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A Retrospective on NMAA’s Policy Achievements

In 2013 NMAA hosted a rally to encourage the passage of a new Farm Bill. Photo: Serafina Lombardi

By David Benavides, New Mexico Legal Aid Attorney 

When I think of the New Mexico Acequia Association and its influence on the state as a whole, I think about the long arc of New Mexico history and the fact that NMAA was formed at a point when there was a historic need for acequias to gain back some of the sense of self-determination they had before modern times. 

When New Mexico became a state in 1912, acequias were one of its strongest institutions.  Elephant Butte reservoir did not yet exist, nor did the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD), nor most of the larger scale agricultural districts.  Those areas were all primarily acequia agriculture, which was the backbone of agriculture in the state. As such, a great deal of deference was given to the authority that acequias had over their water rights, their easement rights, and their locally unique systems of water allocation.  Any water law or policy that acequias would have felt they needed for their own defense they probably could have easily passed in the Legislature. No one at that time could have imagined a future in which acequias would need protection or would need to be recognized and respected as valuable to the state.

78 years later, the picture was quite different.  The state’s population had almost quintupled from 330,000 in 1910 to 1.5 million in 1990, and one-third of those people lived in the Albuquerque area, which had seen its acequias largely absorbed into the MRGCD.  A similar process took place in Lower Rio Grande with the Elephant Butte Irrigation District. The San Juan-Chama Project was completed. These were three examples where the state had put its resources into large, expensive water projects, and had put its faith in the State Engineer to develop them. The State Engineer in turn required that water rights be more exactly quantified, and so a dozen stream adjudication suits were filed, and all of a sudden thousands of acequia parciantes were defendants in state-initiated lawsuits, and the validity of many long-held water rights were questioned.  Quantifying water rights in turn led to water rights being analyzed outside of the context of the community and the acequia that gave rise to those rights. Proposals were made to transfer acequia water rights to distant areas, without regard for the effects on the community that would lose those rights. This marked a change, where water was being treated as a commodity, rather than as an essential and integral part of rural agricultural communities. Some people began advocating – to address the issue of getting water rights where they were needed for development, industry, or municipalities – that a New Mexico-wide water market run by the state be established. The assumption in this idea was that water rights would be moved out of agriculture to whoever or wherever offered the most money.

Acequias were getting lost in this new way of thinking.  They were becoming invisible outside of their local communities, their needs neglected.  

This extremity of position was one that would spur NMAA to place a great emphasis on policy work as one way of addressing the loss of acequia self-determination and prominence. Through its Concilio, Policy Working Groups, and Congreso de las Acequias (a federation of regional acequia associations), the organization has engaged grassroots leadership to assist in identifying and addressing their most pressing concerns. NMAA has worked at the local, state and federal levels to create policies that address those concerns. After 30 years it can truly be said that NMAA has made acequias visible once again. 

Some examples of NMAA’s work influencing decision-makers include:

  • Water Right Transfers.  Acequias now have decision-making power over proposed transfers of acequia water rights, thanks to a law NMAA passed in 2003.
  • Water Banking.  NMAA several times defeated in the Legislature bills to set up statewide water marketing or statewide water banking.  Turning that conversation toward a more useful avenue, NMAA instead enacted a state law in 2003 for local water banking, whose purpose is not to market water rights but rather to protect water rights from being lost for non-use.
  • Condemnation.  NMAA passed a bill in 2009 prohibiting cities from trying to condemn acequia water rights.
  • Easement protection.  Passed in 2005, Acequia mayordomos and commissioners now have more legal remedies available to them for situations where a landowner is not respecting an acequia’s right-of-way or where a landowner is blocking or interfering with the acequia.  
  • Tort claims.  Like other public entities, acequias and their members, officers and employees are now shielded against tort lawsuits as of 2006.
  • Notice of State Engineer Water Right Transfers. In 2019, NMAA passed a law expanding the outdated system of OSE legal notices being published only in newspapers – adding on-line notice, assisting acequias in their ability to file a protest.
  • Liens for non-payment of dues.  Acequias now have a simpler process for placing liens on property after receiving a Magistrate court judgment for non-payment of dues as a way of inducing parciantes to come current on their dues.
  • Funding for acequias.  NMAA has successfully advocated many times for various types of funding for acequias the state level including funding for infrastructure improvements, adjudication expenses, and legal and technical assistance on governance issues. 
  • Federal funding for acequias. For years, NMAA worked with NM Association of Conservation Districts and our Congressional Delegation to make acequias as local governments eligible for EQIP funding for infrastructure. This was finally achieved in the 2018 Farm Bill.
  • Easement/Maintenance rights on federal land.  NMAA has campaigned to get federal agencies – particularly the Forest Service – to honor the easement rights of acequias that cross federal lands.  Including the right to do maintenance and improvements without the cost and delay of getting a permit from the agency. After twenty years of NMAA working on this issue, in 2019 we achieved a Guidance Document from the USFS directing their field offices to cease requiring permits for the repair and replacement of existing acequia structures. 
  • Supporting local governments to protect Acequias. NMAA has collaborated with local governments to strengthen ordinances that protect acequia easements, acequia served water rights, and agricultural land.
  • Court advocacy:  NMAA has also weighed in on a number of court cases involving important questions of acequia rights and water rights.  Most recently, NMAA filed an amicus brief in the New Mexico Court of Appeals, successfully defending the right of an acequia to hold its meetings in Spanish.  

Reflecting on how this was accomplished:

 In the movies, great popular movements and political change happen as if by magic – the lead character makes a speech and the world changes!  In reality, this type of progress is never made simply because you are on the side of what is right. Good ideas are almost always met with resistance, and overcoming that resistance takes a tremendous amount of effort and organizing. The gains that acequias have won over these past 30 years happened because, fortunately, acequias had several key ingredients for success:

  • Statewide Leadership.  For acequias to come together after centuries of acting locally and autonomously took a certain rarely-found type of leadership – one that was patient and credible and that inspired confidence in the vision of acequias moving beyond their local spheres of influence and building an organized statewide presence.  Slowly at first, and then accelerating under Paula Garcia’s leadership beginning in 1998, acequias joined together in a way they never had before.
  • Local Leadership. Every victory turned on the fact that countless acequia leaders stepped forward at a crucial point in time.  For example, when the water transfer law was passed giving acequias the right to decide on water transfers, each acequia had to amend its bylaws to include this new power.  Without hundreds of acequias holding meetings they would not have the trasfer protection under the law.
  • Legislative Leadership.  Acequias in New Mexico have been blessed with some of the most dedicated legislators working on their behalf.  Two stand out in particular: the late former House Speaker Ben Lujan, Sr., and Senator Carlos Cisneros, whose passing we now mourn.  They sponsored the most important of the legislation listed above. They never gave up, but remained committed to these bills until they would finally pass.  These two exceptional men exemplified what it means to be a public servant and the acequias of New Mexico are fortunate to have had them by their side.
  • Collaboration and Partnerships. NMAA has worked with a variety of organizations and entities in our advocacy through the years. NMAA’s closest partner in visioning these changes has been New Mexico Legal Aid. Additionally, NMAA is grateful for its partners across the Agricultural Community, various governmental agencies, those with interests in conservation, water resources and open government. NMAA’s issues have been ones that have often led disparate groups to find common ground in our values of protecting the land, water and its people.

The policy achievements listed here are a mere sampling of NMAA’s work. While acequias have made great strides working together, continued advocacy is vital for us not to lose the ground we have gained. Economic interests are still driving many decisions concerning water, new issues are constantly emerging, and changes long in the making such as demographic shifts, a move away from an ag-based economy and climate change, to name just a few, must be reckoned with. Through it all, NMAA is committed to being a platform that offers acequias a voice, to share our visions for policy change and to advocate together.

