(May 24) MISSION, Texas — Mexican President Vicente Fox said his country eventually will pay off its water debt to the U.S. and at the end of May will announce a water conservation plan designed to reach that goal.

The south Texas agriculture industry, however, remains skeptical of the announcement to repay 1.5 million acre-feet of water they claim is owed, according to a 1944 treaty between the two countries.

“Fox did make some statements about their intention to comply with the treaty, and that is encouraging,” said Ray Prewett, executive vice president of the Texas Vegetable Association and Texas Citrus Mutual, both of Mission.

But Mexico’s government has interpreted the treaty differently in the past, and whether Fox’s May 15 an-nouncement will mean Rio Grande Valley growers will see transfer of the 1.5 million acre-feet is unknown, Prewett said.

“We still don’t really know what they really mean when they say it’s their intention to comply with the treaty,” he said.

South Texas irrigation district officials also are critical of Fox’s statements that suggest the repayment is contingent upon a series of irrigation and water treatment system upgrades in Mexico that will be funded by the binational North American Development Bank.