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PRESS RELEASE: New Mexico Groups Appeal EPA’s Dirty Water Rule


Wednesday, June 24, 2020


Rachel Conn, Projects Director, Amigos Bravos, 575.770.8327

Charles de Saillan, Staff Attorney, NMELC, 505.819.9058

Paula Garcia, Executive Director, New Mexico Acequia Association, 505.231.7752

Allyson Siwik, Executive Director, Gila Resources Information Project, 575.590.7619 

New Mexico Groups Appeal EPA’s Dirty Water Rule

Yesterday, three New Mexico based organizations – Amigos Bravos, the New Mexico Acequia Association, and Gila Resources Information Project – joined together to appeal the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers so called Navigable Water Protection Rule (“2020 Rule”).  The 2020 Rule, which went into effect yesterday, drastically shrinks the number of New Mexico waters that are protected under the Clean Water Act. The groups filed their appeal with the US District Court for the District of New Mexico.

“The Trump administration has opened the pollution floodgates,” said Rachel Conn, Projects Director with Amigos Bravos. “This 2020 Dirty Water Rule protects the interests of polluters over the interests of the public who rely on clean water for drinking, agriculture, recreation, and cultural values.”

New Mexico is disproportionately affected by the 2020 Rule because of the large number of small streams in the state that flow only during wet times of the year. These smaller ephemeral streams have historically been protected by the Clean Water Act but under the new rule they are left unprotected.

“We are deeply concerned that many of our streams and rivers would lose protections under the 2020 rule. We rely on clean water to grow crops and raise livestock, to provide locally grown food for families, and to support agricultural livelihoods in our communities,” said Paula Garcia, Executive Director of the New Mexico Acequia Association.

Unlike federal rollbacks in other areas of environmental protection, New Mexico’s waters do not have state protections to fall back on. New Mexico is one of just three states that does not have delegated authority from the EPA to regulate discharges of pollution into rivers, streams, and lakes. There is now no entity with regulatory authority to manage existing discharges from the wastewater treatment plants, mines, federal facilities, and other polluters that currently discharge into these smaller New Mexico streams.

According to Charles de Saillan, Staff Attorney at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. “This federal rule all but nullifies the protections of the Clean Water Act over many streams and wetlands in New Mexico.  It reverses nearly fifty years of interpretation of the Clean Water Act by EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the courts.  As this regulation is implemented, permits will not be necessary for discharging pollution into many rivers, lakes, and streams.  Water quality will become degraded.  Our clients will suffer because they rely on clean, unpolluted water for their businesses, irrigation of crops, watering of livestock, and recreation such as fishing, river rafting, and kayaking.”

Even some of our larger iconic rivers such as the Gila River in the south and the Rio Costilla in the north are threatened by this rule. The rule removes automatic protections for interstate waters – both  the Gila and Rio Costilla are interstate waters – and because both of these rivers run dry before meeting up with larger downstream rivers, it is uncertain if under this new rule they will remain protected.

“It is horrifying that a New Mexico river as important as the Gila is left unprotected by this rule,” said Allyson Siwik, Executive Director of Gila Resources Information Project. “Irrigators and the growing recreation-based economy of southwestern New Mexico are dependent on clean water flowing in the Gila.”

The New Mexico Environment Department has estimated that as much as 96% of the surface waters in the state could lose protection under the new rule.


Photo caption: Several acequias downstream from the Village of Ruidoso, including Acequia de Ambrosio Pablo Chavez, are faced with water quality issues due to effluent from the wastewater treatment plant. The regulatory permits along streams that are ephemeral or intermittent would be at risk under the 2020 EPA rule on Waters of the US which only protects “navigable waters.”

Acequias and the Public Health Order

Just as acequias were preparing in March for the annual ritual of sacando la acequia, or the acequia spring cleaning, in addition to annual membership meetings, the spread of Covid-19 caused the state to issue a public health order. The purpose of the order was to slow the spread of the potentially fatal virus by prohibiting any gatherings of five or more individuals and requiring people to maintain a “social distance” of six feet. 

Based on the public health order, NMAA issued a guidance letter in March with recommendations on how acequias could continue their vital work of keeping acequias flowing while also staying safe. During the months of March through May, some acequias completely cancelled their meetings and cleanings. Others modified their cleanings by working in small crews while maintaining social distancing. Some acequias held meetings by conference call via phone where there was an immediate need to hold a meeting.

