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Acequias Major Topic for Legislative Committee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Paula Garcia, Executive Director of NMAA

During a recent meeting of the Water and Natural Resources Legislative Interim Committee, the NMAA gave a presentation on Acequia Infrastructure Funding and Water Rights Issues along with Ralph Vigil of the New Mexico Acequia Commission. Paula Garcia, NMAA Executive Director, gave an overview of acequias and agricultural statistics demonstrating the economic value of acequia agriculture to the rural economy of New Mexico. Her presentation also included an overview of acequia infrastructure funding and some broad policy recommendations. In his presentation, Vigil mentioned that the Commission is working to build its capacity to serve its advisory role to the Legislature.

“Acequia agriculture makes a valuable contribution to their respective rural economies. Therefore, investment in acequia infrastructure is good for New Mexico’s economy,” said Garcia. She went on to provide county by county data on the market value of livestock and crops in acequia-rich counties. Agriculture as a whole contributes $2.5 million to the state’s economy with acequias contributing about $200 million of that total. For example, Rio Arriba County produced about $19 million per year in market value and Mora County had about $12 million per year. For those counties with acequia agriculture, the contribution of $8 million to $70 million per county is a significant driver in local and regional rural economies.

Committee members were interested in learning how acequia projects are funded. At the request of the Chairman, Senator Joseph Cervantes, NMAA prepared a detailed presentation about the funding sources available for acequia infrastructure. Other partners present to provide support during the presentation included Debbie Hughes from the NM Association of Conservation Districts, Xavier Montoya from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and Kim Abeyta from the Interstate Stream Commission.

Paula Garcia, NMAA Executive Director, explained the ISC 90-10 Program, which is funded by the Irrigation Works Construction Fund (IWCF). The IWCF receives about $7 million in recurring revenue from the permanent fund each year. It was created in statute for the purpose of funding the design and construction of irrigation projects. Since around 2008, the expenditures out of the fund have exceeded revenue mainly because the fund was tapped to fund the operations of the Office of the State Engineer and the Interstate Stream Commission. The result is that the fund is projected to be depleted in FY18 or FY19.

 “We’ve anticipated the depletion of the Irrigation Works Construction Fund for years. Now that we are there, the Legislature will be faced with the decision of how to fund the OSE and ISC as well as how to maintain the existing level of funding for the ISC Acequia Program,” Garcia said as she pointed out that the upcoming legislation session may involve difficult budget decisions. She expressed her hope that a solution could be found that would fund the OSE/ISC while also retaining the ISC acequia funding for the 90-10 Program. The solution may involve use of the General Fund to cover agency operations rather than the IWCF. Representative Paul Bandy presented more detailed information about the history and statutory context of the fund and explained that he has been raising concern about this in past years.

Legislators asked several questions about ongoing acequia issues. Senator Carlos Cisneros expressed that there may be a need to improve notice procedures. In her presentation, Garcia noted that the Governor had vetoed SB 86 (Cisneros) to require that applications for water appropriations or water transfers be posted online. Garcia went on to explain that the existing online notice provided by the OSE is informal and a lack of posting by the agency does not have a legal remedy. She explained that entities that rely on notice to protect their water rights are in favor of improved notice procedures while applicants tend to prefer the status quo.

Senator Pat Woods mentioned that he had received complaints about the time taken to approve acequia engineering designs. Debbie Hughes, Executive Director of the NM Association of Conservation Districts (NMACD), explained that several acequias have experienced delays and increased costs due to archeological clearances required by the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPO). Hughes explained that her organization created a partnership to bring federal Farm Bill dollars to New Mexico for acequia projects. Partners include local SWCDs, the ISC, and the NMAA whose program has resulted in over $3 million for acequia projects. Hughes stated, “We have worked hard to make federal funding available for acequia projects but we are experiencing delays because of the SHPO reviews.” She went on to say that this is a relatively recent issue with archeological clearances in the past being more expedient.

Other questions or comments concerned adjudication and other related issues. Some legislators, including Representative Randall Crowder, wanted more information about whether water rights settlements included funding for acequia infrastructure. Representative Carl Trujillo commented that he was concerned that, while some settlements have funding for acequia-related infrastructure, the Aamodt settlement did not. He went on to say that he was concerned that there has not been enough education to the acequias in the Nambe-Pojoaque-Tesuque Basin about acequia-related provisions in the settlement such as conditions on Section 4 protection on beneficial use of water and the reporting requirements of mayordomos.

Representative Tomas Salazar, who was chairing the meeting, acknowledged the local acequia officials from the Rio de las Gallinas Acequia Association, including William Gonzales and Gabe Estrada. He invited Gonzales to give some brief remarks about ongoing water issues in the Rio Gallinas basin which includes several acequias and the City of Las Vegas. Gonzales gave a brief history of decades long litigation over what is known as the Pueblo Water Rights Doctrine, an obscure theory that cities have expanding water rights. The Supreme Court recognized the doctrine in the 1950s only to have it overturned in the 2000s. However, their ruling remanded the issue of the city’s water right back to district court where it dovetailed with the ongoing re-adjudication of water rights in the Upper Pecos Basin.

