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Acequias Brace Themselves for a Future of Water Scarcity

by Paula Garcia, NMAA Executive Director

The year 2021 started with a dismal outlook for Spring runoff. A light year of snowpack promised little in the way of snowmelt and acequias braced for a very dry irrigation year. In May, the US Drought Monitor showed that 99.37% of New Mexico was in severe drought to exceptional drought. With tempered expectations, acequia leaders prepared for a difficult irrigation season. In some communities, the low runoff prompted acequias to initiate water sharing agreements between acequias. Many individual farmers and ranchers adjusted their operations to account for a season with limited irrigation.

Almost as an answer to many prayers, monsoon rains started in the early summer. These monsoon rains are credited with protecting us from a potentially catastrophic wildfire season and the worst impacts of drought. In the short term, the monsoon rains enabled many acequia parciantes to have a hay crop, grow their gardens, sustain their orchards, and breathe a sigh of relief to make it through another growing season.

During this time, NMAA was able to convene some important discussions about the future of acequias that will be impacted by ongoing drought, uncertain precipitation, and extreme weather events, all of which are related to climate change. One gathering focused on ‘Acequias and Megadrought’, and included dialogue between different  acequia leaders regarding both historic and current practices of water sharing in their communities.

Drought affects the supply of wet water that is available in any given year or over a period of time. Because acequias depend on surface water, they are uniquely vulnerable to changes in snowmelt and runoff. Centuries of variable water supplies from year to year have resulted in a certain degree of resilience to drought because acequias have engaged in customs and traditions of water sharing, also known as the repartimiento. A recent study by NMSU notes that the “acequia footprint” illustrates acequia resiliency to highly variable water supplies because individual parciantes and the acequia collective will irrigate more land during times of high water flow and less land when there is less water. In other words, the extent of land that is irrigated expands or contracts based on the supply of wet water in any given year.

In several communities, acequias are tenacious about sharing scarce water, creating rotations and shorter cycles with ever smaller allocations of water until the water dries completely. The question we face about climate change is the extent to which acequias maintain viability through water sharing, and at what point should communities expect and plan for dry rivers with no water. In a survey in 2020 of about 20 leaders who are instrumental in water sharing agreements, some described their traditions in detail and noted that they managed to get through the year with shared sacrifices. A few had more dire reports, including testimonials that “there was no water to share.”

At the gathering on Megadrought and Acequias, there were two panels that were featured. One was the Mayordomo panel which featured local mayordomos and commissioners and their testimonials about the specific methods of water sharing in their communities. The following three narratives summarize their local acequia customs.

Don Bustos, Commissioner, Acequia del Llano in Santa Cruz

Don shared the importance of the Mayordomo having an intimate knowledge of the acequia, which he established by growing up along the Llano. He described their method of sharing the water by dividing the ditch into three sections, and irrigating only one section per day (depending on how water is released from the Santa Cruz dam). He emphasized the value of regular communication and Commission meetings, walking the acequia, and checking headgates and resolving maintenance issues. On this ditch, everyone has to call the Mayordomo to get water. His acequia first prioritizes water for gardens, pastures, orchards, and then lawns and landscaping in times of shortage. “We are telling people ‘just use what you need’, and urging the importance of everyone getting some water.”

Don reflected that our limited water supply is “the new normal” and considered how his ancestors had found a way to ensure every irrigator had water to survive. He listed a number of challenges they face in the management of the water, including newcomers who have a legalistic view of the system and do not understand that their paper water right does not translate to a full wet water irrigation; encroachment from the City of Española; and developments in the foothills above the acequia that do not have a drainage system and contaminate the ditch with run off. Finally, Don emphasized the importance of regional water sharing among acequias that was facilitated by the Santa Cruz Irrigation District during the Spring, and their ability to work together in a peaceful way during times of hardship.

Phil and Sylvia Villarreal, Mayordomo and Commissioner, Acequia de los Chupaderos in Chupadero

“My responsibility is to make sure that the water is circulated in the valley – we handle it upon demand,” remarked Phil Villareal, Mayordomo on Acequia de los Chupaderos. Phil described that the determination of how much water parciantes get is based on what is available in the river and the demands from the other parciantes. He noted that not all of the parciantes are actively engaged in the acequia, though they encourage everyone to irrigate. Their Acequia is impacted by the Aamodt adjudication and they have to submit reports every Spring, “showing who is using it and [we] have to account for every drop that goes through our metering system…it is getting very legalistic.”