On June 1st, restrictions were reduced in New Mexico for places of worship and businesses (with restrictions on occupancy of 25% or 50%, see order for details). Local restaurants or small businesses, for example, are allowed to open at 50% capacity with masks and social distancing, click here to see the latest order.

NMAA has received several questions about whether acequias can resume having in person meetings. The updated public health order continues to prohibit “mass gatherings” defined as any gathering of five or more people. However, some acequias are proposing to have meetings in person since many of their members have difficulty with online or teleconference options. 

Here are some options for acequias:

  1. Acequia commissions, which have three members, can have meetings to conduct acequia businesses. With the commissioners and mayordomo meeting in person, this keeps the total below the number five, thereby complying with the restriction of “mass gatherings.” With these small, in person meetings, the commissioners and mayordomo should wear masks and observe social distancing. 
  2. An acequia can have meetings by conference call or online conferencing using tools such as Zoom. Since few elders have the ability to use Zoom, a telephone conference may be the preferable option. To have a conference call meeting, the meeting notice must provide the conference call number. Such meetings can be either a commission meeting or a membership meeting. The Attorney General has issued guidance on having online or telephonic meetings, view it here.
  3. If an acequia decides to hold an in person meeting with more than five people, it could be at risk of violating the public health order. If an acequia decides to proceed in this manner, measures including masks, social distancing, and limits on occupancy (or meeting outside) would be advisable. Vulnerable community members, such as the elderly or immunocompromised individuals, should not be put at risk.  

It is also important to note that another public health order prohibited any meetings of shareholders during the months of April, May, and June. Although acequia meetings are not shareholder meetings, the guidance may be relevant, please see guidance here.

Regardless of whether you have an in-person meeting or a teleconference, the meeting is still required to comply with the Open Meetings Act and the bylaws of the specific acequia.

NMAA staff is available to assist acequias with meeting these requirements. We will also provide use of our conference call phone number and use of our Zoom account for any acequia who makes a request. For more information, please contact Toribio Garcia at toribio@lasacequias.org or 505-995-9644.

Respeto y Repartimiento

Respeto y Repartimiento: Plática on Water Sharing Traditions


Join us for an online platica about the acequia tradition of sharing water, known as repartimiento. This will be first in a series of online pláticas, or dialogues, focused on water sharing customs and practices among acequias. Our first plática on repartimiento will take place on Saturday, June 6, 2020 from 1:00pm – 3:00pm via Zoom, Facebook Live, and conference call.

For centuries in New Mexico, the customs and traditions of water sharing have been vital to the well-being of communities, providing water through the principle of equity and keeping peaceful relations with neighboring families and communities.

During the pandemic, acequias are facing a growing interest in locally grown food resulting in more demand for water by growers who need reliable water for crops and livestock. Adding to the stress on acequias is climate change that is causing more intense and longer droughts, with less snowpack, runoff, and irrigation water.

It has never been more important for the acequia community to dig deep into our cultural memory to remember the generations of teachings about the importance of sharing water and to be mindful of the scarcity of water that we rely upon for our survival.

Our gathering will feature poetry and storytelling to ground us a cultural worldview grounded in respect, caring for one’s neighbors, and working together for the common good. Our featured artist will be Levi Romero, New Mexico Poet Laureate, whose upbringing in Dixon immersed him in land-based culture that resonates in his poetry. Levi will share poetry and reflections on a recent essay entitled, “Respeto, Caridad, y Repartimiento.” Also, musician David Garcia will perform music rooted in acequia lifeways.

Gilbert Sandoval, President of the Jemez River Basin Coalition of Acequias, will share his experience in negotiating water sharing agreements with neighboring Pueblos. Gilbert’s story will highlight the knowledge and experience needed in the difficult and complicated work of creating water-sharing agreements, which can take decades to resolve but also remain a work in progress as our climate changes and as communities change over time. Other acequia elders will be invited to share their own experiences with past or current water sharing practices.

The plática will take place on Zoom, Facebook Live, and by conference call. Click here to sign up for the platica.

When you register, NMAA will send you the instructions to use Zoom, Facebook Live, or conference call to participate.

