How do riparian water rights along the Colorado River affect Mexico’s water supply?

Loosely defined, riparian water rights state that people who own property adjacent to a body of water may withdraw water from that water source. While this worked well in pre-industrialized nations such as England, where riparian rights were created, these rights do not work as well during the twenty-first century. The main cause of problems with riparian water rights today are that there are more people that live along riparian zones (zones bordering a body of water). This means that more people are withdrawing water now than 100 years ago. To make matters worse, people use more water now than 100 years ago. For example, people often wash their cars in the driveways. People irrigate landscape, which accounts for as much as 50% of their water usage.
What does this have to do with Mexico, you might ask? Well the Colorado River flows from Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado at over 10,000 feet elevation down to the Colorado River Delta in the Gulf of California, Sonora, Mexico. This 1,450 mile journey provides near-limitless access to water. However, most of the Colorado River flows through the United States—not Mexico. By the time the Colorado River reaches its end in the Gulf of California, there is a mere trickle of water. The maximum flow rate has been measured as high as 300,000 cubic feet/second (8,500 cubic meters/second). The minimum flow rate, however, is as little as 700 cubic feet/second. That’s because all of the water has been pumped out or withdrawn for use in the United States. While this may not be a problem for us, it is a problem for Mexico. They need water, too.
Brian O’Neill

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