Gonzales noted that years of frustration and litigation could have been saved if the City and the acequias could equitably share water from the river. He pointed out that acequias have the senior water rights but that the City of Las Vegas depends on surface water for their municipal supply. His opinion was that the state should encourage a sharing agreement that recognizes acequia seniority but also recognizes the obvious need to serve the city. He said he was hopeful that a new administration at the City of Las Vegas would result in more productive negotiations but that he was uncertain whether that would happen.

Healthy Watersheds=Healthy Communities! The Rio Fernando Revitalization Project

                                                                                                                                                                            

Rio Fernando de Taos -Photo taken by Olivia Romo

By Olivia Romo, NMAA Staff

In a time when Taos is undergoing huge transitions including the administration of the Abeyta Water Rights settlement, rapid population and development growth, and a hungry tourist economy you sometimes begin to wonder where the strong initiatives are to protect agricultural land and water in the once acclaimed bread basket of the Southwest. Contrary to popular belief, there is a lot of positive movement in the valley regarding the protection of water, land, and cultural heritage of Taoseños.  Like many rural communities in New Mexico, Taos is facing changing demographics , drought, economic downturns and a growing population with all natural resources at risk of being depleted. The time is now, for local leaders to come together in rehabilitating our communities’ strengths (land, water, and culture) creating a sustainable future for our valleys. 

The Rio Fernando Revitalization Project is an innovative partnership with multiple organizations that are trying to strategically address the environmental and ecological impacts of the Rio Fernando de Taos. The revitalization group is made up of the Town of Taos, Amigos Bravos, Taos Land Trust, Taos Soil and Water Conservation District, Taos Valley Acequia Association, and the Acequias of the Rio Fernando de Taos. The ultimate goal is to revitalize the river by addressing water quality, quantity, aquifer recharge, and natural habitat. Currently, the health of this particular stream is in jeopardy as contaminants including unacceptable levels of e.coli  have been detected in the water from the seepage of raw sewage, acequias have dried up from development and exhausted infrastructure, and the forest is clogged with invasive species and overgrowth slowing down the delivery of water to farms.

Rio Fernando Revitalization Group (Left to Right: TVAA  Board Members John Gonzales and Gabriel Olguin, Judy Torrez, Executive Director of TVAA, and Town of Taos Councilmen Fritz Hahn) visiting the atarque of the Rio Fernando Acequias" -Photo taken by Olivia Romo, NMAA Staff

According to Town Councilman Fritz Hahn, “Revitalizing our acequias will lay the groundwork for future kitchen gardens (land) which will spring up (farmer's market/culture) & our surface water delivery system will be refurbished; urban waters will drain to the parched lands and the upper aquifer will be recharged; Ag land & its tax status will be protected. Long term sustainability enhanced”. When Fritz was asked about the Town of Taos vision for the collaboration he replied proudly, “The water will bring us back together and offer gifts to our future generations in the face of climate change and adjudications, the  sustainability of our aquifer, buffalo pasture, tree canopy, park glands and more importantly education to newcomers about the importance of the acequia system. We hope our grandchildren will appreciate the hard work we’ve done to  retain our trees, water, acequias, and agricultural lands that we hope will not be too adversely affected”.  

In a political climate where legislative funding for acequias in the state of New Mexico is scarce and scrutinized, it is more important now than ever for acequias to enter collaborations  with county governments, local soil and water conservations districts, and other non-profits whose focus is land and water to mobilize resources and staff to bring acequias and agricultural land back to their natural order.

When speaking with Kristina Ortez  de Jones, Executive Director of Taos Land Trust, she also expressed the importance of the collaboration stemming from a drive to “protect our water and cultural resources in Taos for the continuation of healthy habitats not just for farmers but birds, elk and the aquifer”. The Taos Land Trust is focused on conserving and restoring wetlands that are hydrologically connected to the Rio Fernando de Taos. Additionally, the newly purchased property that the organization now sits on is 6 acres of irrigable land that haven’t been irrigated due to the fact that the Vigil y Romo acequia has gone dry because of  eroding infrastructure and obstructions preventing water flow. A part of the initiative is to resurrect this acequia which will feed farms that were historically served by this ditch and irrigate the property of the Taos Land Trust who will engage in demonstration and educational workshops around irrigation, farming, and conservation techniques. Taos Land Trust would like to see trails and the historic Fred Baca Park flourish with the help of the Rio Fernando pushing clean water into the wet lands that have existed for centuries nurturing an ecology for wildlife, farmers, and visitors of Taos.