San Isidro Labrador – Join us for an online blessing

For centuries, people of faith have gathered on Día de San Isidro to pray for the blessing of a good growing season. San Isidro is the patron saint of farmers and labradores (workers or laborers). The story goes that he worked the land and yet always found time to pray and attend daily mass. His faith was rewarded with the help working his fields. His story reminds us that planting seeds in the Spring is an act of faith and hope and also that it is a commitment to care for the seeds and matitas (little plants) to have a cosecha (harvest) later in the season.
In New Mexico, several communities celebrate Día de San Isidro with processions to bless the fields and acequias. Celebrations include “paseando los santos” in a procession in the community, through fields, and along acequias where often rose petals are cast into the water as part of the blessing. According to tradition, his feast day on May 15th is an important day to plant traditional crops such as corn, beans, chile, and squash because it is after regular episodes of freezing temperatures.
This year, because of the pandemic, many of us will miss San Isidro gatherings where our faith is affirmed and our relationships with the community are strengthened through a shared blessing. Our blessings are a much needed time for an expression of querencia, the love and belonging to a place and a people.
The NMAA is inviting our statewide community to take a little time on Día de San Isidro to participate in an online gathering to honor San Isidro. We will have music, an informal blessing, and some platica (dialogue/conversation) where we can bear witness to each other’s work of planting seeds, tending to plants, and irrigating. Prayers are especially needed during this time when our local farmers are being called upon to provide our communities with fresh food as the corporate/industrial food system is showing its flaws. This growing season will also be particularly challenging because of ongoing drought and the need to be gracious and kind in the way we share scarce water.
Día de San Isidro
An Online Community Gathering
Friday, May 15, 2020
9:00am – 10:00am
Join via Zoom or telephone (instructions below)



Alabanza de San Isidro:

A traditional spiritual ballad and homage to our patron saint

Blessing and Reflections from Traditional Farmers and Mayordomos

Participant Reflections

Closing with Music


Option A – Connect from your computer or smart phone internet:
  1. As the program opens, a box will pop up on your screen asking if it is okay to launch Zoom – click ‘yes’ – and then click ‘join audio conference by computer’.
  2. Once you are on the call – you can choose to turn your video on or off using buttons in the lower left side of the screen. You can also mute and unmute yourself by clicking the small microphone icon.
Option B – Call in from your phone:
  • Dial: 1-301-715-8592
  • Enter the ‘Meeting ID’: 944 6556 8558
  1. We will ask everyone to mute themselves so we can hear the speaker clearly and limit background noise. To mute yourself on a landline – press *6 – then press it again to unmute yourself.
If you have any technical problems or questions about how to use Zoom – email – emily@lasacequias.org

PRESS RELEASE: Diverse Coalition Urges New Mexico to Protect the Upper Pecos Watershed

For immediate release April 20, 2020


Ralph Vigil, Molino de las Isla Organics, 505-603-2879

Pancho Adelo, Upper Pecos Watershed Association, 505-470-5429

Janice Varela, San Miguel County Commissioner, 505-231-2802

Paula Garcia, New Mexico Acequia Association, 505-231-7752

Diverse Coalition Urges New Mexico to Protect the Upper Pecos Watershed
Conserving these special waters will boost outdoor recreation while protecting cultural history and clean water

Pecos, NM, 4/20/20 – The New Mexico Acequia Association, San Miguel County, the Village of Pecos, the Upper Pecos Watershed Association, and Molino de la Isla Organics LLC today are submitting a petition to the state of New Mexico to protect water quality in the Upper Pecos Watershed. The coalition of community members, local governments, farmers, and ranchers is asking the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) to nominate portions of the Upper Pecos River Watershed as Outstanding National Resource Waters (ONRWs) under the Clean Water Act. This critical watershed supports agriculture and large outdoor recreational industries threatened by development and transportation, waste disposal, potential hard rock mining, and climate change. As New Mexicans’ health, jobs, and communities are impacted by COVID-19, it is important now more than ever that the state safeguards the lifeblood of our communities.

“The designation of the waters of the Pecos River as Outstanding National Resource Waters will go a long way in protecting both the quality of the water and the local traditional uses” said Pancho Adelo, President of the Upper Pecos Watershed Association and Pecos business owner. “ONRW protections will also contribute to the economic significance of recreational tourism in the area.”

