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Parkview Community Ditch

Acequia Landscape in Los Brasoz, NM -Photo taken by Quita Ortiz

The NMAA has formally joined the Parkview Community Ditch in its efforts to uphold a district court decision that found that the acequia did nothing wrong in conducting its annual meeting and election in Spanish.  The NMAA, along with the New Mexico Land Grant Council, two acequias and two land grants, will file an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in the later part of December urging the New Mexico Court of Appeals to uphold the lower court’s ruling.  The Court’s decision will likely have widespread implications for acequias and land grants that conduct their meetings in Spanish.

Acequia New Year’s Resolution: Become a Member of the NM Acequia Association!

Acequia Madre de San Jose de la Cienega still flowing in the winter -Photo taken by Marty Vigil

As 2017 comes to a close, acequias can reflect on a fulfilling and challenging year! We enjoyed Summer rains and a bountiful harvest, only to be followed by an unseasonably dry Fall. With the ups and downs of the seasons, we continue our diligence in planning for the future while we hope for a good snowpack and Spring runoff. The NMAA continued the vital work of protecting acequia water rights and revitalizing our land-based economy. As we look to the coming year, we are asking for your support to continue our mission of protecting acequias through education, organizing, and advocacy.

Join the NMAA and together we can protect our acequias!

NMAA is a unique organization that honors our ancient legacy of water governance while also working to adapt for the future. For nearly 30 years, NMAA has been responding to challenges through communication, training, and education for acequias. Together we have built a movement around the principle that Water is Life, El Agua es Vida, and that we are defenders of the precious waters that nurture our communities.

NMAA is a membership based organization that depends on your support to continue our vital work! For the NMAA, 2017 was a time of centering on key priorities of protecting acequia water rights and creating a new generation of acequia farmers.

  • The NMAA assisted 333 acequias with assistance on governance and held over 20 workshops, acequia meetings, and events with 1,116 participants.
  • We also launched Los Sembradores Farmer Training Program and completed our first class of apprenticeships!

Our impact resulted in stronger local governance with better agricultural use and protection of acequia water rights.  During 2018, we will build on this success and continue to be a force for change in New Mexico by defending water, training community leaders, and building a new generation of acequia farmers!

Please join the NMAA or renew your membership on our website, www.lasacequias.org, or by calling our office at 505-995-9644. Thank you for all you do to keep our acequias vibrant and beautiful!!

Que Vivan las Acequias!


Nuestra Querencia -Luz, Tierra, Agua, Vida!

Comanches in Talpa, NM dancing for Dia de Manuel -Photo taken by Miguel Gandert


Written by, Enrique Lamadrid

Professor Lamadrid (Ph.D. University of Southern California) is a Professor of Spanish and former director of Chicano Hispano Mexicano Studies. His teaching and research interests include Southwest Hispanic and Latin American folklore and folk music, Chicano literature, and literary recovery projects. His research on the Indo-Hispanic traditions of New Mexico charts the influence of indigenous cultures on the Spanish language and imagination. His literary writings explore the borderlands between cultures, their natural environments, and between popular traditions and literary expression.


Allí viene amaneciendo,                      There comes the dawn,

yo sigo trabajando                             I keep on working

para mantener                                    to take care of

lo que yo quiero tanto.                        what I love so much.


-“Canto a la acequia” – David García y amigos

When we are born, our mother literally gives us the light. “Da luz,” we say in the language of our Iberian forebears. As soon as our eyes are accustomed to the brilliance, we memorize the features of her face. As we rise to walk upon the earth, we transpose her profile to those first intimate horizons: a house, cottonwoods by a river, an acequia, a field, a road, a distant line of hills beyond. Because we are human we see faces in the rocks. Clouds are animate visitors to this realm. Trees lift up their arms to greet them as they pass. The river at their feet is a messenger who sings of life and distant oceans. Drink from this stream and you are destined to return to its waters.

