On Saturday, December 2nd, over 200 acequia leaders gathered in Taos for the 7th Annual Congreso de las Acequias which is the annual meeting of the New Mexico Acequia Association. The meeting was the launching point for a campaign entitled âEl Agua es la Vida â Water is Lifeâ to protect water for agriculture and local community needs.
Leaders from throughout the state told their stories. Gilbert Sandoval of the Jemez Valley Acequia Coalition said, âRio Ranchoâs growth threatens to suck our valley dry.â Sandoval along with other leaders spoke of need to defend water rights from the threats of rural-to-urban water transfers.
Local legislators joined in the call for unity among the acequias. âThe pressures are mounting to move water out of agriculture and rural communities. Get organized to defend your water rights,â proclaimed Senator Carlos Cisneros who has been a long-time acequia supporter as chair of the Senate Conservation Committee.
Juanita Garcia, a youth leader with the New Mexico Acequia Association, read a statement of principles fromÂ El Agua es la Vida Declaration. âWe recognize, honor, and respect that water is sacred and sustains all life.â The declaration is a statement of principles and a plan of action which calls on acequias and their allies âto challenge the economic and political forces that drive water rights out of our traditional communities and out of agriculture.â
Explaining the need for the campaign, Paula Garcia said, âAcequia water is the lifeblood that feeds New Mexicoâs farms and ranches, replenishes our aquifers, and supports biodiversity. We need acequia water and farmland for locally grown food. Therefore, we must defend our water and protect it for future generations.â
The Congreso culminated in the declaration followed by several resolutions on issues including eminent domain, acequia easements, climate change, genetically engineered seeds, and food sovereignty. In addition to some legislative initiatives, the NMAA took action to request that Governor Richardson make an Executive Order recognizing the significance of acequias to New Mexico.
The Congreso was co-sponsored by the New Mexico Acequia Association, the Taos Valley Acequia Association, and the Taos Soil and Water Conservation District.