The Upper Pecos Watershed is culturally significant to the people of Jemez Pueblo, as ancestral homelands. Since the mid-16th century, people in the Upper Pecos Watershed have depended on these waters for traditional land-use practices like growing crops and raising livestock. There are numerous acequias in the Upper Pecos Watershed for which clean water is vital to support local food, agriculture, and communities.

“Agua es Vida and the Upper Pecos Watershed provides water for our acequias which are the life-line for many of our cultural traditions and ecosystems” added Acequia user, farmer, and petitioner Ralph Vigil. “It is through the preservation of this precious resource that our ancestors have maintained their will to survive, and it is through ONRW protections that they will continue to sustain future generations for centuries to come. “

Pecos Canyon in the Upper Pecos Watershed is one of the state’s top outdoor tourism destinations and popular among New Mexicans for a variety of outdoor activities. These local users and visitors spend money at local outfitters, stores, restaurants, and hotels. In 2013, anglers alone spent $29 million in San Miguel County, while hunters spent more than $18 million.  Outdoor recreation is a booming business in the Land of Enchantment, confirmed by the state legislature’s creation of a new Outdoor Recreation Division of the New Mexico Economic Development Department in 2019. It is critical that New Mexico’s outdoor recreation industry – and the local jobs it supports – can thrive once people emerge following the pandemic.

“San Miguel residents depend on the Pecos River and its tributaries for their livelihoods,” said San Miguel County Commissioner, District 2, Janice Varela. “From water for drinking and agriculture to outdoor recreation and tourism dollars, the Pecos is truly the lifeblood of our community.”

The clean, clear waters of the upper Pecos River and its tributaries are a refuge for Rio Grande cutthroat trout and significant investments have been made to conserve this species across the state.  The area is also home to Rocky Mountain bighorn, elk, mule deer, mountain lions, bobcats, and golden eagles.

Local Angler Norm Maktima said, “As an angler, my family and the families of my coworkers depend on the Upper Pecos Watershed remaining clean and healthy. The original Pecos people and the Pecos community now, have and will always protect these lands and waters. It is time for our government to acknowledge and join our efforts.”

The petitioners are calling on the WQCC to designate 14.1 miles of the Pecos River, 56.2 miles of its named tributaries, 698 acres of wetlands, and 180.03 miles of ephemeral and intermittent drainages of the Pecos River Watershed as ONRWs. ONRW protections allows current activities, such as farming and ranching to continue, but requires new activities to demonstrate that they will not degrade water quality.

Upon receiving the petition, the WQCC will vote on whether to schedule a hearing on the matter later this year.

To view a copy of the nominating petition, see: https://www.ourNMwaters.org

To learn more about the WQCC, see https://www.env.nm.gov/water-quality-control-commission/wqcc-rules-and-responsibilities/

To learn more about ONRWs, see https://www.env.nm.gov/surface-water-quality/onrws/


Acequia Education: Youth Activity Print-Outs

The New Mexico Acequia Association is excited to offer this selection of fun and educational acequia learning worksheets for children, youth and families currently spending lots of time together at home during the Covid-19.

Having our children out of school and doing distance and home learning can be challenging, but is an amazing opportunity to talk more with them about our families traditions and knowledge around the acequias, farming and gardening, and taking care of the water, seeds, animals, orchards, and land. 

Click the links below to download, view, and print PDF’s. 

If you do not have access to a printer and want to share these activities with your family and community, email us at emily@lasacequias.org or call (505) 995-9644 and we will do our best to print and send you worksheets by mail.

If you work with a school or youth program, and plan to share these activities with your students, please email us at emily@lasacequias.org so we can keep a record of where these materials are being used.

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

* 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)

Semillas pa’ la Gente

During this time of crisis, we are grateful to have strong communities and land-based traditions to hold us together as we try to minimize suffering and loss of life from COVID-19. Most importantly, we hope that you, your families, and your neighbors are safe and healthy. We have learned from this crisis that local food, family and youth connections to the land, and caring for neighbors are vital to our survival and well-being. 

Now is a great time to be planting seeds! 