Querencia is the place of returning, the center space of desire, the wellspring of belonging and yearning to belong, a destination overflowing with life but suitable to die in, that vicinity where you first beheld the light. The place of birth or re-birth. Querencia is remembrance of harmony, a longing so profound even trees and stones share in its emotion: “Los palos, las piedras lloran / por verme salir cautiva.” In the old ballads of exile and captivity, a compassionate landscape is moved to tears by human suffering. “Este valle de lágrimas, this valley of tears” is the place of our pain and redemption, of the prayers we offer to the mother of pain.

In an arid land, home is always by the water. In the most primordial sense, Nuevo Mexico is P’osoge, the Río Bravo, Río del Norte, the great river that cuts its verdant course through the desert. Since all human beings need to be by the water, the banks of this river are by definition a contested space. The Españoles arrived with all the fury and suppressed desire of the Spanish peasant to possess the land and its waters. The price of arrogance was paid in blood in 1680 when the Río Grande Pueblos arose and reclaimed their heritage. When settlers returned in 1693, they were already calling themselves Españoles Mexicanos. In an alliance of necessity with the Pueblos, they all defended their valleys from the new lords of the land, los Comanches, los Apaches, los Yutas. Captives were taken by all sides in the conflict and an economy of slavery emerged. Human beings in trade were worth more than livestock, more than the produce of the land. In the space of a few mestizo generations, the newcomers who sought title to the land were instead possessed by the land. As they became Nuevomexicanos, indigenous to this place, the boundaries of the Campo Santo, the Sacred Ground, spread past the narrow church yard and the bones of the dead towards valleys, plains, and mountains beyond. Tierra sagrada.

Matachines y Malinche dancing for Dia de San Ysidro in the South Valley of Albuquerque -Photo taken by Miguel Gandert

In the center of this sacred landscape are the native and mestizo peoples who have survived the rigors of the northern desert and the cost of each other’s desire. They are dancing. From Taos to El Paso del Norte they step in unison to the insistent but gentle music of drums and rattles, guitars and violins. Two intertwined traditions of Indo-Hispano danza emerged. The Matachines reconcile the spiritual conflicts of colonization. The Comanches honor the fierce struggles of our history and remember its victims and survivors, los Comanchitos. Both are rituals from which our communities draw their strength and desire to defend their heritage. Acequia culture is built in this bedrock.


Se defiende lo que se ama,                 You defend what you love

se ama lo que se entiende,                  you love what you understand,

se aprecia lo que se enseña.                to appreciate what you are taught.                 

Amar es aprender a defender.             To love is to learn to defend


–   Estevan Arellano

El agua no se vende,

                                                el agua se defiende.

¡que vivan las acequias!


 Note: In this continuing series of cultural sketches, Olivia Romo, NMAA and Enrique Lamadrid invite readers to submit poetry and cultural documentation of the rituals of water.


Pre-Adjudication Strategies

Community Members gathered to learn about the Abeyta Water Settlement at the Taos County Agricultural Center on Saturday (March 4).

Written by Enrique Romero, NMAA Staff Attorney

Water rights adjudications can take many forms.  An adjudication court (state or federal) can determine groundwater rights only, or both surface and groundwater, either at the same time or at a different time during an adjudication.  Adjudications may involve a single stream system and its tributaries, or just a tributary of a larger stream.  A large river, like the Rio Grande or the Rio Chama, may be broken into segments, and each segment may be adjudicated separately.  Like any lawsuit, adjudications can result in settlements between parties.  Despite the differences, water rights adjudications in New Mexico have several things in common.  The purpose of this article is to describe some of the common characteristics associated with water rights adjudications and ways parciantes and acequias can best prepare for adjudication.

