spring 2013

Merry Christmas from the New Mexico Acequia Association!
New Mexico Acequia Association
December 2013
In This Issue...
Support the work of the New Mexico Acequia Association!
Congreso de las Acequias Recap
Wishing you and your acequias an abundance of snow this Christmas and Winter season!!
The New Mexico Acequia Association would like to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season.    May the snows of winter bring us an abundance of water to flow in our acequias to nurture our gardens, orchards, fields, and livestock in the coming growing season.  

May our families and communities continue the beautiful traditions of our acequias in the hope that we can be nourished with healthy, locally-grown, and culturally meaningful foods...  And may we follow the teachings of those who came before us to work cooperatively with our neighbors to share our limited and precious water.

From the NMAA family to yours,
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays
Support the New Mexico Acequia Association
Dear Friends and Supporters,


The year 2013 will be remembered as a time when acequias endured severe drought through cooperation and water sharing.  It was also a time when water issues took on greater importance and acequias gained more appreciation as caretakers of precious and limited water supplies.  Acequias worked diligently so that water would continue to flow to crops that nourish our families and communities.  By strengthening and supporting acequias, the work of the New Mexico Acequia Association is as important as ever. 


Some of our most significant accomplishments of the past year have been our outreach and education on acequia governance, expansion of acequia funding through the legislative process, and our support of local projects to renew agriculture and irrigation infrastructure.   Some our legislative work resulted in better funding opportunities for local acequias:


         Restored full funding of $1.9 million to the Interstate Stream Commission for acequia construction projects with the support of several state legislators and updated legislation for acequia cost share changing it from 80-20 to a 90-10 cost share such the acequia cost share has been reduced to 10%.


         Advocated for an amendment to the Farm Bill making acequias eligible for the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which generally serves individual landowners.  Acequias can now apply directly for a cost share through EQIP for conservation projects.  The current draft of the Farm Bill contains this amendment sponsored by Congressman Lujan.    


NMAA also strengthened acequias by building capacity for local acequia governance and infrastructure planning for over 100 acequias in addition to providing leadership development opportunities for adults and youth.


         Coordinated or presented at 34 workshops or acequia meetings with 937 participants. NMAA gives presentations on water rights and acequia governance. Completed 39 acequia bylaws and Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plans in addition to providing 152 technical assistance services to acequias.


         Cultivated youth and adult acequia leadership by engaging them in Sembrando Semillas and the Escuelita de las Acequias totaling over 60 established and emerging community leaders committed to local acequia and food projects and sharing their lessons learned through stories.


We hope to build upon this success so that our children and grandchildren can inherit the cultural legacy of land, water, seeds, and culture that are integral to the acequias. Today, we are asking for your help to continue this vital work. 


The New Mexico Acequia Association is a charitable, educational non-profit that relies on membership dues, contributions, and charitable donations.   Support New Mexico's acequia movement and consider making an annual contribution and/or becoming a member of the New Mexico Acequia Association.  Individual membership dues are only $20 annually.  With your membership, you will receive our newsletter and invitations to workshops and meetings. If you are already a member, or if you are inspired to contribute more, please consider a donation to the NMAA.  Thank you for your continued work for our acequias and your support of the NMAA. 


Have a safe and blessed Christmas and Holiday season.


Que Vivan las Acequias! 




Paula Garcia

Executive Director


Congreso de las Acequias
Paula Garcia
Acequia supporters gather for the Congreso in November. Photo by Seth Roffman.

The Congreso de las Acequias is the governing body of the New Mexico Acequia Association that was created over the course of a few years between 1999 and 2001 to strengthen the collective voice of acequias in New Mexico and to have a vehicle to work toward a common vision. The Congreso de las Acequias is a federation of regions defined mainly by watersheds and a common stream system. Most of these watershed-based regions have established associations of acequias that work for their common interests at the local level such as adjudication defense or water sharing agreements. Other regional acequia associations have expanded their role to also include youth mentoring, leadership development, and rebuilding local and regional food systems. Some regions have not established watershed-based regional associations yet but may do so in the future to advocate for their common interests.  


Once a year, the Congreso de las Acequias meets to approve resolutions that serve to define the policy platform and agenda of the NMAA and to elect leaders to govern the organization. The Congreso is the only statewide gathering of acequias and it is often attended by various dignitaries and elected officials to show support of New Mexico's acequias. Usually the annual Congreso de las Acequias takes place in November of each year and is intended to keep NMAA members and supporters informed about current issues affecting of acequias, to celebrate acequia culture with music, and to greet old and new friends.