Our acequias and food traditions have never been more important. Generations who came before us kept our acequias flowing, cared for the land and water, and saved seeds. As we prepare for a profound transformation of our economies, educational systems, and communities, we will continue to be vigilant in protecting our water, acequias, and farmland. We also have a renewed focus on engaging more families in growing gardens with the water, land, and seeds that are our common heritage. Seeds carry ancestral memory and they also carry our potential for the future. By sharing and growing seeds, we are shaping the future for our children and grandchildren, and also taking practical action to ensure health, food access and food security for our communities

We encourage you to start your gardens this Spring! We are asking you to share stories about your gardens and we are giving away seed packets to community members who need seed.

We invite you to participate in our project Semillas pa’ la Gente!

The New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA) has launched the ‘Semillas pa’ la Gente’ campaign to provide seeds to community members who are in need of seeds to plant gardens and grow food for their families and neighbors. We are sharing native seeds such as corn, peas, havas, beans, and calabazas as well as popular, nutritious vegetables such as chard, kale, beets, and carrots. As soon as you plant your seeds, you can have fresh greens in about 30 days! 

There are several ways to participate:

* If you already have access to seeds and are ready to start planting, we encourage you to share your stories with our statewide network of acequiero/as a source of inspiration and hope at this challenging time. 

* If you do not have access to the seeds you need to farm this yearwe invite you to fill out our online request form by clicking here or call our office to make a request for seeds. NMAA will be working to safely mail out packages of seeds, including both vegetables and traditional crops.

* You can share your planting stories with us on social media using #SemillasPaLaGente; by emailing your stories to donne@lasacequias.org or emily@lasacequias.org; or by adding a comment at the bottom of this blog.

* All participants will also be invited to conference calls and web-based workshops for you to share your stories about your gardens and to ask questions from other gardeners and farmers. 

WE KINDLY ASK THAT YOU ONLY REQUEST SEEDS IF YOU DO NOT ALREADY HAVE ACCESS TO SEEDS FROM ANOTHER SOURCE. Before making a request, please have a conversation with your elders, family and neighbors to see what is already available in your community. We will be prioritizing sharing seeds with land-based peoples and acequia community members, but welcome anyone who is in-need to make a request.

NMAA will work to safely mail out packages of seeds. We hope to get seeds in the mail as soon as possible, but thank you in advance for your patience as we get this new system going! We will continue fulfilling request until our seed stock runs out.

Covid-19: An Update from NMAA

Dear Acequia Leaders,

On behalf of the New Mexico Acequia Association, we are sending well wishes and hoping that you and your loved ones are healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our normal routines but it has not changed the fundamental need in our communities to keep the waters flowing in our acequias. In that regard, we have received many inquiries about how to serve responsibly as acequia elected officials to protect your communities from the spread of the virus. Here are some recommendations based on the public health order from the Department of Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel. The following language is part of the order:

Mass Gatherings. Pursuant to the order issued on March 23, 2020, “mass gatherings” are prohibited. The order defines a “mass gathering” as any public or private gathering that brings together five (5) or more individuals in a single room or connected space, confined outdoor space or an open outdoor space where individuals are within six (6) feet of each other but does not include the presence of five or more individuals where those individuals regularly reside.

Essential Businesses. The public health order also requires that all businesses, except those defined as “essential businesses,” reduce their in-person workforce by 100%. Essential businesses may remain in operation provided that they maintain social distancing, wash hands often, and keep surfaces clean. Our team has interpreted that acequias can be considered essential businesses because they provide water for agriculture and because they are also infrastructure operations. The order defines essential businesses to include the following: 1) Farms, ranches, and other food cultivation, processing, or packaging operations and 2) Infrastructure operations including public works construction and water.

In order for acequias to continue to operate, we have interpreted the order to mean that acequias and community ditches are considered essential businesses. We are also recommending that acequias avoid mass gatherings and maintain social distancing. We are providing the following guidance:

Acequia Cleanings. We have spoken with several mayordomos about how to conduct Spring acequia cleanings, i.e. sacando las acequias, and we have developed the following options for you to consider so that you are in compliance with the public health order:

  1. You may consider canceling or postponing the acequia cleaning if that is possible. Some acequias have opted to do this in cases where cleaning is not essential to get water flowing through the ditch.
  2. You may consider taking these precautions if you decide to proceed with your annual acequia cleaning:
    1. Work in crews of five (5) peones or fewer. Break up your work crew into smaller groups and space them out along the acequia so that at no time do you have a group larger than five (5) people.
    2. Within your small work crews, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet or maintain a distance of more than 6 feet and completely avoid person-to-person contact.
    3. Require that each parciante be responsible for the section of ditch that runs through their own property. This is a traditional practice used in several acequias where each family is responsible for their own “en frentes.”
    4. Some acequias are restricting the individuals that may be part of a cleaning crew to exclude anyone who traveled outside the state who should be in isolation or individuals over a certain age.

