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MEXICO - Mexico to defer some Colorado River water until 2014 to allow for quake recovery

MEXICO CITY (AP) — U.S. and Mexican officials reached a deal Monday for Mexico to defer part of its water allotment from the Colorado River until 2014 while farmers in the Mexicali area repair irrigation networks damaged by an earthquake this year.

Under the agreement, Mexico can defer delivery of up to 260,000 acre-feet of water through 2013 and then seek to recover that in the following three years, when its canals will be better able to handle the load.

Mexico's annual allotment under a 1944 treaty is 1.5 million acre-feet, a measurement equal to the amount of water needed to flood an acre one foot deep.

The agreement was announced in a meeting between Mexican Environment Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Salazar said the two nations want to negotiate a full management plan for the Colorado River in 2011.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor said a comprehensive management agreement "is of particular importance in light of ongoing, historic drought in the Colorado River Basin," where reservoirs have dropped from nearly full levels in 2000 to approximately 55 percent of capacity.

He said that if current drought conditions persist, states like Arizona, California and Nevada may be subject to shortages as early as 2012.

The magnitude-7.2 earthquake on April 4 killed two people and damaged Mexican farm villages near the California border.

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