A special contribution to the group has been the involvement of Amigos Bravos who has been monitoring the quality of the water on the Rio Fernando. After discoveries of e-coli in the water, acequia farmers are concerned about their crops, livestock, and soil nutrients. Critical partners like this are mobilizing the group to look at funding watershed cleanup in the hope of remedying the situation, cleaning the water from contaminants. With help from the Taos Soil and Water Conservation District the Vigil y Romo ditch and the acequias off the Rio Fernando are going to design and prioritize infrastructure projects to help increase flow and prevent seepage especially during those tough summer months.

"Vicente Fernandez, Mayordomo of Acequia Madre de Cañon de Sur" -Photo taken by Olivia Romo, NMAA Staff

Last, but not least one of the most critical partners has been the Taos Valley Acequia Association and the Acequias of the Rio Fernando de Taos who represent the farmers and water users. Judy Torrez, Executive Director of the TVAA said “the voice of the acequias is important for environmentalists to hear so they can learn about the traditional practices of farming and water rights. Acequia irrigation practices recharge the aquifer, provide agriculture, and more importantly are the people who are actively putting the water to beneficial use which if not utilized can be lost from our valley completely”. When on a tour of the Acequia Madre del Sur de Cañon, Vicente Martinez, Mayordomo of the association, showed partners problem areas  including access, where the forest needs to be thinned, acequias widened, the dam and other infrastructure replaced. “You can see where the dam is filled with sediment and compuerta aging so once the infrastructure replaced we can deliver water to acequias further downstream like the Vigil y Romo”. If the river is cleaned and the forest thinned more water will be brought down to the acequias and the river itself creating a healthy habitat for all those depending on the Rio. Vicente reflected on the importance of the collaborative, “The great thing about it is that you see all these groups coming together, as one, this is not about individual gain but the health of the stream and community, the watershed and a whole. If we don’t have a clean water shed the acequias will cease to exist. This is the first time in my lifetime to see the city becoming aware and taking responsibility for acequias in their jurisdiction, this is a giant step for our people!”

Although these types of partnerships and funding opportunities take years to cultivate it is a strong model for water projects that can build local leadership capacity, utilize funding resources and engage in strategic restoration projects that can transform rural communities in New Mexico. The NMAA is excited to see the positive strike of many shovels hitting the earth in Taos for the betterment of the community and future generation of acequieros, farmers and advocates.

 

Santolina Decision Overlooks Water Scarcity


The Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande -Photo taken by Erich Schlegel

By Paula Garcia, Executive Director of NMAA

Santolina cleared another hurdle on August 30, 2017 when the Bernalillo County Commission approved the Level B master plan on a 3-2 vote. The development has been controversial with opponents mounting a years-long campaign against approval of the master plan over questions about water, taxes, and infrastructure. Along with the South Valley Regional Acequia Associations, local neighborhood organizations, and other community organizations, the NMAA has expressed concern about the Santolina development because of the potential impacts to the water resources of the Middle Rio Grande and related impacts to the historic acequias.

  1. The Commission is not adhering to their policy in the county’s Planned Communities Criteria that applicants for new developments demonstrate the availability of physical water and legal rights to that water. The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Use Authority (ABCWUA) has not been required to provide details of the water rights available to supply the new development.
  2. By not diligently confirming the availability of water rights, the county is deferring the impacts of water rights acquisition and transfer. They are approving land use without being certain that the water rights can and will be required and instead they are assuming that the water rights can be obtained at some point in the future. This can also be referred to as “kicking the can down the road.”
  3. Delayed impacts are still impacts. In a fully appropriated basin, which means all the known water rights are owned by someone, any new uses of water must come at the expense of existing uses. This is also referred to as a “zero sum game.” In the western United States, water rights for new development are usually transferred out of agriculture, eroding the greenbelt and farmland. This is one way that acequias will be negatively impacted. Water transfers threaten to unravel acequias through a piecemeal dismantling of the water and members that comprise the community-based systems.
  4. Santolina, and developments like it, will exacerbate the long-term depletion of the aquifer of the Middle Rio Grande Valley. Since aquifers are connected to their rivers, the Rio Grande will be affected by groundwater depletion and will also suffer depletion. Less water in the river will affect all agriculture in the Middle Rio Grande Valley. Pueblos with prior and paramount rights and acequias next in line in seniority will be impaired.

Each individual water right that is transferred to the ABCWUA is required to go through a statutory approval process in which impairment of water rights should be considered. The State Engineer assesses impairment. And while the transfer of one surface water right to an ABCWUA well may not be deemed impairment by the state, it is undeniable that the collective impact of transferring 14,000 acre feet of additional water rights to the ABCWUA wells would have an impact on agriculture, farmland, acequias, and the river.

Rio Rancho and Albuqueruqe are drawing down the aquifer beneath them. The San Juan Chama project serves to provide the City of Albuquerque with a surface source of water to prevent over-dependence on the aquifer. But that surface water diversion is only supplying a fraction of the needs of the city and the pumping of groundwater is ongoing.

