(DTN)--Texas congressional leaders on May 24 called for sanctions against Mexico, as Mexico continued to withhold water for irrigation while the state's agriculture sector withers in an unrelenting drought, Reuters reported.

"We told (Mexican officials) we would be looking at very serious actions, including sanctions, if Mexico did not honor its treaty commitments," said Rep Ruben Hinojosa, D-TX.

"We have called for an immediate transfer of 290,000 acre feet of water from Mexico's account in the Amistad and Falcon dams. We want an immediate fix, and that means this week, not next year."

On Thursday, May 23, farmers in south Texas used tractors to block traffic on the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge in a two-hour protest designed to bring attention to a water shortage that has worsened since the Mexican state of Chihuahua diverted water from the Rio Grande River.

Since 1991, the area has lost more than $1 billion in agriculture revenues and 30,000 jobs.

Farmers in Tamaulipas are also in dire straights.

Cesar, a longtime Matamoros farmer who asked that his last name not be used, said he has already lost 90% of his sorghum crop. Without water the rest will die by the end of the month, he said.

Cathay Travis, aide to Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-TX, said sanctions and a number of other proposals are on the table.

Under consideration is a plan that would take water from farmers in western Mexico, give it to the state of California, then have California make financial restitution to Texas for crops lost to drought.

The congressmen are also considering renegotiation of the 1944 treaty that provides irrigation water to south Texas and western Mexico with terms more favorable to Texas.

There is even talk of renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Alliance as a means of recouping billions of dollars in losses to the Texas agriculture industry because Mexico reneged on the treaty, a congressional spokesperson said.

According to a 1944 treaty, water from tributaries in Mexico is to feed into the Rio Grande River and flow downstream, where one-third (or a minimum of 350,000 acre-feet) is earmarked for farmers in south Texas and two-thirds is to go to farmers in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.

In return, the United States agreed to divert 1.75 million acre-feet of water out of the Colorado River and into western Mexico each year.

But in 1992 Mexico defaulted, accumulating a water debt of more than 1.5 million acre-feet.

Mexican President Vicente Fox has said he will release a repayment schedule by Thursday.

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