The Acequia tradition from New Mexico

The Acequia tradition from New Mexico

Acequias, the Hispanic version of "irrigation ditches", arrived in Colorado decades before the gold rush. Acequias were often the first form of government in the Southwest. Then, as now, building, maintaining and sharing a ditch required organization and rules.

Acequias are well designed to deal with drought. As Colorado grapples with the conflicting demands of climate change, urban water needs and "eating locally", we may yet find answers to modern water dilemmas in the venerable acequia tradition.

Right, clockwise from the top:

The word "acequia" has its roots in the Arab word "as-Saquiya", which means "the Water Bearer".

La Acequia de la Gente de San Luis is the oldest continuously operating irrigation ditch and water right in the State of Colorado.

Colorado's acequias have relied on a system of reparto -historic water-sharing principles that call for dividing water for the greatest community benefit. In a drought, acequias rotate the scarce water between all users, and give priority to people producing crops over people using water for pasture or industry. Construction and maintenance of the acequia is a shared duty, and water is viewed as a community asset upon which everyone depends. Reparto allows for regional variation in water-sharing principles, recognizing that different acequias may need different solutions. Acequia Madre Pueblo, San Juan. Colorado Historical Society, (CHS.J1365 William Henry Jackson).

As late as 1905, Boulder Water Commissioners were using acequia principles to allocate scarce water between ditches. Water Commissioner William Hodgson.

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