The facts surrounding water rights, groundwater depletion, and impairment of water rights are inconvenient to policymakers who are pressured to approve new developments. In last night’s Santolina hearing, proponents hailed “planning” as their hallmark and urged commissioners to reward their efforts by approving their “plan.” Thankfully, two of the commissioners, O’Malley and Hart-Stebbins, withheld their support. There is no thoughtful plan for how to acquire the water rights. Developers simply expect the ABCWUA to go out and buy water rights from irrigated land without consideration of the impacts to the broader community and the historic farmlands and irrigation systems of the acequias and the Pueblos.

Without a thorough plan, land use decisions are happening based on undisclosed impacts and insufficient information. Before approving a new development, policymakers should be presented with data to show the costs of a new development in terms of aquifer depletion and agricultural acres and greenbelt lost. With better information about these impacts, policymakers would undoubtedly make better decisions and our cities, towns, and villages would be more equitable and sustainable.  

Notes From The Field: Protecting Farmland & Water Rights

By Olivia Romo, NMAA Staff

Paul Romero educates farmers on best techniques in preparing the field -Photo taken by Enrique Romero

On August 18th 2017 over one hundred acequia farmers and ranchers joined the NM Acequia Association in a dynamic workshop that energized participants to continue exercising their water rights and take concrete steps in restoring fallow lands to productive fields. Up until two generations ago, many of our families made most of their livelihood from their ranchitos, or small scale farms. However, with the advent of a global food system that favors agribusiness (and a host of other factors), our communities adapted by becoming wage earners and leaving the farm behind. Today, our acequia communities face commodification of water and land, gentrification, and the challenges of keeping land-based livelihoods economically viable for low-income families. This workshop was led by experts and community leaders from Northern New Mexico to demonstrate and share best practices, resources, and testimonies of land restoration to empower landowners to come back to the land and reap the benefits of engaging in agriculture. The workshop was held at the Historic Los Luceros Ranch in Alcalde, NM where abundant apple trees grow, the Acequia Madre de Alcalde runs full and functional, healthy pasture and livestock thrive.

The morning began with music by David Garcia and Jeremiah Martinez as newly hatched peacocks roamed the ranch and greeted participants.  Opening remarks were given Paula Garcia, Executive Director of NMAA who acknowledged the hard work and dedication of acequia farmers who continue to exercise their water rights, cultivate land, and preserve our cultural heritage.

Enrique Romero, NMAA’s new Staff Attorney, gave an insightful legal presentation on how to protect your water rights from non-use and some of the tax benefits of having and maintaining agricultural land. “The legal benefits of active irrigation include the prevention of the loss of water rights under state law, due to forfeiture or abandonment.”  Enrique then reviewed concepts of abandonment and forfeiture and emphasized that abandonment requires proof of intent to give up water rights. Although showing intent is difficult, it is not impossible.   Also, the longer irrigable land is fallow, the more difficult it becomes to rebut a presumption of intent.  "Essentially, the burden shifts to the landowner after long periods of non-use to show there is no intent to give up your water rights."  Enrique briefly discussed the benefits and limitations of water banking.  “While water banking is a temporary measure to protect against claims of non-use, the best way to legally protect water rights is to irrigate every few years at least.”

Legal presentation -Photo taken by Serafina Lombardi

Enrique then discussed the property tax benefits of having irrigable land valued as agricultural rather than residential or some other classification.  County assessors value agricultural land at a lower rate than residential land and will therefore impose lower taxes.  There are statutory and regulatory limitations on what counts as ag land, which Enrique briefly discussed.  While county assessors have the duty to accurately assess and reassess property values to ensure the agricultural valuation is allowed for those engaged in bonafide agriculture, assessors should not be overly strict in interpreting the statute or regs.  "The agricultural valuation statute clearly says that a land should be valued as ag based on its capacity to produce agricultural products.  You shouldn't have to be a successful farmer or a commercial farmer to qualify for the ag valuation." 

 Afterward, we had a beautiful testimony by Patricia Quintana, farmer/rancher and vice president of the Taos Valley Acequia Association presented on the challenges and spirit it takes to restore fallow land. As a single woman, Patricia has taken on a 20 acre restoration project with the struggle of finding little to no skilled labor, evicting prairie dogs, and moving water on land that had not been quenched in decades. “The earth is a grandmother, and when we work the land she sighs in relief, giving thanks!” Patricia reminded us to recognize the divine feminine when we are working mother earth and sister water. Only with respect, love, and dedication to all our women can we be good stewards of la madre tierra! After a full morning, the group broke out into outside demonstrational workshops.

Paul Romero, local Alcalde farmer led a group on preparing the field, where he discussed techniques in removal of invasive species, nurturing the soil, and disking. “If chile, green beans, and corn were as strong as bind weed we would be marketing our produce rapidly and have strong healthy fields. Generally, you need to begin by burning weeds or using a rotor tiller. To keep your place weed free and you will have a great garden, harvest, and a good time! After removal of any noxious weeds you can plant a cover crop that suits your goal providing nutrients to your soil. When you’re ready plow it back into the soil and plant the three sisters! If your land can produce strong alfalfa or grass, this is a testimony that you can grow anything and don’t forget to analyze your soil!”

