Parciante Perspectives on the 2013 Irrigation Season
Below, we hear from a number of parciantes who have given us a glimpse of the hardships, strategies, and overall experiences with respect to a limited water supply this past irrigation season:
(Photo at left: The lack of water is evident in the forefront as a small herd grazes on pasture in Nambé. Water from the Rio Nambé was used for the Jaroso Fire this summer, making an already scarce supply harder to distribute among the acequias in the Pojoaque Valley Irrigation District. Photo by Quita Ortiz.)
Yolanda Jaramillo, Embudo Valley Acequia Association – "The river is at its lowest since the early 1950's. It has been at 0.5 CFS – and downstream there are areas between ojitos that are nothing but rock. It took 20 minutes to flow less than 100 yards one from head gate to another. This is the first time I admit that we are in the high desert. I've always said, 'we live in the mountains', but in reality we are in a high desert environment and people need to consider that when they're planning their gardens. We need to think about what type of gardens will fair better."
Lorenzo Candelaria, South Valley Acequia Association – "The drought impact is horrible, giving us a limited amount of water we can use. We are fortunate to have the water we do every 19 days – most of my cash crop is planted with drip, and I plant corn with seed developed over 20 years for drought tolerance. The drought has a major effect on how and what we plant – I could not have done a commercially viable chile crop this year."
Johnny Reed, Rio Mimbres – "We were hit hard this year – everyone in the Mimbers Valley just didn't have enough water to irrigate. And after the Silver Fire, floods brought that silt over head gates and into the acequias. I raise alfalfa and we've never had an elk problem, just deer. Folks in the area are reducing herds by up to 70%….we now have to buy hay for the horses. "
Jackie Powell, Upper Hondo Water Users Association – "We haven't had much water since February and have only been able to irrigate a few times using run off from the rain. Because of the fire, we had to put resources toward removing a few hundred yards of silt out of the diversion to get water through the ditch. So it's not just the drought itself, but the hard times it brings: this is the third year after the fire and the silt is not letting up."
David Ortiz, Pojoaque Valley Irrigation District – "We used up all of our water through June, and right now we are depending on the rain. There has been a little bit of water that has been utilized by some acequias, but only for gardens. We've benefited from rainfall, but there's no forecast for a significant increase to release water from the dam. Right now whatever is released from the dam is used by Pojoaque Pueblo. The last release for non-Indian irrigators was June 22nd and we normally irrigate through late fall. A lot of people in the valley were anticipating the drought and didn't plant as much. Everyone is feeling the effects."
Charlie Esquibel, Santa Cruz Irrigation District – "I feel for parciantes and the mayordomos who are having a heck of a time distributing the water fairly. Folks want more water than is available. And with a dam, we lose water to evaporation. At times water doesn't even make it to the end of the ditch. We are getting some rain and we need it; but it also brings concerns about flood damages."
Esther Garcia, Cabresto Dam – "The dam is very low, it didn't fill up this year. There wasn't enough moisture and it's gone down just from evaporation. There's a lot of fighting going on over water. It's very real – people still don't get it that there isn't enough water – this drought is taking a toll on everyone. We need to be more diligent in conservation. It is a reality that all of the acequias and dam owners are going to have to see. We're lucky we have a dam, but everyone needs to learn to conserve and work with each other."
Harold Trujillo, Mora Valley – "We have not had water for irrigation for last two years, so instead we've tried to just sustain a flow in the river so there would be enough for the cattle to drink, but we could only keep that up 'til the June 1st. We had 15 acres of new alfalfa and it died. Also, the soil is weak – even though we've had good rains, the plants have had a hard time recovering. If we can't produce we have to buy bales, so people have a lot at stake."