A panel of experts discussed environmental challenges and opportunities for border water issues Wednesday during the U.S.-Mexico Border Summit at The University of Texas-Pan American.
"Border Water and Environmental Challenges and Opportunities," which featured panelists from the Texas Water Development Board, National Wildlife Federation and North American Development Bank (NADB), focused on the history and current condition of the Rio Grande River.
"We are here because my fellow colleagues initiated a project on environmental issues, particulary border water," said moderator Ann Hamilton of Houston Endowment, Inc. "This project involves promoting a sustaining water level in Texas and promoting an economically sound water enviornment in the Rio Grande Valley."
Panelists spoke of the environmental impacts on the border and the water problems that affect the border's residents, including contaimination and drought.
"Water supplies have been severly effected by the current drought that started eight years ago," said Craig Pedersen, executive administrator for the Texas Water Development Board. "The biggest single issue of the Rio Grande is water quality. The current state programs are not enough to adequately sustain the needs of the Rio Grande Valley."
The water issues on the border also affect wildlife and agriculture.
According to Myron Hess, policy specialist for the National Wildlife Federation, many animals are dependent on the water from the Rio Grande.
"Having a healthy functioning environment is critical for a good quality of life," Hess said. "Because the water resources are declining, biodiversity is declining."
However, much is being done to sustain a healthy flowing water supply in the area. Jorge Garces, deputy managing director of NADB, said several water projects designed to improve the conditions are being funded through loans, guarantees and grants.
A strong relationship between Mexico and the United States also contributes to the development of effective strategic planning for water conservation and water quality.
"We must engage in an in-depth review to sustain our resources and we must learn to plan better," said Mary Kelly, director for Texas Center for Policy Studies. "It is a very critical time in the Rio Grande Valley."