Del Jimenez, Agricultural Specialist at the Alcalde Science Center and Mykel Diaz, Farmer and Farming Consultant led a Cover Crops and Elm Tree Removal group. From personal restoration experience, Mykel discussed his techniques in restoring land by first removing thicket, cactus, elm trees and other invasive species by cutting them down with a chainsaw, burning, and then using rippers to turn and contour the earth. “Trees such as elms, cottonwoods and willows are water hungry so removing these will help you irrigate crops instead of the noxious competition. Once that is done, you level, till and lay down your cover crop (oats or buckwheat are just some examples) and continue to be diligent in removing weeds or using techniques such as flood irrigation or green manure to keep invasives out!”

Del Jimenez reminded us that “the real philosophy behind cover crop is laying it down after a cash crop to give nutrients, stabilize, and stop erosion of the earth. Sorghum or Buckwheat are the first cover crops to plant when restoring a field because it grows really high and strong, building bio-mass with little maintenance.  Before you plant buckwheat you need to irrigate so that when you lay it on the ground, you will stimulate the seed to give a crop. For winter cover crops like oats, rye, and wheat they can germinate in 10 days so when you approach the fall months like October and November your livestock can graze. By the spring, you should be ready to disk it up and plant again.”

Irrigation methods with Donald Martinez- Photo taken by Enrique Romero

The third session was led by Donald Martinez, Rio Arriba County Extension Agent who spoke about irrigation methods for pasture and crops. “Before irrigating or having access to the water it is important to be in good standing with your Mayordomo. My most important technique is using a really flat shovel to move water; you want to begin from the back of your field moving the water forward. My favorite irrigation method is using bright colored 5×7 tarps to help navigate the water from the banks of your acequia. Set up your tarps first by laying down dirt on top of them so when you open the compuerta, you can easily direct the water to the portion of your field that needs irrigation. However, irrigating doesn’t just have to be with the shovel and tarps you can use sprinklers, pvc pipe, drip, and contour ditches. The most important thing about irrigating is responsibly watching the water so that you are not over irrigating which can lead to root damage. You could use a 4-6 inch probe to see if the water has penetrated the land effectively.” Another great technique that Donald recommended was irrigating at night to prevent evaporation. He highly encourages parciantes to send soil samples to FSA or your local Soil and Conservation district office to begin understanding the science of soil health and restoration. He also recommended a no till method for field production because tilling turns the soil too deep and you lose lots of the organic organisms.

Antonio Medina recites a prayer for all the farmers and ranchers before lunch -Photo taken by Seth Roffman

After wonderful outdoor demonstrations, a delicious local lunch was prepared by Sofia’s Kitchen. NMAA Staff also worked diligently to hold a zero waste event, assisting participants in composting food waste and recycling to reduce the impact on our sacred earth.

The afternoon had informational presentations by Kris Graham, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, David Griego, Rio Arriba’s NRCS Consultant and Commissioner, Bill Page of Acequia de la Cueva who talked about the services available for acequias: cost share programs for high tunnel installation, acequia infrastructure projects, and efficient irrigation installations. Anthony Chavez and Allen Mckrain from USDA Farm Service Agency discussed financing for farm improvements, equipment, and assistant programs. NMAA can also assist with FSA/NRCS applications. The day wrapped up with Enrique Romero answering any governance and legal questions regarding water rights.

NMAA is incredibly grateful for everyone who took a day during the busy irrigation and market season to be with us in Alcalde to learn, reinforce, and contribute to a day of celebrating and protecting water rights and agricultural land here in New Mexico. We look forward to seeing you this fall at our 18th Annual Congreso de las Acequias, November 4th in Santa Fe!

 El Agua no se Vende, El Agua se Defiende!

Ask a Water Lawyer: Aamodt Rules & Regulations

By Enrique Romero, NMAA Staff Attorney
 

 

What should I expect as a Nambe-Pojoaque-Tesuque (NPT) mayordomo and farmer now that the Aamodt Settlement is in place and the NPT Water Master Rules are just about final?
 
As a farmer and mayordomo, you can expect some changes next irrigation season and in the years to come. Although the changes are significant, they are not insurmountable. Acequias have persisted and thrived for hundreds of years in New Mexico and endured changes in law and water management. NPT acequias will continue to thrive, and during this new era the small- to medium-scale farm may see a renaissance. Water use will be scrutinized, but with the right tools – including access to acequia and farm infrastructure improvements, farm-to-market initiatives, and creative match making between would-be farmers and landowners – acequias and parciantes in the NPT basin may see a net gain from the new layer of administration. Pardon the early digression. Now, let's discuss the law and how to protect what may be the community's most precious natural resource.
 
