By Paula Garcia
In addition to the spring cleaning, it is also the time of year when many acequias hold their annual meetings. Acequias for generations likely held meetings to discuss the practical day-to-day operation of the acequia, the customs for sharing water, and various other issues of common concern. The requirement of acequia meetings specified in state law probably came later; today it specifies that an acequia is required to meet at least once every two years. State law specifies the month but also provides flexibility for acequias to have their meetings whenever it is "practicable." Most acequias meet at least once per year for an annual meeting and it is generally held in the Fall or Spring.
Because acequias and community ditches are recognized in state law as local governments, certain requirements apply to how these meetings are conducted. Some of the key requirements for acequias are as follows:
- Meetings are open to the public and notices have to be posted in a public place. Each year the acequia should adopt an open meetings resolution. Generally, ten days notice is considered reasonable for regular meetings.
- Agendas for the meeting should be available in advance of the meeting. The agenda can be amended with action items up to 24 hours before the meeting.
- Minutes of each meeting should record the date, time, location, attendees, decisions, and a brief summary of discussion.
Annual acequia meetings are very important not only to conduct business but also for visiting and talking with neighbors. This time for visiting and informal conversation is often accommodated either before or after the official meeting. Once the meetings starts, it is helpful to follow certain guidelines. Generally the President or Chair of the Commission will preside over the meeting. Based on observation over the past few years, acequias that use a common set of procedures, such as Robert's Rules of Order, generally have more efficient meetings. These are some practices that help keep a meeting running smoothly:
- One person should speak at a time when called upon by the Chair.
- Actions should be taken through motions and only action items on the agenda can be acted upon.
- The Chair (Commission) should clearly understand who is eligible to vote.
With regard to voting, the bylaws should be specific on the voting method. Some acequias use the one parciante-one vote method while others vote according to acreage. The method used for voting and defining a quorum should be consistent with the bylaws of the acequia. The acequia should also be clear about the rules for proxies. State law allows voting by proxy but the acequia can place some guidelines on how they are used. For example, a proxy for an absent parciante should be specific to a certain meeting. It is also essential for the acequia to have an up to date list of parciantes.
Additional information about acequia meetings is available through our Acequia Governance Project. You can also refer to our Acequia Governance Handbook for general acequia governance information. Please contact Janice Varela at 505-995-9644 for more information.