A water rights adjudication is a civil lawsuit that involves the State of New Mexico, via the Office of the State Engineer (OSE), and water right claimants.  A claimant is anyone that may claim to be the owner of a water right in the adjudication.  The State brings the lawsuit, and is therefore the plaintiff, and the claimants are the defendants, and therefore defend against inaccurate claims made by the State pertaining to the use of water.  The bottom-line on this point is that lawsuits are time-intensive and require resources.  Anytime someone defends a legal right in court, there is a lot at stake.  While courts in most cases allow a party to proceed pro se – without an attorney – a water right claimant and an acequia will likely need to retain an attorney at some point during an adjudication.  Because water rights are a type of property right – and in the arid southwest a property right of high economic, cultural and historical value – water right owners should assume that those rights will be challenged during adjudication.  Do not wait for an adjudication to begin to understand the implications of losing your water rights.  The better informed you are about the process and the full extent of your rights, the better prepared you will be to present your own defense initially and if you have to retain a lawyer, you’ll be ready to evaluate his or her advice.

Because a water rights adjudication is a type of lawsuit, proper notice and service is required for a decision of the court to be binding on the water right claimant.  The Office of the State Engineer is required to review legal records, including its own records (change of ownership forms), records of acequias, and county clerk records to determine who potential water right claimants are and should therefore be included as defendants in the adjudication. Parciantes do themselves a disservice by not being included as early as possible in adjudication.  For example, water right owners of record will have a certain amount of time to respond to offers from the State or to orders from the court.  It is better to have enough time to thoughtfully respond to the State or the court than argue later that you had no notice of a particular deadline.  Keep ownership information current with your acequia.  If you subdivide irrigable land and deed the land to your children, for example, inform the acequia immediately and encourage your children to record their deeds with the county clerk and file change of water right ownership forms with the OSE.

Las Nueve del Rio Grande Acequia Association organize a community campaign to declare water rights -Photo taken by NMAA staff

Another source of information the OSE will use when compiling information for adjudications are declarations.  Individual parciantes, and sometimes acequias, file water right declarations with the district office of the State Engineer that indicate the extent of the pre-1907 water right claimed in the declaration.  Statute provides that the contents of the declaration are “prima facie evidence of the truth of [the declaration’s] contents.”  This provision sets up a presumption that the information declared is the extent of the water right and the State has the burden of overcoming that presumption by presenting contrary evidence.  So, the declaration serves two purposes.  First, in conjunction with a change of ownership form, the individual parciante named in the declaration may be notified when an adjudication is underway.  Second, the parciante, not the State, has established the basis of the water right that any party challenging the water right must come to terms with.

Every adjudication initiated by the State begins with a hydrographic survey in which the OSE maps out current water use and, in the case of surface water, assigns a tract number to the irrigated parcel.  The hydrographic survey serves as the basis for an offer from the State for a water right.  If the OSE’s staff that prepared the survey determined that no irrigation was taking place at the time of a site visit of a parcel, the owner of that parcel can expect to receive a no right offer or an incomplete offer that may only recognize the amount of land actually irrigated at the time of the visit.  Occasionally, the OSE completely leaves out tracts that are irrigated or have a history of irrigation.  In those cases, it is possible that no offer will be made and it may be up to the claimant to file an omitted claim (“omitted” because it was not part of the hydrographic survey) during the adjudication.  The best way for a parciante to have water rights recognized in a hydrographic survey is to irrigate.  It is unlikely that a water right owner will receive advance notice that OSE staff is compiling information on each parcel served by an acequia.  Therefore, parciantes should be vigilant in irrigating every few years so that they are not put in the position of having to contest a no right offer.  After all, the New Mexico constitution provides that beneficial use is the basis, the measure, and the limit of the right to use water.

Cebolleta Acequia Assocation discusses the Keer-McGee Adjudication -Photo taken by Maria Gallegos

Finally, the importance of pre-adjudication organizing cannot be overstressed.  Regional associations of acequias – before, during, and after adjudication – have proven to be a source of unity and strength in contesting claims of non-use or negotiating the best possible outcome for acequias within a stream system.  Public money is available through the Acequia and Community Ditch Fund to help acequias during adjudications pay for legal and technical defense costs.  While individual acequias have a key role in preparing parciantes for adjudications – especially by keeping membership lists current, having regular meetings and elections, and updating bylaws – regionals associations can take a more expansive view and support and reinforce their member acequias’ efforts.