Probably the most relevant concept to understand as a parciante and mayordomo is "Section 4 Protection". Section 4 refers to that section of the Aamodt Settlement Agreement that provides exceptions to priority enforcement of the Pueblos first priority rights. In the event that the Pueblos request priority enforcement of their "Future Basin Use Rights", parciantes are protected against that particular type of priority enforcement. However, the protection is lost if a water right is not "beneficially used for more than five consecutive years after [March 23, 2016]". The current proposed water master rules require that the water master provide notice after four consecutive years of non-use to the water right owner indicating that Section 4 protection may be lost if water is not placed to beneficial use within one year. The Settlement provides two defenses against claims of non-use: non-use due to circumstances beyond the control of the water right owner or that water could not be placed to beneficial use by the owner's diligent efforts.
 
As a mayordomo – and a parciante – you should also know about the new yearly reporting of acres "to be irrigated", or the TBI report. By March 1 of each year, the mayordomo must notify the water master of all the acreage that will be irrigated that year. Start early in the calendar year, or at the end of the prior year's irrigation season, putting together the information needed to fill out the TBI report. As a mayordomo, you can expect more requests for water, perhaps from members that have not irrigated in a while. Those requests need to be memorialized in the TBI reports since the total number of irrigated acres will establish the yearly maximum diversion rate for the acequia. With the new TBI reporting requirement, mayordomos will know – if you didn't already – who is not irrigating for extended periods of time. Using this information, the acequia could inform those members about the loss of Section 4 protection after five years of non-use and send those members to local resources, including NMAA, for information on infrastructure or cover crops to revitalize soil. The key will be getting inactive parciantes interested in irrigating prior to receiving the four year non-use notice, and in time to install or replace headgates and irrigation systems, or to contract with local equipment operators to get land ready to receive water.   
 
There are still some unknowns and there are likely to be disagreements among the various parties concerning implementation of the Settlement. Despite potential ambiguities and the bumps along the way that may arise from them, beneficial use of water is still the law of the land and affords the maximum protection of your water rights. Parciantes, let you mayordomos know before March 1 if you plan on irrigating, and once you've been assigned a time for irrigation, make sure you, or someone you trust with a shovel, is ready to open your headgate.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 16th Hearing on NPT Basin Rules & Regs

Edward Romero, mayordomo of the Acequia de las Jollas, opens the sluice gate to release water back into the stream -Photo taken by Gabriela Campos
 

By Enrique Romero, NMAA Staff Attorney

The State Engineer has issued proposed rules governing the Nambé-Pojoaque-Tesuque (NPT) Water Master District. The proposed rules ("Rules") define how water rights will be administered or managed by the State Engineer in the NPT basin. There are hundreds of active acequia parciantes in the NPT Basin and the implementation of these Rules will have an impact on the governance of acequias and the future health of acequias. A public hearing will be held on Wednesday, August 16. See below for details. http://www.ose.state.nm.us/AWRM/RulesRegs.php
 

On August 10, the NMAA held a workshop in Nambe to discuss the key provisions of the Aamodt Settlement ("Settlement") and the proposed Rules, how those provisions may impact NPT acequias, and to prepare parciantes for the public hearing on August 16. The workshop was well-attended, with nearly 60 acequia parciantes – including many acequia officers. A reporter from the Santa Fe New Mexican was also present and an article about the workshop and the proposed Rules was published in the Sunday paper. Click on this link to read the article. http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/fears-of-being-left-high-and-dry/article_21d1dc81-e372-5c49-930e-9545a3a18159.html
 
The large turnout and the active participation of attendees shows there is a real interest in understanding the implications of the Settlement on NPT acequias. NMAA summarized "Section 4 protection", or the protection provided for in the Settlement to surface water users during certain priority enforcement when senior users may request junior users to curtail water use. The loss of Section 4 protection after five years of continuous non-use will impact acequia diversion rates especially during times of shortage. Other topics discussed at the workshop included annual mayordomo reporting of "to be irrigated" lands and the effectiveness of water banking post-adjudication and post-Settlement.
 
NMAA will be submitting written comments requesting clarification of the role of water banking post-Settlement. In its comments, NMAA will be advocating for an inclusion of a provision in the Rules and Regs indicating that water rights placed in an acequia water bank are considered in use for purposes of the rules and regulations. Current New Mexico law provides that water rights placed in an acequia water bank are protected against loss because they are considered "in use" on other places of use on the acequia.
 
The hearing will be held at the Old Senate Chambers, Bataan Building, 400 Don Gaspar Ave in Santa Fe, beginning at 2 p.m.