Sylvia Villareal, Phil’s wife and an acequia commissioner, noted that an additional challenge they face are newcomers who do not understand the practice of water sharing and being fair to all in the community, and are creating gardens that are larger than can be supported by the meager water supply. Remarking on the demands, Phil said, “it is hard to keep everyone happy.” A victory for this team has been working to revitalize the acequias in their area, including breaking ground to create infrastructure repairs for which they have received state funding. They noted that the impetus to do the work was the Aamodt adjudication process and the need for better irrigation efficiency. They concluded by acknowledging that this has been a hard year, including being separated from one another [by covid], but that many lessons have been learned.

Harold Trujillo, Commissioner, Acequia de la Isla in Ledoux

Harold explained that there are two acequias sharing water from Morphy lake on a 40/60 basis. The two Presidents of the Acequias maintain control of the outlet gate and they have to be very careful how much they open the headgate, as “we have a very tight schedule”. If the headgate is opened too wide they will rapidly drain the lake, and thus not be able to make it through the irrigation season. He summarized that the challenge for Mayordomos is when everyone wants to irrigate and there is a shortage of water. The two Acequias have always been a joint operation and have managed the water successfully. Issues have arisen when parciantes pressure their Mayorodomo for more water, which is why the headgate is controlled by the commission Presidents while the Mayordomo focuses on allocating the available water.

Harold also shared the story of how Morphy lake was built by local families starting in the 1880s, building up the embankments until 1940. “It took the cooperation of the community for all those years – it was a long term commitment.” The Acequias also lease Morphy Lake water to Fish and Wildlife, which gives them an annual revenue. He reminded us of the value of foresight, collaboration, and the hard work of the ancestors who came before us.

The Mayordomo panel illustrated that water sharing involves not only the mayordomo but also the commissioners in terms of defining the method of sharing and priorities for irrigation. In all cases, water sharing was deeply steeped in history and long-standing customs that have endured in their respective acequias.

While history is a guide for local acequias, new challenges include ongoing drought conditions, newcomers who are not accustomed to living with water scarcity, and new institutional requirements related to water administration by the state, as in the case of Aamodt. It is clear that acequia mayordomos and commissioners have important roles that are rooted in ancient customs, but they also need to be prepared to deal with modern and unprecedented challenges. Acequias face many uncertainties, including not knowing from year to year whether there will be adequate water to irrigate their pastures or gardens. This is a story that continues to unfold and we will continue to learn as our communities work to adapt and survive.

2021 Acequia Art & Photo Contest

2021 ACEQUIA ART AND PHOTO CONTEST – SUBMISSIONS DUE NOVEMBER 30th, 2021!

Submit your photos and art to the 2021 NMAA Acequia Art & Photo Contest and show us what acequia culture means to YOU! Prizes for ADULTS (19 years and up) and YOUTH (18 years and under)!

ART CONTEST DETAILS

  • Submit poems, videos, paintings, sketches, mixed media, models, and MORE! Show us – “What does acequia culture mean to you?” or “Why are acequias important to your family, culture, or community?”
  • Art participants are limited to one entry.

PHOTO CONTEST DETAILS 

  • Send photos in any of these categories: Acequieros Working the Land ~ Digitally Altered Imagery ~ Regando ~ Food and Seed Traditions
  • Photo participants are limited to one entry per category!

** HOW TO APPLY! **

~ Art and photos must be submitted by November 30, 2021

~ Submissions must be sent in HIGH RESOLUTION/high quality format

~ Please email to emily@lasacequias.org OR mail to 805 Early Street Bldg. B, Suite 203 Santa Fe, NM 87505

~ Include: (1) Name of Artist (2) Town (3) Acequia Name (4) County (5) Art/photo description or title.

** MORE INFO **

~ You could win the following PRIZES: 1st Place: $60.00 & NMAA T-Shirt – 2nd Place: $40.00 & NMAA T-Shirt – 3rd Place: $20.00 & NMAA T-shirt (separate prizes for adult and youth submissions!)

~ Terms and conditions: Upon photo submission, you agree to the use of your work(s) in NMAA materials including but not limited to publications, calendar, website pages, and outreach materials. Photo credit will be given where appropriate.

Flyer images – 2020 winners Lylie Vigil (youth art) and Alyson Archuleta (youth photo)

Acequia Legislative Advocacy Update

Jaimie Park, Policy Coordinator & Paula Garcia, Executive Director

The NMAA has given several presentations to legislative committees in recent months covering topics related to drought, water sharing, climate change, infrastructure, cannabis, and water transfers/leases. Presentations included background information, overviews of policy priorities of acequias, and policy recommendations. A brief overview of recent presentations are provided below.  To view any of these presentations, visit the NMAA website at www.lasacequias.org.

