Rio Grande River
Rio Grande River. (Photo credit: Ann Wildermuth/National Park Service)

The Rio Grande River snakes along the border between the U.S. and Mexico. A treaty regulates the use of its water for drinking and irrigation. But as drought increasingly threatens the river, people on both sides of the border are turning to underground aquifers.

Sanchez: “Bi-nationally there is no treaty on groundwater between Mexico and the United States. But that doesn’t mean groundwater’s not being used! It’s used, and it’s getting used more every day.”

Rosario Sanchez of Texas A&M says that as the climate warms, groundwater in the region could become a source of conflict between the U.S. and Mexico. But to regulate aquifers that cross the border, both countries need to learn more about them.

Sanchez: “There’s not much data out there on transboundary aquifers. All the available data that you have access to, publicly at least, they all end at the border.”

So Sanchez is gathering data from both sides of the border about the aquifers’ location and use. Her sources range from industry data to interviews with local landowners.

In the end, she will create transboundary maps the U.S. and Mexico can use to determine how best to manage these increasingly valuable sources of water.

Reporting credit: Rachel Gulbraa/ChavoBart Digital Media.