By David Benavides, New Mexico Legal Aid Attorney 

Job Openings – Acequia Education Coordinator & Acequia Program Assistant

The NMAA is seeking to hire two full-time positions as follows:
 
Acequia Education Coordinator: The New Mexico Acequia Association’s Acequia Education Coordinator is a full-time position that is responsible for providing acequia consultations as well as stakeholder and youth education. The position is focused primarily on responding to requests for assistance from acequias in matters relating to acequia governance.  The Acequia Education Coordinator will assist acequias through one-on-one sessions by phone, email, or in-person meetings.  Primary topics for acequia consultations include acequia bylaws, Open Meetings Act compliance, acequia easements, elections, and infrastructure planning, financial compliance, among other topics.  CLICK HERE TO REVIEW full Education Coordinator job description, overview of responsibilities, and qualification requirements.

Acequia Program Assistant: The Acequia Program Assistant is a full-time position. The primary responsibilities of the position are assist the Acequia Governance Team in providing services for acequias such as consultation on water rights, infrastructure, mapping, and governance as well as to provide education to youth and stakeholders about acequias. This includes assistance with database management and generation of reports. The Program Assistant will work as part of NMAA’s Acequia Governance Team which meets regularly. CLICK HERE TO REVIEW full Program Assistant job description, overview of responsibilities, and qualification requirements.

Anyone interested in applying for these positions should submit a letter of interest and resume via email to juliet@lasacequias.org. The positions will remain open until filled. Questions should be directed the same email or by calling the NMAA at 505-995-9644. 

Remembering Carlos Cisneros

By Paula Garcia, NMAA Executive Director

It is impossible to discuss the acequia movement in New Mexico during the past three decades without including Senator Carlos Cisneros as a major player. He was one of the longest-serving Senators and his passing came as a sudden shock to his friends, loved ones, and supporters. He was a staunch advocate of acequias during his 34 year tenure as a lawmaker, sponsoring numerous bills and memorials for acequias over the years in close partnership and solidarity with the state’s acequia leadership.

The first time I met Senator Cisneros, he was walking in a parade for the Mora fiestas sometime in the 1980s. Years later, as the new Executive Director of the NMAA in 1998, I met him again as Chairman of the Senate Conservation Committee, the gateway through which all water bills must pass. Over the years, he would be the key sponsor of acequia and water bills, many of them with Speaker Ben Lujan of Nambe.

Over the years, he became not only an ally in our acequia cause, but also a close friend. Most of the time I spent with him was at the Capitol or at interim committee meetings. In between talking about legislation and politics, I learned a little bit about his personal history, including that he was the youngest in a large family and his parents died when he was a boy. He was raised mostly by an older sister who he continued to visit on a regular basis and help with chores around the house and yard. His parents operated a ranch and he remained connected to Acequia del Llano in Questa. Although he was not an active rancher, his roots in the land informed his values as a legislator and eventually as one of New Mexico’s greatest acequia advocates.

He started his role in leadership with his union at the mine in Questa. He was a welder, eventually earning a leadership role as a union steward. He became a Taos County Commissioner and was later appointed to the State Senate, where he would continue to serve for over three decades. He once told me that when he started as a Senator, he would work the graveyard shift at the mine and drive to Santa Fe for the legislative session the next morning. He continued to be a staunch supporter of labor and unions during his long career as a lawmaker.

Our current NMAA President, Harold Trujillo, often credits Carlos Cisneros with being a co-founder of the organization, since he passed a memorial in 1989 commemorating the founding of the organization. It wasn’t until the late 1990s, when NMAA began to be engaged in legislative advocacy, that the Senator would begin passing a string of legislation that would re-shape the water policy framework in New Mexico by strengthening the water management and governance powers of acequias. Over the course of two decades, starting in 1998, the Senator would sponsor legislation with origins in NMAA’s grassroots policy advocacy.

Perhaps his most significant pieces of acequia legislation were those that he passed in 2003, with Speaker Ben Lujan as the co-sponsor in the House of Representatives: 1) acequia authority to approve or deny water transfer applications and 2) acequia authority to operate water banks to internally reallocate water rights and prevent loss for non-use. Following these bills, Senator Cisneros also created a funding stream for the Acequia and Community Ditch Education Program, which to this day is a major funding source for NMAA’s education and outreach work. Since the establishment of the program, NMAA has worked directly with over 500 acequias in updating their bylaws and developing infrastructure plans.