Over coming months, we will continue to engage with legislative committees and prepare for advocacy in the 2022 Legislative Session. We send our deep appreciation to all of the acequia leaders who continually show up to share testimonies and lend their voices to these important statewide efforts.

Supporting Acequia Resiliency in Megadrought – Gallup, July 13, 2021

Paula Garcia, NMAA Executive Director, was invited to give a presentation to the Water and Natural Resources Legislative Committee (WNRC) on the impacts of drought and climate change on acequias in New Mexico. Paula shared acequia testimonials about reduced snowpack, earlier spring runoff, low stream flows, and dry river beds, as well as first hand accounts of flood damage from extreme weather events. These testimonials were aligned with climate change predictions that were presented by climatologist Dr. David Gutzler, who presented before Paula at the same meeting of the WNRC. 

The NMAA provided the following recommendations:

  • Support and affirm acequia water sharing practices through capacity building, leadership development, and technical assistance for acequias and regional associations, along with providing more resources for OSE staffing; 
  • Strengthen acequia infrastructure by developing the Acequia and Community Ditch Infrastructure Fund (“ACDIF”) into a robust program with staff and reliable funding, protecting ACDIF funding, and institutional support for climate-adapted designs that are more resilient to flooding; 
  • Strengthen disaster response and assistance to acequias by conducting and completing an acequia infrastructure inventory and mapping for both state and federal hazard mitigation plans, develop capacity for acequia leaders to serve as liaisons with state and federal disaster agencies, and provide more resources for state agencies to respond to disasters that do not receive a federal emergency declaration; 
  • Support water conflict resolution through provision of resources for conflict management mediation services; and 
  • Strengthen acequia conservation practices by connecting landowners to USDA Farm Bill programs for soil and water conservation practices, leveraging federal funds with state funding (i.e. the Agriculture and Natural Resources Trust Fund), and building upon the recent work with the state Healthy Soils Program to support drought resiliency through soil health practices.

 

Water, Equity, and Cannabis Production: Implications for Acequias – Taos, August 12, 2021

In this presentation to the WNRC, Paula was part of a panel that included Martha Graham from the New Mexico Rural Water Association, John Romero from the Office of the State Engineer, and Linda Trujillo, Superintendent of the Regulation and Licensing Department. The presentations by Martha and Paula focused on the challenges that are facing rural communities as a result of the demand for water from cannabis production. Martha noted that several rural community water systems are facing a variety of requests to use domestic water for commercial cannabis. Paula discussed the potential impacts to acequias, including the potential of water transfers out of acequias or transfers of surface water to groundwater. Paula went on to explain the rationale for advocating for language in the Cannabis Regulation Act to require valid water rights and compliance with water provider rules prior to receiving a license. One of the key issues that surfaced was that the OSE does not have the capacity to enforce illegal water uses, a situation that will be exacerbated by cannabis production.

 

Irrigation Works Construction Fund – Taos, August 12, 2021

Also in testimony before the WNRC, Paula was part of a panel that also included staff from the Interstate Stream Commission to discuss the Irrigation Works Construction Fund (“IWCF”). NMAA’s IWCF presentation focused on this trust fund’s insolvent status and what actions are needed to restore the fund. The IWCF is a trust fund the legislature created in 1953, with the purpose of funding costs of investigations, construction, and other expenses directly chargeable to an infrastructure project. In 2019, NMAA was able to secure a statutory amendment to the IWCF, codifying an annual allocation of $2.5 million into the Acequia and Community Ditch Infrastructure Fund (“ACDIF”). The ACDIF is an exciting endeavor to establish a one-stop shop for acequia infrastructure projects, providing funding for design and engineering as well as construction. 

Unfortunately, the IWCF is nearly depleted, requiring immediate legislative action to replenish that fund and to secure ACDIF funding. NMAA has recommended to the Legislative Finance Committee they restore solvency to the IWCF with two specific actions: 1) use General Fund monies to replace $12 million in trust fund monies for the OSE-ISC agency budget starting in FY23 and 2) appropriate a one-time infusion of $100 million of state or federal funding into the IWCF to restore the balance to previous levels that existed before the fund was tapped to pay for agency expenses.

