Acequias Take Action on Water Issues

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On Saturday, December 1st, acequia leaders from throughout New Mexico convened for the Congreso de las Acequias. Over 150 people from every corner of the state joined to strategize on defense of acequias. “We continue to build strength and unity around the principle that water is life, el agua es la vida,” said Paula Garcia, Executive Director of the New Mexico Acequia Association. In addition to acequia leaders, elected leaders including House Speaker Ben Lujan and several other legislators and county officials attended.

More than twenty regional delegations from such diverse places as the Hondo Valley (Ruidoso), South Valley (Albuquerque), Taos Valley, and Rio de las Gallinas (Las Vegas) met to discuss the most pressing issues facing acequias. “The State Engineer wants to expedite water markets. If we let that happen, it will unravel the acequias,” remarked Jackie Powell of the Hondo Valley who explained the negative impacts of water transfers on acequias and water quality in rivers.

A similar sentiment was echoed from northern New Mexico representatives from El Rito who proposed NMAA take a position to take greater action to keep water rights in their respective communities. “We believe water is a community resource. Local communities need to protect the water from being transferred to other places downstream,” remarked Juan Garcia from El Rito.

According to Don Bustos, a NMAA board member and farmer, “We are not only defending our water but we are building for the future.” Bustos proposed legislative initiative to fund a new Farms for the Future program through the NMSU College of Agriculture. “We realize that it is just as important to revitalize local agriculture,” said Don Bustos, owner of Santa Cruz Farm and Greenhouses. “We need to keep our acequias flowing so that local farmers and ranchers can meet the need for locally grown food.”

Other issues addressed included adjudication reform. Some irrigators expressed concern about how water rights will be quantified. “We believe the state should continue to bear the cost of producing and updating hydrographic surveys. That burden should not be shifted to the claimants,” said James Maestas, an irrigator from the South Valley. “Efforts to expedite adjudication should not come at the expense of fairness.”

Click here for copies of the program and final resolutions.