Even when acequia bills encountered opposition from strong interests, such as real estate developers or industry, he remained steadfast in his support of acequias. One of our elders said about him, “El Carlos no se raja.” (In English, “Carlos never gives up.”)

One of the controversial pieces he carried was a memorial about Otowi gage, a gaging point that has been a barrier to transfers from northern New Mexico to the areas south, including Santa Fe and Albuquerque. His memorial stated that it was in the public welfare of the State of New Mexico that the existing policy of not allowing transfers across the gage as a de-facto protection for areas north of the gage (located north of Pojoaque). After a three hour floor debate and split vote, Carlos remarked, “You acequias are getting me in the middle of all your battles!”

He would later go on to sponsor legislation affirming acequia easements, clarifying the flexibility in the width of acequia easements, providing stronger enforcement powers for acequias, clarifying tort immunity for acequia volunteers, and providing protections for land fallowed as a result of drought from losing their agricultural special valuation method. Most recently, he passed a bill requiring improved public notice procedures for water right applications after learning at a Land Grant Interim committee that rural communities were not being properly notified about water transfers.

During all of the years of carrying acequia bills, he served not only as a sponsor but also a teacher and mentor on the legislative process. He would always insist that when carrying a bill that we as the NMAA team diligently work to gain the support of his fellow legislators. He would say, “Make everyone understand why acequias are important and then you can gain support for your bills.” He took an active interest in every step of the process and would go the extra mile to be present for votes, sometimes running back and forth in the Capitol when he had committee hearings scheduled concurrently. Over the years, we also forged friendships with his staff and analysts who he urged to help us in every way possible to get bills passed.

An area where he had some of his greatest impact was with funding. He ensured that every year the acequia program was funded with $1.9 million in recurring funding to the Interstate Stream Commission. In years when there was more Capital Outlay, such as in 2014 and most recently in 2019, he took the lead in adding another $2 million for the ISC acequia program. Additionally, the culmination of these years of funding advocacy was to create the Acequia and Community Ditch Infrastructure Fund – a highlight of his legislative career.

In the 2019 legislation session, Senator Cisneros, with co-sponsors Senator Pete Campos, Senator Richard Martinez, as well as House Representatives Andrea Romero and Bobby Gonzales, passed legislation creating a $2.5 million fund with recurring funding from the Irrigation Works Construction Fund, a trust fund intended for irrigation and a beneficiary of the Land Grant Permanent Fund. This ensures a steady, recurring source of funding for acequia projects for generations to come.

New Mexico lost in Senator Carlos Cisneros a champion for the rights of rural communities to retain control and democratic decision-making over their water. He understood the unique issues facing rural New Mexico and remained a steadfast advocate throughout his career. As an acequia champion, he lifted our voices to the highest levels of policymaking in New Mexico and gave us a seat at the table. He never wavered in his support for acequias, even in the face of strong political forces that countered our collective efforts. He used his position for good. For that, we remember Senator Carlos Cisneros with great affection, con mucho carino. Estimado Senador, gracias por su apoyo y su liderazco. Estamos muy agradecidos. We are grateful for the life you lived and the fights that you fought on our behalf.

2019 Acequia Summer Conference: Young Voices, Hope for Hemp, and Mapping our Future

NMAA’s 2019 summer conference will be a vibrant gathering with diverse and intergenerational voices engaged in conversations about the future of our acequias. Young farmers and ranchers will share their stories and insights about the future of acequia agriculture. Hemp growers will assess the 2019 growing season and contemplate plans for 2020. Lastly, a network of acequia-centered mapping projects will share their motivations for mapping and its use as a tool for protection and use of acequias.