 As people affected by these proposed rules, acequia parciantes and officers should appear and testify. Written comments may be submitted at the public hearing, or by e-mail to felicity.strachan@state.nm.us until 5:00 pm on August 16, 2017

Sembrando Semillas Atrisco Site Summer Project

   

Refugee Sembrando Semillas Youth at Cornelio Candelaria Organics- Photo taken by Travis Mckenzi

By Travis Mckenzi

Las Acequias son la vida! Acequias bring us together and nourish our lives, families, and humanity. They are the life force that connects us to our sacred mother earth and each other. Mil gracias to all the Acequiero/as that are trabajando las acequias and keeping our land, water, and culture alive! 

Working with Lorenzo Candelaria and Dora Pacias at Cornelio Candelaria Organics is a blessing. Being able to bring youth and community to enjoy a 300 year old family farm in Atrisco, New Mexico is an honor and very fulfilling for my life and spirit. On March 28th, 2017 we were blessed to be able to partner with Rachel White, a teacher at Highland High School and Mallory Garcia from the Food Corps Member for Albuquerque Public Schools to bring a class of Refugee Youth to Atrisco to visit our family farms for a day of service-learning and fun. We did not know how amazing it would be, but the experience has inspired us and given us hope and energy for the future. 

When we all got to the farm you could feel the excitement and happiness starting to build and the youth received a breath of fresh air after being in the city of Albuquerque since arriving from their homelands. These youth come from all around the world: Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Tanzania, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, Pakistan, and speak many different languages, Arabic, Pashto, Burundi, Swahili, Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, French, Persian, Dari, Farsi, Sango.  It was the largest national delegation we have ever hosted at the farm and it was an honor to experience it together.

Mother Earth connects us all and reminds us that we are all children of the earth.  We were blessed with some beautiful cold spring rain and all gathered in the hoop house and began exploring the farm.  We harvested vegetables for the farm and for our lunch that we would be cooking later that afternoon.  Afterwards we began the farm tour and walked through the blackberries back to the Acequia.  Everyone began to connect the experience with their ancestral homeland and we were filled with memories of culture and Querencia. Nuestra Querencia Que Viva! The youth began to touch the earth and the sand and share memories of their home and the land they are from.  They erupted in song and dance, and we ran in joy and all climbed to a hilltop overlooking the entire Valle del Atrisco and city.  At the top of the hill some youth began to reenact making a fire, and cooking food, all while singing in their native tongue.  It filled our hearts and it was a memory we will carry forever.  

Then we went to the Garcia family’s ancestral land whose family has graciously offered the land to farm to provide food for all the Refugee families.  With the hard work of the youth and our community, we will grow food to nourish our bodies, our minds, and our souls.  We had our drums out and the youth began to drum and dance and share their music, beauty, dance, and culture.  We had so much fun! We prepared all the vegetables we had harvested from Lorenzo’s Farm and began cooking them on Mallory’s Dad Benny Garcia’s custom made disco! Mallory’s Abuelita came and blessed the day and the food and we all celebrated an experience we will remember for a lifetime.

 

I am honored to share this story with all our Acequia Familia, and express that the Acequias are so crucial for our humanity.  The experience reminded me, that now more than ever we need to come together and support one another and collectively protect our sacred mother earth.  We all want health and wellbeing for ourselves and for our families and united we will be able to harness the abundance provided by our sacred mother earth and remember our ancestral and cultural teachings to carry us forward into the future!

El Agua es Vida!

 

Los Sembradores Irrigation & Weed Control Workshop

Steven Jaramillo demonstrated how to use a propane tank with torch for weed and pest suppression -Photo taken by Serafina Lombardi

By Donne Gonzales, Farm Training Coordinator

On the morning of July 19, 2017, the New Mexico Acequia Association at the Chicoyole Farm site hosted our 3rd Sembradores workshop. We had a group of 15 people with some new faces participating in our group. We covered a huge array of topics that are very important to traditional and organic farming.

We always start our day with a blessing and introductions. Nicanor Ortega, a Sembrador Apprentice led the group in a very beautiful prayer. Everyone shared who they are and where they come from, as well as what they are looking forward to learning. We had a lengthy agenda but our main points being covered were weed control, pest control, and different types of irrigation methods.

