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NMSU professor says international cooperation needed to tackle regional issues

Water policy can be a touchy subject in the desert, especially along an international border. But examining issues from a regional perspective can help the area plan for a more efficient use of resources, says Jose Garcia, director of New Mexico State University's Center for Latin American Studies.

Jose Garcia (left) with Francisco Llera of UACJ's Center for Regional Studies examine a border-region map.
NMSU photo by Michael Kiernan

Garcia will team up with representatives from the Houston Area Research Center and the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez to create a cooperative process for examining regional policy concerns. One goal is to examine water from a regional perspective in the Paso del Norte area, which includes southern New Mexico, El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico.

With help from a $400,000 Hewlett Foundation grant shared by the Center for Latin American Studies and HARC, the research team will work with major players in the area, such as managers, experts, analysts and users, in an effort to communicate the unique and special nature of the water issues in each section of the region, Garcia said. Within two years of the start of the project the team hopes to lay the foundation for mutually agreeable regional water policies.

Although the project initially will focus on water policy, Garcia said he hopes the water component of the project will serve as a pilot for other regional policy issues.

Garcia said people haven't yet begun to think of Paso del Norte as a coherent region. Officials in each part of the region consider policies with a narrow, localized focus, he said. He hopes this project will help stimulate stronger regional consciousness.

While it doesn't expect to solve all the area water problems, the team anticipates better communication, increased cooperation and development of a regional perspective among policy officials, said Garcia.

"We're not trying to erase borders or jurisdictions," he said. "We're trying to increase awareness that in the long run regional, not subregional, solutions must be implemented to solve regional problems."

Another goal of the project is to improve collaboration of scholars and students in the area by creating the joint Centers for Regional Policy Studies at NMSU and UACJ. The two universities are uniquely positioned to study ways to elicit regional cooperation on issues made more problematic because of the U.S.-Mexico border, Garcia said.

"Universities have the right connections to make this possible," he said. "Universities may be the only institutions with enough relative neutrality and legitimacy to effect this culture of cooperation."

"The partnership with UACJ fits in with other initiatives designed to strengthen relations with Mexican institutions," said Reed Dasenbrock, director of NMSU's Arts and Sciences Research Center. "It's a good example of the university reaching outside into community and real-world kinds of issues."