18th Annual Congreso Feature

State of Acequias Address 2017 -Photo taken by Seth Roffman

Written by Olivia Romo, NMAA Staff

On November 4, 2017 over 275 acequia farmers, leaders, and advocates gathered at the Santa Maria de la Paz parish hall in Santa Fe to honor the profound role acequias play in the future of agriculture in New Mexico. This year’s theme “La Sabiduria del Agua: Stories of Enduring Acequias” highlighted testimonies of farmers who are organizing to defend water from urban development, to defend their water rights in adjudication, and commemorate the next generation of farmers. This year we were honored to have Deacon Eloy Roybal who sanctified the acequia waters offered in our annual Bendición de las Aguas. NMAA was delighted to welcome esteemed candidates and elected officials as well to the annual meeting.

The Congreso was a day filled with laughter, music, tears, and celebration! A community memorial and altar was built in dedication of the recently passed acequia leader Josie Lujan who committed years of her life to the Rio Quemado, Rio en Medio, Rio Frijoles & the Rio Santa Cruz Acequia Association. Paula Garcia, Executive Director of the NMAA gave the 2017 State of the Acequias address which celebrated and honored the powerful contributions of acequia to agriculture in New Mexico.

(L/R) Leon Tafoya, Mayordomo of San Jose de la Cienega, Peter Salazar, President of Cubero Acequia Assoication and Andrew Chavez, Secretary of Cubero Acequia Association -Photo taken by Seth Roffman

Next, distinguished acequia leaders and advocates discussed their organizing efforts in defense of their water rights. Peter Salazar and Andrew Chavez of the Cubero Land Grant spoke of their recent initiative in forming an acequia association in order to have a representative body in the Keer-McGee Adjudication. Afterward, a compelling testimony from Community organizer Jenny Greb of CESSOS discussed the hydrological problems and opposition to the Santolina Development on the West Side of Albuquerque. Jenny emphasized “that the development would use one-and-a-half times more water annually than that consumed every year in Santa Fe and is only one example of an outside threat to local water”.

Community Organizer Jenne Greb presented about the impact of the Santolina Development -Photo taken by Seth Roffman

The room was then infused with youthful energy as Sembrando Semillas participants and Los Sembradores farmer trainees gave memorable presentations as the upcoming generations of farmers and ranchers. Shane Tolbert, Farmer Apprentice with pride stated, “For us it’s become a form of activism; we consider ourselves water warriors and as the acequia traditions changes hands to the next generation, we are looking for other young farmers to stand with us” Nicanor Ortega, an apprentice, prayed and meditated with the crowd reflecting that, “The only thing that is going to keep us safe is water and seeds.” Matthew Encinas expressed his gratitude for the program creating community and giving him the tools to return to the land. Donne and Edward Gonzales who lead the Sembradores program shared the triumphs and challenges of the year.

Teatro Acequiero (l/r: Olivia Romo, Gabriel Olguin, and John Gonzales) -Photo taken by Seth Roffman

We were then entertained by Teatro Acequiero, a group of farmers from the Taos Valley Acequia Association who are using Gorilla Theater to inspire and invigorate the acequia communities in Taos. They came in with shovels, boots, and told a story that left the crowd in laughter! A delightful lunch catered by Theresa’s Tamales of Cleveland, NM.  Following lunch the 2017 acequias awards were bestowed upon Wilfred Romero, recipient of the Mayordomo of the year award from Acequia de la Cañada Ancha and David F Garcia, Ph.D. recipient of Acequia Scholar of the Year from El Guache, NM.

Gilbert Sandoval, Mayordomo and Chairman of the Rio Jemez Coalition of Acequias -Photo taken by Seth Roffman

The day concluded with a presentation by Enrique Romero, 21st “Century Powers vs. 19th Century Powers of Acequias. Enrique then introduced lifelong acequia leaders; Edward Romero, Mayordomo for Acequia de la Joya, Gilbert Sandoval, Jemez River Coalition of Acequias and Gabriel Estrada, Rio Gallinas Acequia Association to give presentations regarding community based governance and the challenges or opportunities in managing water. Gilbert Sandoval passionately testified about some of the water sharing negotiations between Jemez, Zia Pueblo and the acequias during their adjudication process. He shared a story of having a breakthrough on their adjudication process when “Governor Pino and we right there decided to hold a meeting with no bureaucrats or lawyers and crafted a shortage sharing agreement and took it to the judge for a blessing. I can still remember the words of my father, ‘We are going to settle in good will’ and because of that we are going back to mediation and hold lots of meetings.”