Acequia Meetings. We recommend that any regular annual membership meetings be postponed until a later date. Any gathering of more than five (5) people would be in violation of the public health order. However, if your acequia has an urgent matter to address, such as basic water delivery or emergency flooding, a meeting of your three-member commission and mayordomo can take place while also adhering to the Open Meetings Act. Other governmental entities are using conference calls for this purpose.

Acequia Elected Officials. Provided that elected officials avoid mass gatherings and maintain social distancing, they may continue their duties. Commissioners generally work from home so their continued work in governing and managing acequia operations may continue. Mayordomos are needed to operate acequia infrastructure so they may also continue work.

We know that the safety and health of each family and community is your primary concern. Our guidance is based on an interpretation of the public health order from March 23, 2020, also known as the “stay at home” order. We urge everyone to be safe, to comply with the public health order, and to be responsible when acting within the exceptions carved out for essential businesses (including how we interpret that order to apply to acequias).

Thank you for all your hard work in keeping our beautiful acequias flowing!


With heartfelt gratitude and concern for your well-being,

The NMAA Team



Hundreds Gather for Congreso de las Acequias in Taos

Mentees honor their acequia mentors. Congreso atendees were also invited to take a blue ribbon to give to someone important who has passed down acequia and farming traditions to them. Photo via NMAA

By Paula Garcia, NMAA Executive Director

The coffee was ready by 7:30am. Farmers and ranchers, who are inclined to be early birds, started arriving before 8:00am for on-site registration for the Congreso de las Acequias, the annual membership meeting of the New Mexico Acequia Association. Soon after, the conference room started to come to life with Las Mañanitas, the traditional mexican ballad that welcomes the day. On an early Saturday morning in Taos, nearly 400 acequia parciantes and supporters from across the state gathered for the Congreso de las Acequias, which was also the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the New Mexico Acequia Association. The previous day, Friday afternoon, the Taos Soil and Water Conservation District hosted a tour of local acequia projects that would contribute to the long-term viability of irrigated agriculture in the Taos Valley. 

As is customary, the official start of the Congreso was Canción de las Acequias, a song written by David García, Roger Montoya, and Cipriano Vigil, which has become the anthem of the New Mexico Acequia Association. A collective of musicians, led by David García and Jeremías Martínez, and which included former Lt. Governor Roberto Mondragon, performed music throughout the day. In the Bendición de las Aguas, waters from acequias and rivers throughout the state were shared and mixed together with a prayer for the well-being of families and communities and for protection of waters that are believed to be a don divino or divine gift. 

The Congreso de las Acequias is the gathering and governing body of the New Mexico Acequia Association. As a federational body of regional delegations, one of the important moments in the annual convening is the roll call of regions which illustrates the statewide scope of the acequia community in New Mexico. While the gathering is infused with culture from the very beginning, the Congreso is very much a meeting of governance, where leaders come together and affirm their core values and to make collective decisions that form the basis for the policy positions and strategic directions. 

The day included a moving tribute to the late Senator Carlos Cisneros including testimonials from important leaders in his district who spoke of his commitment, work ethic, and the wit that so many of his friends and colleagues had grown fond of over the years. Esther García, former mayor of Questa and former commissioner on Cabresto Lake Irrigation Community Ditch, and Mary Mascareñas, long-time school board member for the Peñasco Independent Schools and former commissioner on Acequia del Llano de San Juan Nepumoceno, shared their memories of the Senator as a friend and as an advocate for rural communities. Musicians ended the tribute with a despedida, a traditional farewell ballad. 

Harold Trujillo, NMAA President, and Paula García, Executive Director, provided a retrospective of the NMAA’s 30 years of advocacy and contributions to the acequia movement in New Mexico. Special thanks was given to the Taos Valley Acequia Association as the first regional association to help form the Congreso de las Acequias as a statewide governing body. A timeline included some of the major milestones in acequia advocacy over the past thirty years, including important pieces of legislation and the founding dates of some of NMAA’s education and youth programs. Attendees were invited to add to the timeline with important dates from their own acequias.