August 23rd, 2019

9:30am-3:00pm

Los Luceros Community Room

253 Co Rd 41Ohkay Owingeh, NM 87566

Please register for this workshop at www.lasacequias.org or directly at this link

or call the NMAA office  at (505) 995-9644

Sponsored by the New Mexico Acequia Association with support from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Acequias & Climate Change: Learning Together and Adapting for the Future

Join acequias for a day of learning and dialogue about a future shaped by climate change. The day will include an overview of the impacts of climate change on New Mexico’s watersheds and rivers from Dr. David Gutzler, UNM professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences followed by interactive discussions about repartimiento traditions (old and new), water harvesting, infrastructure improvements, building healthy soils, and other adaptations. We will explore practical responses as well as how climate change will affect our advocacy on water, land, energy, and agriculture policy.

June 27th 2019

9:00am-3:30pm

Juan I Gonzales Agricultural Building

Taos, NM

Please register for this workshop at: https://form.jotform.com/91636531656159

Or RSVP with the NM Acequia Association at (505) 995-9644 or email Olivia@lasacequias.org

 

Sponsored by the New Mexico Acequia Association, Embudo Valley Regional Acequia Association, Taos Valley Acequia Association, Rio Chama Acequia Association, and La Asociación de las Acequias del Valle de Mora.

Acequia Infrastructure Projects Funded

West Sandoval Ditch Bank Stabalization in Jemez, NM -Photo taken by Juanita Revak

Written by Paula Garcia, Executive Director of NMAA

The State Legislature passed an ambitious $7 billion budget in HB 2 which increased spending for education and road projects. The legislature also approved a capital outlay bill with over $900 million in spending for projects across the state, which are listed in SB 280 by county and by agency.

Overall, acequia budget priorities were included in the budget and capital outlay bills. The NMAA did not make any requests for additional program funding in HB 2 and the funding for FY2020 is the same as it was for the current year: $1.9 million for the acequia program at the Interstate Stream Commission, $398,000 for acequia education at the Local Government Division of DFA, $88,000 for the NM Acequia Commission, and a flat budget for the Acequia and Community Ditch Fund at the Department of Agriculture.

In the Capital Outlay bill, the highlight is a $2 million appropriation for Acequia Projects Statewide to the Interstate Stream Commission. This is in addition to the $1.9 million to the ISC for the acequia program. A similar appropriation was made to the ISC in 2014 and it was expended to support acequia construction projects over the course of three years.

Also, in the Capital Outlay bill, most of the acequias that requested funding were granted capital outlay appropriations. On the high end, Farmers Mutual Ditch in San Juan County, which serves over 600 irrigators and over 4,000 acres, received $3.2 million for water conveyance improvements. Most other appropriations ranged from $10,000 to $250,000. A complete list of acequias receiving Capital Outlay, totaling 39, is listed under the SB 280 agency list under the Interstate Stream Commission. The total on acequia capital outlay projects for FY2020 is $5.6 million.

Urgent Action Needed: Oppose Preemption of Local Seed Laws

You may remember that during last year’s NM legislative session, we came together in opposition to HB161, a bill which would have preempted local governments from enacting ordinances to regulate the cultivation and production of seeds. That bill was tabled in committee.

We have learned that the biotech industry lobbied the legislature and inserted a last-minute amendment into the budget bill, HB 2, that directs the NM Department of Agriculture to promulgate rules for seed regulation (page 141 of SFC report, New Mexico State University section 6):

“The general fund appropriation includes sufficient funding to the department of agriculture at New Mexico state university to promulgate rules to solely regulate seed.”

Like HB161 from 2018, this language seeks to grant the state the sole authority to regulate seeds and to preempt local jurisdictions from seed regulation. This would prevent cities and counties from enacting ordinances that protect native seeds from GMO seeds, for example. For more background on this issue, read this article from The New Mexico Food and Seed Sovereignty Alliance https://lasacequias.org/2018/03/29/seeds-preemption-bill-tabled-2018-legislative-session/

Please contact Governor Lujan-Grisham and urge her to line item veto the seed preemption language in HB2.