Fighting the weeds is always a huge task as the summer sun and monsoon rains come our way. Of course our vegetables love it just as much as the thriving weeds. The pesky bindweed is good at being a creepy crawler and taking over a lot of the field, while choking out those beloved plants we worked so hard to plant in spring. The first weeding’s the most delicate; as you want to make sure the plant is a good healthy size. You don’t want to disturb the root system before it’s developed. Like everything else, it is a good time for all when the rain season is here and it’s super muddy. The moisture makes it easier to pull weeds by hand, rather than use a cavador (hoe).  The tools tend to get stuck with mud and get heavy. If it’s to dry, it’s hard to hand weed and easier to use tools such as the hula hoe and scuffle hoe which are easiest to maneuver when the land is dry. You can also burn weeds throughout the season to help with keeping them down and under control. Steven Jaramillo of San Pedro gave us a demonstration of how, when and where to use a propane tank with a torch for weed control. His favorite time is in the spring when weeds first come up before planting. Other uses include anytime there are smaller weeds to control, they only need to be singed rather than caught on fire. This technique can also help with the management of pests. For example, when we’ve had crazy amounts of grasshoppers, If you get up early as the sun rises and it’s still to cold for the grasshoppers to be active,  You can start up the flame burner/torch and work though the field.  Burning them isn’t the most enjoyable thing, but when you have a serious vegetable loss because of them it is worth it. It’s just necessary and also pesticide/ insecticide free.  There are also tractor implements that can assist with weeding, though they are a little pricey. This can be a fast way to rid of weeds for awhile, though still necessary to go back bi-weekly and keep them in control. In some circumstances the weeds can be helpful in keeping the ground cool, providing shade for the ground and retaining some moisture.  We discussed disposal methods of weeds, including using them as mulch for weed suppression, though noxious weeds going to seed need to be burned or trashed. There is a Bindweed mite that can be purchased and it eats the bindweed, although you would need to let your field rest for multiple years It is a very slow traveler and needs time to work its way through the area (contact the Alcalde Science Center for more info on the bindweed mite).

In the past year we made a pig tractor and learned that it did a tremendous job at working the weeds out of the field. We did have to let the area rest as well, as fresh manure present a food safety risk. The manure has to cure for 1-3 months during summer or 3-6 months in winter. The pigs did an amazing job at digging weeds out with their noses as well as enriching the soil.

Bardo Gonzales showed the group of intensively grazing a hog for weed removal- Photo taken by Serafina Lombardi, NMAA Staff

We spoke about different types of cover crops and how they may help if you plant faithfully. There is a high possibility that if you keep planting it on top of highly weeded areas, it may kill the weed and in return help the soil with beneficial nutrients. Cover crops are always a good idea in your farm plan, if you are looking to suppress weeds, try a few years of winter rye.

There are natural and organic concoctions that you can make in hopes of killing weeds. You can mix vinegar, salt, and very little water. It’s supposed to burn out the weeds for a while and re-application will be needed weekly, or when it rains. You will need to avoid the vegetables, because an application will cause injury.

Next on our agenda we covered pest control and the kinds of pests we’ve had a problem with this year. We discussed cucumber beetles which are more common in the valley, and luckily it’s too cold here in Chamisal for them to be a serious threat. The grasshoppers seem to have hit everyone terribly, and chinches (squash bugs) are always around along with flea beetles. Lastly, the cabbage worms have thrown a party inside our hoop house .They’ve eaten their share of kale and chard. We went over different certified organic pesticides such as Nolo bait, Pyganic, and surround WP. There are also concoctions that can be used for different types of pests. There are different oils such as Neem oil, eucalyptus oil, and also soapy sprays that can help with minimizing bugs. Milk sprays, chamomile, and baking soda can be used to prevent fungal spores, mildew, and mold. We discussed an old traditional way to get rid of the flea beetles. If you make holes in a tin can, you can place a mixture of cow patties and saw dust, light on fire and let it smolder through the field. The flea beetle usually leaves, because the isn’t too fond of the smell. 

We also have chickens and turkeys as well that help with pest management. The Turkeys are really good at keeping the grasshoppers in check, and the chickens are better at other bugs like ants, caterpillars, spiders, earwigs, flies, and mites.  You do need to be careful with their manure as well. If you are taking food to market, they shouldn’t be welcome on the field. If you plan on having a home garden, you don’t have to worry as much.

Lastly, we covered different irrigation methods. I personally love to use the acequia to irrigate our crops. Sometimes using drip tape is a better option in our hoop house. The hoop house needs more water and the drip tape is a very reliable source. You do need to figure out a couple different things such as what kind of lay-flat or pipe that will be used.  Most drip tapes are the same, although the connectors can be pricey at about 50 cents a piece.  The bad side of drip tape is that it does tear or manage to get cut, easily moves and usually has to be stapled down to the bed/ row. Lastly, it is a lot of plastic that usually ends up in the trash, unless you’re really cool, creative and willing to weave it – then you can make totes. I’ve been looking forward to experimenting with it and make a big shade tarp.

 There are gas pumps or electrical submerging pumps that can be used to feed the drip tape, and work fairly well if maintained properly. You will need to have a filter in this case because there is debris that will fill the drip tape, as well as pressure regulators. There are sprinkler systems of many different types that can also be used for watering. Lastly you can implement rain catchment systems, water small spaces by hand or get crafty and figure out a great watering system.

In addition to what I have shared here there was a plethora of storytelling, comparing what has worked or not on our farms and tons of creative ideas. We invite all who are on the journey of improving their farming skills to join us for future Sembradores workshops, where we present on key topics, but most importantly enjoy a rich dialog and comradery. A special thanks to all who have contributed their wisdom and experiences to these workshop. Wishing everyone a wonderful harvest!

For more information on Los Sembradores contact Serafina@lasacequias.org