Supporting Acequia Infrastructure in New Mexico – Mora, July 19, 2021

For the first meeting of the Rural Economic Opportunities Task Force (REOTF), Executive Director Paula Garcia was part of a panel with Ralph Vigil, NM Acequia Commission, and Jonathan Martinez, Acequia Program Manager for the Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) to draw attention to acequia infrastructure as one of the most pressing policy issues for acequias. Paula’s role on the panel was to raise awareness regarding the importance of acequias to New Mexico, what acequia infrastructure is, the pressing infrastructure needs and challenges, current funding programs for acequia infrastructure, and specific policy solutions needed. 

Acequia infrastructure challenges involve the following: 1) the number of acequias requesting funding and assistance exceeds the current capacity of funding programs (i.e. ISC, RCPP, Capital Outlay); 2) acequias vary greatly in capacity and project readiness, with most needing assistance with governance, pre-planning and project management to prevent unfinished projects and delaying in spending Capital Outlay; and 3) there is a bottleneck for engineering design, limiting the number of acequias ready to receive construction funding. Specific policy solutions include 1) protecting funding for ACDIF by restoring solvency to the IWCF (see previous section for more details), 2) creating an Acequia Bureau at the ISC to ensure adequate staffing levels and provision of project support, technical assistance, and professional engineering services; 3) and continuing to fund the Acequia and Community Ditch Education Program at DFA, which funds NMAA’s Acequia Governance Project and Infrastructure Planning Work. 

Acequia Land Grant Education (ALGE) Project – Anton Chico, September 23, 2021

Paula presented on a panel before the Land Grant Committee with Adrian Sandoval of the Center for the Education and Study of Diverse Populations (CESDP) at New Mexico Highlands University and Dr. Jacobo Baca, Research Historian with the UNM Land Grant Studies Program to give an update on the progress related to two legislative memorials from 2019. HM 31 (Miguel Garcia) and SM 31 (Peter Campos) requested that acequia and land grant leaders work together to develop recommendations for youth curriculum development. Some seed money was appropriated to CESDP to facilitate a series of meetings with community leaders and educators to develop recommendations. The panel shared a white paper that summarized the project background and results of the community meetings. The next steps are to work with the NM Public Education Department on teacher training and educational materials.  

Water Transfers and Water Leases: Impacts on Acequias – Anton Chico, September 23, 2021

Paula and David Benavides, Attorney with New Mexico Legal Aid, presented to the Land Grant Committee on water transfers and water leases. David’s presentation covered the tenets of NM water law including the basic requirement that existing water rights be protected any time there is a new appropriation or that an existing water right is transferred. He went on to explain that a recent OSE practice turns this long-standing legal principle on its head by granting preliminary approvals on water lease applications. He explained that this practice is unlawful and that a recent district court decision explicitly explains all the reasons that the OSE is not authorized to grant preliminary approvals. Paula provided some further background and shared a case studies that illustrate how water transfers in general affect acequias, and how preliminary approval could be extremely detrimental to acequias and rural communities who use protests as a tool to raise concerns about the impacts of water transfers/leases on their water rights. 

NMAA Job Opening – Finance Director

The New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA) is seeking a full-time Finance Director. The Finance Director will be responsible for overall financial planning, budget development and monitoring, financial reports and analysis, overall bookkeeping, payroll, oversight of receivables and payables, and compliance with state and federal tax and legal requirements. The Finance Director will work under the direct supervision of the Executive Director.

Click here to view the full job description and qualifications.

Application Process

  • Please send a cover letter and resume detailing qualifications for this position along with three professional references to: juliet@lasacequias.org.
  • Interviews will be conducted with qualified candidates until the position is filled.
  • Candidates selected for interview may be required to submit a sample of their work.
  • Ideal candidate will be able to start as soon as possible.

Acequias and Redistricting in New Mexico

The New Mexico Acequia Association is preparing recommendations to submit to the Citizen’s Redistricting Committee. The Committee was established by the State Legislature as a non-partisan body charged with developing redistricting maps. Upon completion of the Committee’s work, the State Legislature will have a special session in November 2021 to approve the new district maps.

Redistricting takes place every ten years following the decennial census. The US Census Bureau released updated population data from the 2020 Census a few days ago. The Citizen’s Redistricting Committee is completing a round of public input and has an online portal that allows members of the public to submit written testimony and maps.