A highlight of the day was a segment entitled, “Sharing Querencia Across Generations.” It was a time of recognition of both mentees and their mentors who have made a conscious effort to keep traditional knowledge alive across generations. The recognitions were an expression of gratitude by mentees for their mentors and an affirmation that the acequia tradition would continue for another generation. Chavela Trujillo of Abiquiu recognized her mom Isabel Trujillo, Juanita Revak from Jemez Springs recognized her father Gilbert Sandoval, Marcos Valdez recognized his mentor Kenny Salazar from La Mesilla, Zia Martinez recognized her mentor Lorenzo Candelaria, Nicanor Ortega recognized his mentor Miguel Santistevan, and Donne Gonzales recognized her mom Juliet Garcia-Gonzales. The heartfelt recognition illustrated the intergenerational nature of the acequia movement.

Other topics on the agenda included a youth mapping project with the Carson National Forest and presentations by participants in NMAA’s Sembrando Semillas youth project and Los Sembradores Farmer Training project. For some of the youth participants, the Congreso is one of the most important public speaking experiences of their young lives. It is part of NMAA’s leadership development work to include youth as speakers at the Congreso.

Another highlight of the day was a performance by renowned poet Olivia Romo, who shared a poem entitled “Fighting the Tragedy of the Commons” in which she critiques the privatization of communal waters of the acequias and pays homage to the elders who dedicate decades of their lives to defend water rights in the adjudication process. Her poem recognizes the work of the acequia leaders of the Rio de las Gallinas Acequia Association in the Las Vegas area who fought for fifty years to overturn a doctrine for the city to have an expanding water right and who continue to fight the fragmentation of their acequias.

Vibrant and spirited conversations took place during the lunch hour which was followed by an awards ceremony honoring two individuals who have likely spend the most years of their life directly involved with NMAA’s grassroots organizing and advocacy work. Harold Trujillo was honored as a co-founder of NMAA in 1989 and David Benavides was honored for his nearly 30 years of service as an attorney dedicated primarily to acequia water law. In the midst of the festivities, volunteers Martha Trujillo, Patrick Blumm, Olivia Romo, and Priscilla Romo worked the silent auction as an NMAA fundraiser.

The day concluded with the adoption of a series of resolutions that were proposed by NMAA’s regional delegates, leadership caucuses, and policy working group. Generally, NMAA’s resolutions express a policy statement or a proposal for a new programmatic direction. There were four policy resolutions addressing a range of issues including opposition to proposed exploratory mining in the upper Pecos watershed, support for expanding the use of a fund for acequia legal expenses, and details regarding the guidelines for the newly created Acequia Infrastructure Fund. Another resolution generated by caucuses involving youth and young adults urged NMAA to implement a project to document storytelling by community members and elders. All resolutions passed unanimously in large part due to the extensive participation in writing the resolutions well in advance of the Congreso.

The 30th Anniversary Celebration was a day to celebrate history and the passing of the torch to new generations. The event was a success with the teamwork of the NMAA staff and our much-appreciated volunteers. It will long live in the memories of those who were there. Que Vivan las Acequias!

Additional Photos:

Acequia roll call. Photo via Seth Roffman/Green Fire Times
Bendición del Agua. Photo via Seth Roffman/Green Fire Times
Concilio Member introductions. Photo via Seth Roffman/Green Fire Times
Bendición del Agua. Photo via Seth Roffman/Green Fire Times
Ofrenda. Photo via Seth Roffman/Green Fire Times
Despedida to Carlos Cisneros. Photo via Seth Roffman/Green Fire times
Teatro Acequiero. Photo via NMAA
NMAA Sembrando Semillas youth program shares their visions for the future of their acequias. Photo via NMAA
NMAA 2019 Los Sembradores Farm Apprentices, and NMAA staff, share about their year. Photo via NMAA
Olivia Romo shares her poem ‘Fighting the Tragedy of the Commons’. Photo via NMAA
David Benavides (left) and Harold Trujillo (right) receive awards for their outstanding service to acequia communities. Photos via NMAA