The Rio Grande/Bravo basin that stretches across the southern United States and northern Mexico commonly describe as hot, dry, binational, critically important, yet overallocated.

‘Hot, dry’ refers particularly to the arid portion of the basin that overlaps with the Chihuahuan Desert.

‘Binational’ refers to an almost even split of the basin between Mexico and the U.S., with about 48% of the basin’s total area of 355,500 sq miles (920,740 km2) lying in Mexico, and 52% in the U.S.

‘Critically important’ describes how essential water resources are to support the basin’s 13 million people.

And, finally, ‘overallocated’ brings to light the growing gap between water supply and demand, which is reaching crisis proportions in many parts of the basin.

© Day's Edge Productions / WWF US


  • Water management in the Rio Grande / Bravo Basin (RGB) is complex.
  • It is an overexploited basin, with deterioration in water quality and on-going political water-related disputes.
  • The condition of the river is dramatically altered and it also faces climate change as a driver of high risk to the basin. Growing population and social activities are demanding more water, however, water availability is limited or null.
  • Furthermore, water is used by the agriculture sector with the burden of a still absent or antiquated infrastructure in most agricultural lands.
  • Additionally, lack of cooperation amongst stakeholders is a big concern adding that lack of funding in support of water-related issues and natural resource conservation is low or inexistent.
  • Thus, for a better understanding of this issues, significant needs related to research, monitoring and data management are necessary.
  • To identify challenges more than 150 people from Mexico and the United States came together at the 2017 Rio Grande / Río Bravo Binational Water Forum to share creative strategies that promote water balance among people and ecosystems to foster a healthy, resilient river.

  1. The basin is already overallocated
  2. Water management in the RGB basin is complex
  3. On-going political water-related disputes
  4. Deterioration in water quality
  5. A variety of issues related to current water law
  6. Disincentive for water conservation in the irrigated agriculture sector
  7. The condition of the river is dramatically altered
  8. Climate change
  9. Municipalities are growing rapidly but irrigated agriculture has the majority of
  10. the water
  11. Antiquated water delivery infrastructure
  12. Outdated hydrologic models
  13. The border wall
  14. Lack of basin wide cooperation amongst stakeholders
  15. Lack of funding in support of water-related issues and natural resource conservation
  16. Significant needs related to research, monitoring and data management

© Foro Binacional


  • While many decision-makers, managers, scientists and conservationists are aware of the challenges, there is a need to better understand the political, social, economic and ecological conditions that affect water quantity and quality.
  • The basin also needs a wide response consisting of a diversity of stakeholders to foster a resilient water management framework that provides for continuing economic and social benefits, fresh water ecosystems, and underserved communities.

  1. Improve water policy
  2. Improve water management
  3. Learn from on-going and past irrigated agriculture water conservation efforts
  4. Learn from on-going and past urban water conservation efforts
  5. Develop water markets and water transaction programs
  6. Develop international ground water agreements
  7. Improve/update estimates of evapotranspiration losses
  8. Learn from creative solutions to water scarcity that are already being conducted
  9. Optimize water storage
  10. Learn from on-going and past on-the-ground stream restoration efforts
  11. Improve basin wide communication and collaboration on water issues
  12. Quantifying ecosystem services
  13. Address key gaps of knowledge related to water scarcity and conservation of native fresh water ecosystems

© Day's Edge Productions / WWF US


  • RGB Water Forum participants identified several specific next steps to keep momentum going following the Forum’s conclusion. Of course, the Forum Organizing Committee is not the only entity with a desire to address water scarcity in the RGB basin.
  • The objective of this report is to continue the discussion begun during the 2017 Forum and spark action, regardless of whether you were a participant of the 2017 RGB or not.

  • Completion and distribution of RGB Water Forum Technical Report.
  • Geodatabase of conservation activities in the RGB basin.
  • Formation of targeted subcommittees.
  • Public communication splashes.
  • Fundraising.
  • Keep the conversation going.
  • Plan and convene the next RGB Water Forum.

Organizing Comitee


  • Genevieve Johnson, Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative
  • Karin Krchnak[1], World Wildlife Fund

  • Ismael Aguilar Barajas, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey
  • Eugenio Barrios, World Wildlife Fund
  • Mark Briggs, World Wildlife Fund
  • Matthew Grabau, Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative
  • Bruce Karas, The Coca-Cola Company
  • Mike Langston, South Central Climate Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey
  • Jurgen Mahlknecht, Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey
  • Mario López Pérez, Instituto Mexicano de Tecnología del Agua
  • Jon Radtke, The Coca-Cola Company
  • Aimee Roberson, Rio Grande Joint Venture
  • J. Alfredo Rodriguez-Pineda, World Wildlife Fund
  • Judy A. Takats, World Wildlife Fund
  • Kim Winton, South Central Climate Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey

 (1) Karin Krchnak currently works for the World Bank.