Email the Governor https://www.governor.state.nm.us/contact-the-governor/

Call the Governor’s office: (505) 476-2200

Please Support NMAA and the Next Generation of Acequia Farmers this GivingTuesday!

In a thirty year average, 2018 is in the bottom tier for the worst year of precipitation and snowpack in New Mexico. Acequia leaders recalled the strategies of their ancestors and revived old water sharing agreements drawing upon tradition farming methods to maintain agricultural operations during times of uncertainty. It is important now more than ever to have a network of acequias statewide to share strategies, experiences and lessons learned!

This year the NM Acequia Association responded to the drought by successfully organizing acequia workshops and gatherings that helped farmers strategize on creating water sharing agreements, farming models that adapt to climate change, and affirm cultural customs in their respective communities. Farmers learned from one another how to utilize new technologies to efficiently irrigate and focus on enhancing soils to absorb more water when it is available.

Despite the challenges we collectively face as acequias, there are increasing numbers seeking guidance and support on governance, infrastructure funding, and intergenerational participation in our acequias. We must celebrate the endurance of the acequia tradition and looks toward our next generation as their insight and engagement will project the acequias into a sustainable future!

Los Sembradores crew working in Chamisal, NM -Photo taken by Donne Gonzales

The NM Acequia Association is has stepped up our efforts to keep youth and young adults connected and involved with their acequias. Our community-based Los Sembradores Farmer Training Program creates opportunities for aspiring farmers to gain hands-on experience and knowledge, engage in leadership development, and cultivate querencia or a love of the land.

 “Over the past year as a participant in the Sembradores farmer training program, I have been offered the space and support to learn from community members and elders in my life-long journey as a local farmer, student, and caretaker of our precious seeds and waters.”-–Emily Arasim

 “This year, having the opportunity to be part of Los Sembradores Training Program, I’ve realized how farming can be a lifelong learning journey. …taking care of the land, water, and seeds that have been passed down through my family is where my heart is” –Essence Quintana

NMAA needs your support to continue to build on this work. Please become a member, donate or renew your membership!! We are counting on you to continue to defend the precious waters of our communities, to support our acequias, and to empower our youth!

Donate now! https://lasacequias.org/product/donate/

#GivingTuesday

Protect Pollinators & Your Water Rights

Pollinators at the Embudo Valley Library in Dixon, New Mexico -Photo taken by Adrienne Rosenberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Adrienne Rosenberg

My heart sank as I drove over the bridge last week. Here on both sides of Highway 75, the Embudo River pockmarked the stream bed interrupting mud and cobble and willow. It pooled right around the presa for Acequia de la Plaza but went no further. Today my heart broke. It is completely dry on both sides of the bridge.

Most of us who read the New Mexico Acequia Association newsletter know that our acequias, while resilient, are extremely vulnerable. We not only know, we are experiencing it firsthand. Land division, residential development of agricultural land, water fragmentation due to urbanization, climate change, loss of traditional knowledge, aging population of parciantes, etc. all contribute to the potential deterioration of our communities’ most precious resource and our rights to it. Similarly, our native pollinators (bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, flies, and beetles) are experiencing grave decline. Land loss and fragmentation of habitat, climate change (which affects timing of blooms, pollinator lifecycles, and etc.), pesticide poisoning, and disease are all causes to their perils. It is no coincidence that the challenges to our acequias and our native pollinators overlap as they are interdependent features of our landscape. Yet within this mutual tragedy of each, there is a solution for both. I propose that by planting pollinator refuges, we can preserve and support pollinators, water rights, and the land itself.

Pollinator refuges are spaces that are intentionally planted to invite pollinators to forage and create nesting sites. When I emailed NMAA Staff Attorney Enrique Romero about whether pollinator refuges could be considered legally a ‘beneficial use’ of acequia waters, he commented, “In my opinion, it is beneficial use provided that irrigation is occurring in a manner that is not wasteful and there is substantial effort on the part of the water right owner to irrigate and ‘cultivate’ the garden.  Another important aspect of this question is whether the ‘gardens’ are actually planted or part of the native vegetation that would grow without irrigation.  Case law on the subject of beneficial use suggests that whether a use is beneficial depends on whether the community in which the use is taking place considers the use beneficial, i.e. whether it is ‘socially accepted’ as a beneficial use.” My hope is that by reading this article, members of acequias across New Mexico and Southern Colorado will begin to consider pollinator refuges as socially acceptable use of the water.

