Standard Article

United States-Mexico Border Waters: Conventions, Treaties, and Institutions

Water Law and Economics

  1. Nancy A. Lowery

Published Online: 15 JUL 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047147844X.wl109

Water Encyclopedia

Water Encyclopedia

How to Cite

Lowery, N. A. 2005. United States-Mexico Border Waters: Conventions, Treaties, and Institutions. Water Encyclopedia. 4:643–647.

Author Information

  1. San Diego, California

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUL 2005


Cooperation over shared United States–Mexico waters dates back to the Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Limits, and Settlements, know as the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed in 1848. This treaty established the international boundary from the Gulf of Mexico along the Rio Grande to El Paso, Texas, then west to the Pacific Ocean just south of San Diego Harbor, a stretch of 3141 km. For 2001 km of that border, the Rio Grande serves as the boundary line. This is a long and complex boundary with topography ranging from coastal plains to mountain ranges and high desert. The climate is predominately semiarid to arid, has two major watersheds, the Rio Grande (called the Rio Bravo in Mexico) and the Colorado River, many smaller watersheds, and numerous groundwater basins. This was a treaty of intent, not of specifics. The treaty did not deal with details of the boundary line, management of water between the two countries, fluctuation of the river courses, water quality, or groundwater resources. Subsequent agreements would have to deal with these issues.


  • water management;
  • treaties;
  • conventions;
  • United States;
  • Mexico