El Agua Es Vida – Suggested Reading on New Mexico’s Acequias

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* This list was curated by the New Mexico Acequia Association for educational purposes only, and represents only a small portion of the resources available. We do not formally endorse any of these books or materials. V 3.30.2020 *

If you have suggestions of other materials to add – please email us at emily@lasacequias.org 

We will continue to update and add to this list.


* There are a limited number of children’s book available that are directly about acequias – so our suggestions also include books focused more broadly on New Mexico farming and food traditions. 

– Juan the Bear and the Water of Life: La Acequia de Juan del Oso – Enrique La Madrid and Juan Estevan Arellano (Spanish and English)

– The Mother Ditch / La Acequia Madre – Oliver La Farge (Spanish/English dual language)

– Owl in a Straw Hat, El Tecolote del sombrero de paja – Rudolfo Anaya

– Carlos and the Squash Plant; Carlos and the Cornfield; and Carlos and the Skunk – Jan Romero Stevens

– I Know the River Loves Me / Yo se que el rio me ama – Maya Cristina Gonzalez [Listen to the book read aloud here]

– In My Mother’s House – Ann Nolan Clark

– Abuelita’s Heart – Amy Córdova

– Los Ojos Del Tejedor: The Eyes of the Weaver – Cristina Ortega

– Tortilla Sun – Jennifer Cervantes [Listen to the book read aloud here]

– Tia’s Tamales – Ana Baca

– My Land Sings: Stories from the Rio Grande – Rudolfo Anaya

– The Santero’s Miracle: A Bilingual Story – Rudolfo Anaya

– Alejandro’s Gift – Richard E. Albert [Listen to the book read aloud here]

Young Adults & Up

– [Listen] ¡Que Vivan las Acequias! Radio Show – Acequias, Agriculture, Seed Sovereignty, Land, Water & Culture with Miguel Santistevan

– [Listen] Cancion de las Acequias – David Garcia and Jeremiah Martinez

– Bendición del agua – Poem by Olivia Romo, video and poem text

Farmers Take to Legislature to Defend Water Traditions – Rio Grande Sun (2020)

Centuries-old Irrigation System Shows How To Manage Scarce Water – National Geographic (2019) 

A Bird’s-Eye View of Northern New Mexico’s Acequias – Alejandro López, Green Fire Times (2014) 

Poet Olivia Romo sings to the acequias – Taos News (2020) 

Doing Their Part: Acequias Feed Hope in Drought & Uncertainty – Taos News (2018)

La Limpia de las Acequias, El Trabajo de Todos – Alejandro López, Green Fire Times (2018)

Acequia Culture and Regional Food System – Miguel Santistevan, New Mexico Acequia Association Blog (2016)

The Art of Acequia Irrigation In Times of Drought – Miguel Santistevan, New Mexico Acequia Association Blog (2018) 

South Valley Farm Grows Connections Rooted In Culture – KUNM Radio (2015)

Protecting A Centuries-Old Tradition – Santa Fe New Mexican (2017)

Ancient Traditions Keep Desert Waters Flowing – Yes! Magazine (2010)

In the Water-Scarce Southwest, an Ancient Irrigation System Disrupts Big Agriculture – Yes! Magazine (2017) 

Why Does Barclays Want To Build a City in the Middle of the New Mexico Desert? – The Guardian (2015) 

Communities Follow Centuries-Old Tradition of Blessing Waterways in Honor of San Ysidro – Albuquerque Journal (2016)

Neighbors Taking Part in Tarea – Rio Grande Sun (2019)

This Acequia Life – NM Political Report (2018)

University Students & Adults

Books – Non-Fiction

– Enduring Acequias: Wisdom of the Land, Knowledge of the Water – Juan Estevan Arellano (2014)

– Acequia Culture: Water, Land and Community in the Southwest – José A. Rivera (1998)

– Acequia: Water Sharing, Sanctity, and Place – Sylvia Rodriquez (2006)

– ¡No Se Vende! (Not for Sale) Water as a Right of the Commons – Kay Matthews (2018)

– Unsettled Waters: Rights, Law, and Identity in the American West – Eric Perramond (2018)

– Dividing New Mexico’s Waters 1700-1912 – John O. Baxter (1997)

– River of Traps – Bill deBuys and Alex Harris (1990)

– Sabino’s Map: Life in Chimayó’s Old Plaza; Chapter 7: Food from the Garden and the Llano – Don J. Usner (1996)

Books – Fiction

– Mayordomo: Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico – Stanley Crawford (1993)

– Milagro Beanfield War – John Nicols (2000)

– Poetry of Remembrance: New and Rejected Works by Levi Romero (2008)

News Articles (also see list above in ‘young adults’ section)

Returning to the North: The Limits of the Northern New Mexican Dream – Rio Grande Sun (2020) 

A Vision for New Mexico’s Water – Paula Garcia, Santa Fe New Mexican (2019) 

The Future of Acequias: ‘The Veins of Our Community’ – Rio Grande Sun (2020) 

The Land is the Source of Our Identidad, Survival, Health, Strength and Happiness – Alejandro López, Green Fire Times (2016) 

Repartimiento, Drought and Climate Change – Sylvia Rodriquez, Green Fire Times (2018)

Can New Mexico’s Ancient Irrigation Canals Survive a Changing Climate? – The Food and Environment Reporting Network (2017)

Acequias as a Sustainable Model for Hydrology Ecology – Quita Ortiz, Green Fire Times (2014)

¡Viva la Acequia! – On The Commons Magazine (2012) 

Acequia Activism: Men and Women Help Protect A Vital Network of Irrigation Throughout New Mexico – Albuquerque Journal (2015)

Papers and Studies

La cultura de las acequias, paisajes históricamente irrigados de Nuevo México – José A. Rivera and Luis Pablo Martínez, Agricultura, Sociedad y Desarrollo Vol 6 No 3 (2009) 

– Protecting Resources for Land-Based People: The New Mexico Water-Transfer Conundrum – David Benavides (2012)

– Acequias: Water Democracy in the US – Paula Garcia, Chapter 13 in ‘Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource’, Edited by Tara Lohan (2010)

– Acequias: A Model for Local Governance of Water – Paula Garcia in ‘Water Consciousness’, Edited by Tara Lohan, AlterNet Books (2008)

The Rio Chama Basin: A Social-Ecological History Linking Culture and Nature – Sam Markwell, José A. Rivera, Moises Gonzales, and J. Jarrett García, Center for Regional Studies, University of New Mexico (2016)

Customary Practice and Community Governance in Implementing the Human Right to Water: The Case of the Acequia Communities of Colorado’s Rio Culebra Watershed – Gregory A. Hicks and Devon G. Peña (2010)

Hydrological, ecological, land use, economic, and sociocultural evidence for resilience of traditional irrigation communities in New Mexico, USA – Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions 11(2) (2014)

Linked hydrologic and social systems that support resilience of traditional irrigation communities – Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 19(1):293-307 (2015)

A framework for assessing ecosystem services in acequia irrigation communities of the Upper Río Grande watershed – Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water 2(5) (2015)

Water Matters – The Utton Center (2015)

2 Responses

  1. Greg Corning

    I want to thank you for this list. It saves TONS of work for me!

  2. Gene Vi Acabal

    Hi Emily, Thank you for all of this materials but do you have something i can use regarding the prehistoric origin of the acequia in new Mexico. I want to use it for my class.

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