The European honeybee, Apis mellifera. -Photo taken by Melanie Kirby

Pollinators are a keystone species, because many other species rely on pollinators for their survival. As indicator species, their health signifies the health of the surrounding ecosystem. Even though riparian areas represent only 2% of the overall area in the southwestern desert, it is not hard to imagine pollinators being a crucial element to the delicacy of these ecosystems. For example, studies have demonstrated that diverse plant communities along the riparian areas support insects which become food for fish.  Bosque habitats have been documented to support 42% of mammals, 38% birds, 33% reptiles, and 13% of the amphibians of the arid West. And more than 90% of birds rely on insects during at least one stage of their life. Our acequias expand these riparian areas as well as provide habitat for various species, including native pollinators.

Given that so many are unable to farm their fields, a pollinator refuge may be a simple solution for using the water in a low impact, low maintenance way while maintaining water rights. Three years ago, I planted a pollinator garden behind the Embudo Valley Library with a grant from the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and the help of several volunteers. I selected wildflower and grass seeds that were native to the high desert and drought tolerant. I also planted hedges and perennials as well as built pollinator hotels and drilled holes into logs. My intention was to make the garden as low maintenance as possible while also planning for upcoming water shortages on the ditch. Since the first season, I have hardly weeded as the garden has suppressed most of the unwanted plants, including bindweed. The wildflower meadow can also serve as a cover crop that maintains the soil biome and keeps the top soil intact all growing season. Furthermore, the garden has benefited the community as a seedbank for those who wish to invite pollinators to their land. Each year in the garden, I revel in the return of lacewings, ladybugs, wasps, bumble bees, swallowtails, and more as well as the stain glass, season long array of blooms.

Native pollinators are equally if not more important to pollinating crops and native plants than the honey bees, which were introduced to North America and did not evolve with our native ecosystems. Considered to be potentially more “efficient” and “effective”, native pollinators, as studies indicate, are well suited to our native plants as well as many of our food crops. However, the same efforts to support the health of native pollinators will also bolster honey bees since each peruse many of the same flowers. Since the intention for a pollinator refuge is to have a Spring until Fall succession of blooms, a parciante may be able to rent their field to a beekeeper to earn some extra income and be able to receive help with irrigation. We can call the parciante a sort of passive micro-rancher.

As farmers and ranchers, we are the barometers of climate change. Scientists can eloquently quantify the effects, but we can both quantify and qualify them, because we experience these calamities intimately. Therefore, we are the ones who are proactive in maintaining our communities’ dignity and livelihood. By providing habitat in the form of contiguous pollinator refuges, we can repopulate our watersheds with pollinator habitat while promoting pollination and maintaining the access to our water. This year may not be the year to plant more than what we can water, but consider scattering some seeds for our pollinators and for our acequias in the Fall with hopes of next Spring.

Email me with comments or suggestions at Rosenberg.adrienne@gmail.com.

Resources:

Bio: Adrienne Rosenberg lives in Embudo, New Mexico. She owns Woven Web Farm, which grows gourmet mushrooms, and is an audio documentarian. Her work has focused on local knowledge and stories of resilience through the land.

 

Community Spotlight: Acequia del Rincon

“Gilbert Joe Montoya proudly holds up his maiz grown from Acequia del Rincon” -Photo submitted to Martha Trujillo

Martha Montoya-Trujillo, is a lifelong resident of Pojoaque, NM and is the current Secretary of Acequia del Rincon. Martha is wife to Alex Trujillo, Mayordomo of the Acequia del Rincon since 1995. She is also board member of the New Mexico Acequia Association, Los Amigos de Los Luceros, and a Member of Northern New Mexicans Protecting Land Water and Rights.

