By Olivia Romo, NMAA Staff
"Un año si, y un año no" is a dicho spoken by many acequia farmers in New Mexico who understand that our weather cycles present challenges like drought, crops and huertas freezing, and the uncertainty of water flow through the ditches in the Spring. For the Mayordomo, they must prepare themselves for the year-round projects, inventory, annual limpa, and other hydrological observations throughout the year. Being a Mayordomo is one of the hardest but most rewarding jobs on the ditch and it takes a healthy mind, body, and spirit to be able to do the hard physical labor and communicate to parciantes and the comisión con respeto por nuestra agua, gente, y cultura.
In the middle of winter the acequia duties are in hibernation but the Mayordomo is evaluating the snowpack visually and researching how this year's season will unfold. Asking questions to oneself like, "will the river feeding our acequia experience heavy run off? If the answer is yes, many begin to prepare for extra blocking at the atarque to prevent runoff damages to the banks, compuertas, and silting. In February, as Mayordomo you are firming up your plans for the limpia, formalizing billings (often in cooperation with the treasurer), and securing your date to do an acequia walk to evaluate damaged areas or impacts from desagüe to atarque. This may also be a time for your annual membership meeting or to have a special meeting of the commission or membership according to your bylaws. It would be important to have this meeting after the acequia walk in order to report back on any beaver damns, silt pockets clogged culverts, weak embankments, or damage by gophers or muskrats.
Finally, in late March or early April this is when the acequia work really begins! The phones are ringing, mailing and other notices goes out to the members and the Mayordomo is going through his/her check list of things to get together before the crew is ready to work. There are many dynamics in preparing for the limpia, here are just a few general notes:
1. Gather crew, assemble parciantes, or gather peones
2. Gather appropriate tools (shovels, rakes, chain saw, trailers, backhoe etc.)
3. Inform all other landowners of upcoming limpia so s to avoid easement issues
4. Possibly obtain a burn permit from your county fire marshal
5. Mark out special work areas for cleaning and repair if that is a custom on your ditch
6. Grease all head gates and valves as the limpia progresses.
*Note: Plan the limpia to be done as close to the date of planned opening of the head gate; this prevents wind blowing in debris if too much time passed before opening head gate and letting water flow.
It is now time for the water to flow, open your head gate after triple checking for any debris or blockages and experience the sacred rush of water running through the freshly cleaned ditch. This sound is a reminder of dedication of the numerous mayordomos and possibly your ancestors who have dedicated their lives to this work and life giving element. You can begin to dream of summer, with birds chirping, trees blossoming, and the sounds and smell of earth when she heaves in release as the plows turn dirt. Irrigation will soon be in full swing and the hard work of planting and cultivating will begin and you see yourself spending time with your parciantes and vecinos who are planting, growing, then shortly after preparing fresh meals from their acequia grown crops. Then suddenly the ringing of palas striking rocks and bordos wake you from this day dream, its only April, get back to work there is no time to waste!
Note: Piece includes excerpt from the Mayordomia Handbook/Field Guide & Acequia Governance Handbook, Education Material produced by NMAA.