Acequias as Communities of Interest

The NMAA will focus on the importance of acequias as “communities of interest” and will be proposing draft maps for legislative districts that are considerate of acequias. For those areas of the state that have acequias, legislative district boundaries should be considerate of the need for acequias to have a political voice. These are some general principles that NMAA supports:

  • Acequia communities share a common culture that is rooted in a history of small-scale agriculture and water governance. Their social, cultural, and economic similarities constitute a community of interest.
  • Acequias tend to be located in rural and semi-rural (small-town/village) areas of the state. To the extent possible, legislative district boundaries should be drawn in such a way that rural people represent rural districts.
  • Acequia communities are closely intertwined with the landscape. Hydrological features, such as watersheds or corridors of irrigated land, are taken into consideration.
  • Acequia communities are historic land-based communities. One factor to take under consideration is that some of them are predominantly Hispanic. Legislative districts should be drawn so that the vote of Hispanic communities is not diluted.

Retain 3rd Congressional District as a Northern District

While detailed work is still needed to develop specific maps, the NMAA is making one key recommendation, that the 3rd Congressional district remain a district that represents northern New Mexico. While acequias are located statewide, the vast majority of them are located in the 3rd Congressional district which fosters conditions in which acequias can have political representation that is responsive to their interests.

Next Steps

The Committee is taking public input through meetings and the online portal. Based on that input, the Committee will be developing draft maps for public review by late September or early October, when another round of public input will be conducted. The NMAA is giving verbal public comment at the public meetings and is in the process of preparing maps for submission to the committee. One piece of data that is being used to draw maps is an  that shows most of the major locations of acequias in New Mexico, which is used to determine representation in the Congreso de las Acequias, the governing body of the NMAA. The map is below:

For more information, contact paula@lasacequias.org.

Here Come the Weed Growers: What Future do we want for our Acequias?

Here Come the Weed Growers: What Future do we want for our Acequias?

Acequia communities should brace themselves for the many individuals and corporations intent on growing commercial marijuana in our villages. As the Cannabis Advisory Committee meets for the first and only time before rules are officially promulgated, we should consider two potential scenarios:

SCENARIO #1: First, imagine New Mexico in ten years after cannabis legalization where our policymakers and communities have been successful in fostering a socially just, equitable cannabis economy where small-scale growers and small business are thriving. Because of robust water protections and social equity mandates in the law, New Mexico grew a cannabis industry that provides economic opportunities for producers and small businesses as well as provides a healthy product for both medicinal and recreational use. New Mexico had the foresight to make it possible for small-scale businesses to get established with access to capital.

Imagine driving through rural New Mexico and seeing small-scale cannabis operations alongside fields of locally grown food. Farmers work cooperatively to produce, process, and market their product and have developed high-quality, small-scale cannabis crops that earn them a good livelihood. Because of the profitability of cannabis, more farmers have stayed on the land and more farmers are growing food for their local communities. The population of rural communities has stabilized after decades of outmigration. Rural farmers have a fair opportunity at making an income from cannabis.

SCENARIO #2: Second, imagine New Mexico in ten years after cannabis legalization without water protections and social equity mandates. In their rush to gain tax revenue from the cannabis industry, policymakers hastily enacted legislation and rules that prioritized a quick start up for the industry over the concerns of rural communities, acequias, and social justice advocates. The corporations who already were established for medical cannabis had the advantage of scale and successfully advocated for large-scale production. Because a variety of producers, both small and large, opposed water protections, the new cannabis economy resulted in a raid on New Mexico’s water with promulgation of new rules that undermined over a century of water laws that protected existing water rights.

Out of desperation for water, cannabis producers of all sizes got variances to drill wells, obtain water leases through unlawful means, and otherwise undermine New Mexico’s water laws. Lack of start up capital for local producers and small businesses benefited out of state corporations to move into New Mexico and gain substantial advantages over New Mexico residents. After ten years, New Mexico has an oligopoly of out of state operations who gave seized control of the cannabis market along with vast areas of farmland and water rights. Cannabis is legal but it is corporate-grown.  Acequia communities have been overrun by outside corporations to grow cannabis and outmigration of land-based families has accelerated, replaced by low-wage workers tending to corporate cannabis.

BACK TO THE PRESENT: The Regulation and Licensing Department and the Cannabis Control Division just completed a hearing on regulations to implement the Cannabis Regulation Act. Earlier this year, New Mexico was at a crossroads in how to proceed with cannabis legalization. Policymakers had good intentions to make legal cannabis available for medicinal and recreational uses, as well as to decriminalize cannabis possession and to expunge records of those convicted in the past. However, it took extraordinary effort by acequias, land grants, and social equity advocates to get some important language in the CRA regarding water and social equity. These were important gains but the CRA could have been much stronger. Specifically, stronger social equity provisions would could have ensured that New Mexico residents who are small-scale producers or small-business owners would have access such as start-up capital and technical assistance.

