Conflicts over the sharing of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo and Colorado Rivers between the United States and Mexico are usually understood in spatial terms. In this paper we argue for the need to add a temporal horizon. A larger historical context will reveal that water management, including water allocation and river politics, has always been influenced by larger social-political and cultural frameworks. These temporal shifts are sequential, but overlapping so that current policies as cultural constructs operate within the framework of previous treaty obligations though the historical contexts have changed. The Rio Grande/Rio Bravo is still defined as a border separating two countries. There is emerging at the grassroots level an understanding of the watershed as an ecological resource that unitesthe two countries. Bringing together the cultural definitions of the river as political boundary that separates and a basin that unites is already underway.

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