 

The name “Acequia del Rincon”, noun  rincón: (ángulo) corner inside; (inside) is true to its name.  The diversion point is within the corner of the Nambe and Pojoaque Pueblo exterior boundaries dating back to 1739, in the Nambe, Pojoaque, Tesuque Basin (NPT Basin).

Much of our history is documented in the odd shaped red on white journals, yes, the journals that everyone knew were not to be touched but treasured and preserved under the care of the Commissioners of the Acequia (ditch).    In the possession of the commissioners is a recorded entry dated Abril 21 de 1900 documenting Reglas de la Acequia Del Rincon En Pojoaque, New Mexico.  The history of our ancestors told with each handwritten entry, in script font penning the gastos (spending), the treasurers report, the reglas (rules), the derechos of the acequia and the lay of the land. Not only do we have the history of rules and water rights, but what a gift to see our ancestry of primos (relatives) passing down the roles and tradition to their children and their children’s children.

Over hundreds of years the legacy, dedication, and responsibility has not missed a beat!  Past Commissioners and Mayordomos memories of yesteryears speak affectionately of their fathers as commissioners and mayordomos and the work that needed to be done out of necessity , all the while comparing those hardships to the luxuries of today.  Rudy Roybal, a former Treasurer for 23 years recalls his father, Meliton Roybal,  having to pull dirt from the acequia madre to stop the water and divert it into the lateral, year after year.  With the luxury of a modern day compuerta (headgate) makes Rudy’s life much easier.  You hear Rudy’s voice soften as he remembers his father and smiles.

Alex Trujillo, Martha Trujillo and Gilbert Montoya harvesting corn in 1995 -Photo submitted by Martha Trujillo

Many of our farmers are between 60 and 80 years of age. The old traditions are hard for them to break because of their ingrained duty to work and love of land but the hardship of keeping the land thriving has proven to be an evergrowing challenge. For some producers the challenge is age, equipment to work the land, funds needed to plant crops and risk of loss due to lack of water and usage.    The challenges ahead will prove to be a testament to us and the next generation, as we are all called to be good stewards of what has been entrusted to us.

A tradition, years ago, families with derechos would report for a day  or two  for the “limpia” (cleaning) of the acequia.  In late April in preparation for the irrigation season,  fathers and sons took a tarea (task, work) per derecho.  Around lunch time, the peones (workers) would be close to our house, and mom would make a traditional meal of corn fritters with red chile, tortillas and beans. The back ground music was usually the sound of files sharpening shovels and off to work, but still back home around 5pm with plenty of energy for an evening with a cold drink and a night out.

Today, our limpia is not celebrated. The cross road is cost and effectiveness, so it is now contracted.   Water is released by March 1st, pushing through parts of the acequia that is cement, dirt or pipe.   Each transition  presenting a different challenge, but the water manages to make its way, enduring hundreds of years, never changing, and always ready for its yearly tarea coming out of a dry winter in a desert land.

Acequia del Rincon Commissioners and Pojoaque Pueblo Leaders stand proudly in front for their new presa -Photo submitted by Martha Trujillo

As Commissioners we have encouraged parciantes to use the land, be more creative in the delivery of water by using more efficient systems such as underground piping and drip irrigation systems.   In 2017 we completed the reconstruction of a fifty plus year old Presa (dam or weir) in collaboration with the Pueblo of Pojoaque who are also parciantes of the Rincon.

How did we manage in the past?  Pure NEED to survive, there was no romance in the back breaking work of digging a presa, cleaning the acequia after a flood, rebuilding a dam in the middle of the river,  using  rama ( tree branches) and rocks to divert the water.  But, that did not stop production of provision for families.

I know my dad planted out of necessity, with 12 mouths to feed. He planted fields of sweet corn (sometimes blue), beans and squash while managing to keep the pigs and goats contained (well at least most of the time).  Now, this same land is divided into smaller parcels planted mostly with memories, our inspiration for the future!