After two hearings on the proposed rules, New Mexico appears to be on track for Scenario #2. The proposed rules that were the subject of a hearing on August 6, 2021 failed to address the most basic concerns of a variety of advocates from acequias, land grants, and social equity advocates:

  • Although the CRA required appointment of a Cannabis Advisory Committee to advise on the content of regulations, the rules were drafted without input from a committee. A committee was appointed just days before an agency deadline to finalize the rules. The committee appointments were announced just three days before their official meeting to “advise” on the rules. At a meeting scheduled for August 10, 2021, the RLD and CCD are expecting the committee to give them the green light to proceed with the regulations as drafted.
  • Of greatest concern is a new provision in the regulations allowing applicants for licenses to obtain a variance that could allow them to circumvent the basic water protections in the CRA. Due to the intense advocacy of the NMAA and other allies, the CRA requires that an application for a cannabis license include either documentation from the OSE of a valid water rights or certification of compliance with the rules of the water provider for that new use. These are reasonable requirements. The variance provision may allow licenses to be granted via a variance and without adherence to the legal water requirements.

Beyond the concerns about water and the flawed process of rulemaking, the emerging cannabis industry is on track to be dominated by corporations without the needed access to capital for locally-owned businesses. There is still time to get this process on track to achieve a more equitable economy that does not jeopardize our water supplies. To start, we must act quickly on the following:

  • The rulemaking process should be deferred at least until the CAC has had adequate time to review and deliberate on the proposed rules. The RLD and CCD should substantially revise their regulations based on the input provided by the New Mexico Acequia Association and the New Mexico Land Grant Consejo. The provision for granting variances must be removed or explicitly limited such that a variance cannot be granted to circumvent statutory requirements regarding water.
  • Additional legislation is needed to address social equity, including revisiting the language that was previously in drafts of the CRA that included both a Community Reinvestment Fund and Social Equity Fund which provided that some of the tax revenue from cannabis be used to improve the quality of life and equity of New Mexicans.
  • The concerns about water rights extend beyond cannabis laws and rulemaking. The OSE has a practice of granting “preliminary approval” on water leases, which is unlawful. The NMAA and other entities in New Mexico have expressed grave concern about this practice and have raised concerns repeatedly. Two factors that add fuel to this fire are 1) the urgency of cannabis producers who need water and 2) the proposed variance in the regulations that could allow a license without compliance with the CRA water protections. As long as the OSE is granting these unlawful water lease permits, it is opening the door for illegal water uses for cannabis production.

ACTION ALERT – Public Comments Needed on Triennial Water Quality Standards

Starting on July 13th, 2021 the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) will begin the state Triennial Review public hearing on proposed changes to our state surface water quality standards and regulations.
We know as traditional rural communities that rapid land use development and inadequate protection for the health of the water can negatively impact our communities, families and livelihoods. Impacts include potential risks of groundwater contamination and increased degradation of surface water quality from municipal wastewater treatment facilities and industrial water users, such as oil & gas, mining, and national laboratories. The state Triennial Review is an important way to ensure that our precious water is protected for current and future generations of acequiero/as.
NMAA, as a member of the Communities for Clean Water (CCW) coalition, supports CCW’s contributions and demands to provide more protections for New Mexico’s waters.
It is critical for the acequia communities voices to be heard in this process – please take some time this week to send in a public comment by email or make a verbal comment during the hearing.

How To Take Action:

A. Submit a written public comment:

 

  • We believe comments will be accepted through the end of the hearing, which could be Friday the 16th or sometime next week. Because the ending date is not clear, we suggest submitting comments ASAP before 9:00am on Friday July 16th.
B. Join the public hearing and make a verbal comment:
  • The hearing starts Tuesday July 13th and may continue for up to 10 days. On day one, July 13th, the hearing will run from 9:00-12:00 and again from 1:00-6:00pm. Starting on day two, July 14th, the hearing will start at 8:00 am.
  • On day one, July 13th, public comments will be accepted from 5:00-6:00 pm. Beginning on day two, July 14th (and continuing until Friday the 16th or later), public comment will be accepted from 8:00-9:00 am AND again from 5:00-6:00 pm.
  •  Each public comment is limited to five minutes. We encourage you to express your displeasure that comments are limited to five minutes.
  • The hearing will be virtual on WebEx online meeting platforms or you can participate by phone. Details for how to connect are below:
To connect via video conference, go to:
Click meeting link: https://nmed-oit.webex.com/nmed-oit/j.php?MTID=m173d2e7c86c3828b4dbdcb4d1fe06be6
Enter meeting number: 177 706 1008
Enter password: phQAE7KmR47
OR join by phone:
+1-415-655-0001 (US Toll)
Access code: 177 706 1008
Questions? Please contact NMAA at – (505) 995-9644 OR – jaimie@lasacequias.org or emily@lasacequias.org

Take action before June 29th on cannabis, water, and equity!!

