat to prepare special reports to the Council on environmental matters that fall within the scope of its work program.

The CEC has a budget of US $9 million, and is equally funded by Canada, Mexico and the United States.