This year, the theme was "Strengthening Community in Times of Water Scarcity." Following the roll call of the Congreso's regional delegates, the customary Bendicin de las Aguas took place. Delegates and supporters from around the state brought water from their respective areas for the water blessing. It's a beautiful NMAA ritual that's intended to honor water as a life-giving element and to ground us in the important work that we do.  


Following the water blessing, we heard from acequia leaders, researchers, and policy makers. During the topic, "Acequia Leaders Speak on Adaptation to Longterm Drought," Medardo Sanchez (La Asociacion de las Acequias Nortenas del Rio Arriba) and Fred Vigil (Rio de Chama Acequia Association) shared their experience with water sharing this past irrigation season. True to the repartimiento tradition, both regional acequia associations came together with the Office of the State Engineer to negotiate a water sharing agreement.  


Following the water sharing section, rancher Harold Trujillo and farmer Don Bustos presented on the topic "Acequia Agriculture & Irrigation Strategies for the next 100 Years." Harold focused on irrigation strategies referring to many examples, both traditional and modern; and emphasized the need to adjust irrigation techniques now and in the future in order to respond to climate change and drought conditions. Don spoke of the need to protect our water for the future of farming in New Mexico as well as provided a summary of his farming techniques and adaptation to newer technology that he couples with older ancestral methods.  


The Congreso attendees also heard presenters who work in the areas of research and policy including Dr. Sam Fernald, Director of the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute and Professor of Animal and Range Sciences at NMSU; and Senator Peter Wirth. Sam spoke about the ongoing acequia research that he's been engaged in since the early part of the century. "I see acequias as important advocacy for water in New Mexico," he said, "there are many things we can learn from them." The most recent study, funded by the National Science Foundation, centers around acequias as resilient systems that have proven to be adaptable to change. Senator Wirth spoke about the past legislative session and the two major areas generating concern, the priority call on the Pecos River and the New Mexico-Texas water compacts. He also stated that acequias are the "big dogs" at the negotiating table because they have senior water rights, and underscored that moving forward with less water is a path that we all share.


Congressman Ben Ray Lujan was the event's keynote speaker. He started by acknowledging the tenacity and perseverance of acequia leaders and NMAA's leaders in particular. He also expressed his frustration surrounding the stalled farm bill. Additionally, he spoke of the NMAA-advised legislation that he has been working on since 2009 called the Traditional Use and Consultation Act, the purpose of which is to recognize and respect the traditional use of our national forests and public lands. He emphasized the importance of the bill in codifying and putting into place the responsibility for mandatory consultation about public land use that involves acequias, compuertas, land grants, etc.


The Congreso de las Acequias also featured the Acequia Awards Ceremony. Acequia farmers, leaders, and advocates from throughout the state were honored for their unwavering dedication to acequias and their communities. Facundo Valdez received special honors with the Acequia Lifetime Achievement Award.  


Following the event's dynamic and informative speakers, we lead the business section of the gathering. Opened and conducted by NMAA Present, Antonio Medina, Congreso delegates voted on resolutions following both the approval of the 2012 Minutes and NMAA's annual report presentation. The Congreso passed a total of four resolutions: 1. Requesting that the State Legislature and state agencies support acequias and other local governments with completion of financial reporting and audits, 2. Requesting an inter-agency assessment of acequia infrastructure and requesting the Water Trust Board make an annual needs-based allocation from the Water Project Fund to the Acequia Project Fund, 3. Requesting that the State Engineer recognize and support the role of acequias in local water management, and 4. Supporting the creation of a Water Fund to restore watersheds in New Mexico on a landscape scale. Copies of the resolutions and the Congreso proceedings will be made available online by January 3, 2014 at www.lasacequias.org/congreso-de-las-acequias

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Become a member of the New Mexico Acequia Association! Parciante and Supporter Memberships are $20/year and includes a quarterly newsletter subscription. Membership for an Acequia is $40/year including a newsletter subscription for all four officers.


The NMAA is a charitable, educational non-profit organization that relies on membership contributions and foundations for its general operating expenses. We rely on folks who join as members and to contribute membership dues and donations to support our work. It has never been more important to have a united front to protect our acequias and strengthen our food and agricultural traditions.


Technical Assistance 



The NMAA offers technical assistance on Acequia Governance and USDA programs for landowners. If any of these questions apply to you or your acequia, please submit a Request for Technical Assistance.