In a special session earlier this year, the State Legislature legalized adult-use cannabis a.k.a. recreational cannabis. Now, the State is taking public comment on a set of draft rules to implement the new law.
It is important for acequia leaders to participate in this process to guide the state toward a cannabis industry that protects our precious water resources and that fosters an economy that is more inclusive and equitable for small, rural producers. To read comments already submitted by NMAA, click here: Amended Final NMAA Comments on Cannabis Producer License Rules June 16 2021
Join the New Mexico Acequia Association as we share information about the public comment process including talking points about water and equity and tips on how to submit comments through the Cannabis Control Division website, email, and snail mail. Click here for the instructions on submitting comments.
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
10:00am – 11:30am
Join virtually by Zoom or phone
Overall, NMAA is requesting in our comments that regulations should be consistent with the language of the state law that was recently passed, the Cannabis Regulation Act (CRA). NMAA worked hard to advocate for language in the new law that protects water and requires that rules include provisions for social equity.
The June 29th hearing should be delayed until the Cannabis Regulatory Advisory Committee is created and has an opportunity to review these proposed rules.
Prevent illegal uses of water. The CRA requires specific protections to ensure that cannabis growers have a a legal right to a commercial water supply, water rights or another source of water and that they provide the following as part of their license application: 1) documentation from the State Engineer or 2) documentation of compliance with the rules of the water provider for that use.
Hold licensees accountable for the amount of water they use. To effectively implement the CRA, NMAA is recommending that regulations require license holders provide documentation of the estimated amount of water usage for cannabis production and that they include water use data in quarterly reports to the regulation and licensing department.
Ensure smaller growers have the opportunity to benefit from the cannabis economy. Although the CRA lacks robust equity provisions like in other states that legalized recreational cannabis, the CRA does require that the Cannabis Control Division to promulgate rules encouraging agricultural producers from economically disadvantaged communities.

Job Opening – Office and Program Assistant

Join a dynamic and committed team working to protect water, farmland, and food traditions in New Mexico! The New Mexico Acequia Association is hiring an Office and Program Assistant.

This person will contribute to the mission of the NMAA by handling incoming calls and requests for information, performing general office duties, managing files and office systems, managing our membership program, assisting with writing and editing, updating our database, and supporting the various programs and projects of the NMAA. Experience in a non-profit setting is highly desirable. The salary for this position is competitive. The work location is in the Santa Fe Office. Some travel and fieldwork will be required when it is safe depending on COVID-19 restrictions.

Click here to review full job description!

TO APPLY: Please send a cover-letter and resume to juliet@lasacequias.org. Interviews will start May 18th and the position will remain open until filled.

Covid Safe Limpia and Meeting Guidance – March 2021 Update

Dear Acequia Commissioners and Mayordomos, 

NMAA would like to provide some updated recommendations as many of you complete your limpias and schedule annual meetings. These are based off of the recent Public Health Order (PHO), issued February 24, 2021.
You may have heard of the new county by county color coded rating system, regarding the level of risk in spreading Covid. The “dashboard” showing the color rating is updated every other week, this means that the color rating could change from the time you announce an activity to the time you actually hold a gathering, please monitor the dashboard at:  https://cvprovider.nmhealth.org/public-dashboard.html
We encourage every acequia to assess how they can best keep their community safe, while continuing our vital practices of holding meetings and cleaning the acequias.
Key points in the Public Health Order: 
  • Red Counties – Max public gathering is 5 individuals 
  • Yellow Counties – Max public gathering is 10 individuals
  •  Green Counties: Max public gathering is 20 individuals 
  • Turquoise Counties – Max public gatherings 150 individuals
A “mass gathering” is any public or private gathering, or grouping that brings together individuals in an indoor OR outdoor space.  All activities, whether indoor or outdoor, still require social distancing (minimum 6 feet distance) and Covid safe measures, such as wearing masks (given the highly communicable variants now in circulation, the CDC advises “double masking”). While some counties (Green and Turquoise) may begin to allow limited reopening of certain indoor facilities, including community centers, other counties continue to prohibit indoor mass gatherings.  For example, recreational facilities, like community centers, are not allowed to open for indoor gatherings in Yellow and Red counties. Meetings can be inside or outside, but each color code states the reduced level of occupancy for both indoor and outdoor spaces. See details: https://cv.nmhealth.org/public-health-orders-and-executive-orders/red-to-green/

Further Guidance for ACEQUIA CLEANINGS

Acequias may be considered “essential businesses” in the context of acequia cleanings  because they manage and control critical water infrastructure.  On the one hand, acequias are therefore given discretion even in Yellow and Red counties to operate but must limit operations to only those absolutely necessary to carry out essential functions.  On the other hand, , due to the physical exertion involved in acequia cleanings, certain precautions should be taken to minimize potential exposure to Covid.
Some ideas on how to safely and effectively conduct cleanings include:
  • Keep Crews under the max mass gathering allowance for your county.
  • If a larger number of individuals is needed to complete work, assign crews to a section of the ditch and do not gather as one large group. We have seen acequias give assignments to each car separately, organize individuals in advance, etc.
  • You could also schedule groups of parciantes and peonies to come on separate days.
  • Consider what will work best for your ditch.
  • Individuals in work crews should always stay a minimum of 6 feet apart and wear masks.
  • Hire one crew to clean the entire ditch in order to limit potential exposure to large numbers of people. We have spoken to a number of acequias who decided the safest and easiest option was to hire one consistent group of workers to clean the entire ditch with the supervision of the Commission and or Mayordomo. While this means not all parciantes will be able to participate, it ensures the task is completed.
  • Some acequias have opted to “excuse” members who are at higher risk due to age or other health considerations.
Whatever method you choose we encourage you to stay safe, take pictures and share with us any lessons learned, or methodologies we have not considered! Send pics and or questions to serafina@lasacequias.org

Further Guidance for ACEQUIA MEETINGS

Acequias should adhere to the county  restrictions imposed by the recent health order when scheduling any acequia meeting.  Acequias should also remember that the guidance from the Attorney General that we have shared over the course of the last year is still in effect. If you do not have urgent business you may opt to not hold your meeting. If you do not hold your annual meeting, it is encouraged that you still communicate with your parciantes via other means such as email, phone or snail mail.
If you choose to have a meeting, the AG recommends that the meeting be held remotely.  NMAA continues to offer technical hosting of zoom meetings which accommodate people calling in from a phone and video conferencing at the same time. We can also assist with the proper noticing of the remote meeting. Contact emily@lasacequias.org for more assistance.
 
Things to consider:
  • Both in-person and remote meetings have their pros and cons. Some people may feel unsafe meeting in person, others prefer it, not all individuals are equally open or comfortable with remote meetings, and others find it more accessible. You need to weigh what will be most safe, productive and inclusive for your acequia.
  • Quorum –  If your acequia needs a quorum that is greater than the max mass meeting attendance in your county your only option is to have a remote meeting.
  •  Keeping the Meeting to the Appropriate Size – If you want to have an in-person meeting but are concerned you may get more than the number of participants the PHO allows, then urge members to RSVP the day prior. Include in your notice that if you have more RSVPs than the amount allowed you will have to hold the meeting remotely or cancel. The goal is to encourage participation, so we don’t want to discourage any one from RSVPing.
  • Noticing Outdoor Meetings – In accordance with the Open Meetings Act, the location of your gathering needs to be publicly accessible and the location well described in your meeting notice. This might include a physical address along with a description of where in the parking lot of “X” building you will be meeting.
  • Noticing All Activities – It should be clear in communications for cleanings or meetings that social distancing and face masks are required by all participants. No one with covid symptoms should be participating.
  • Informational Meetings – If you do not feel you can get a quorum by either means, you can still have an informational meeting where NO ACTIONS are taken (aka no items are decided on, even approving the agenda). Informational meetings should still be  properly noticed and can  be in-person or remote.
  • “Mass gatherings” and  public officials – The PHO’s definition of “mass gathering” excludes the gathering of public officials working in the course and scope of completing their officials duties.  Acequia commissioners and mayordomos may continue to meet, provided that they are socially distanced and masked.  However, because meetings of commissioners are public meetings they must be properly noticed.  Given that any parciante and member of the public may attend a commission meeting, please plan accordingly and consider whether the meeting is better held remotely or in person to ensure that the meeting does not run afoul of the PHO.  Once members attend the meeting, a commission meeting may be considered a “mass gathering” and the public official exclusion may no longer apply to that meeting.

Please call the NMAA team if you would like assistance thinking through your spring meeting or limpia at 505-995-9644. We wish you the best in all your acequia business this spring – and stay safe!