NMAA would like to thank in a special way our sponsors who helped us organize another successful Congreso: TEWA Women United, NM Land Conservancy, USDA, The Utton Center, and Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. We also would like to give a special thanks to our dedicated volunteers! Our event would not have happened without your all your muscle, time, and support: Priscilla Romo, Stacy Talachey, Cassidy Spillman, Antonio Gomez, Lucinda Vigil, Ignacio Gonzales, Angelica Vialpando.

#GivingTuesdayNM: Defend Acequias, Water Rights, and Agriculture!

Daniel Manzanares & Fermin Manzanares offer water from Acequia Abeyta y Trujillo in Abiquiu to be blessed at the annual Bendicion de las Aguas -Photo taken by Seth Roffman
For nearly 30 years, the NMAA has worked with communities to keep acequias flowing with clean water and to keep water rights in agriculture. Because of mounting development pressures and water scarcity, agricultural water rights are at risk in New Mexico. NMAA has engaged local leaders to strengthen acequia governance and protection of water rights through our Acequia Governance Project. Hundreds of Acequias, serving thousands of families in rural New Mexico, have benefited from protections enacted in state law and local bylaws through the collective advocacy and action of NMAA members.
Dedicated Acequieros of San Jose de la Cienega Sacando la Acequia in the snow -Photo taken by Beverly Tafoya
“The Association of the Community Ditches of the Rio San Jose has been a proud member of the NMAA for 12 years. It was with the help of the NMAA that our regional association was energized by updating bylaws for our 9 acequias but most importantly, educating and empowering our members regarding their water rights and statewide water issues. NMAA not only helps individual acequias, but acequias across the state in deep advocacy through the legislature, policy, and providing valuable resources to farmers. All people should know and support the NMAA because they are really instrumental in helping acequias. El Agua es la Vida!
– Leon Tafoya, Mayordomo of San Jose de la Cienega San Fidel, NM.
Please watch the Exclusive Trailer: Homage to the Acequias of the Rio an Josehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svAYTWGvpN8&feature=youtu.be
In addition to protecting water in agricultural communities, NMAA works through our Los Sembradores Farmer Training Project to support farmers through peer learning, on-site demonstration workshops, and farmer apprenticeships. Acequia agriculture contributes nearly $200 million to the state’s economy and NMAA provides opportunities to grow our local food systems and generate income for rural families. 
Los Sembradores Working the Rows in Chamisal, NM -Photo taken by Donne Gonzales
As a Veteran and now a Sembrador, I can farm my land full time and contribute to the culture by feeding our children and community. With all the life skills and mentor-ship I gained this year, I am ready for my next steps on my farm. This year in Arroyo Hondo con la Acequia Atalaya I was able to cultivate my property that was fallow for years. I was blessed with an arbejon crop that was also financially rewarding. With all the support and knowledge passed down through NMAA farmer training apprenticeship I look forward for the years to come farming my land and developing an opportunity para nuestra juventud!”
– Nicanor Ortega, 27 years old Farmer Apprentice Taos, NM
Acequias are woven into the fabric of New Mexico’s history, culture, community, and ecology.
Give today to support acequias and to continue a centuries-old water legacy in New Mexico! Donate Here

2017 Agricultural Census

Better data, better decisions: Upcoming census will capture a complete picture of New Mexico agriculture!   
In just a few months, America’s farmers and ranchers will have the opportunity to make a positive impact on their communities and industry by taking part in the Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census captures a complete count of all U.S. farms and ranches and those who operate them.

Even the smallest plots of land and those raising only a few animals during the census year are counted.

The census helps tell the whole story of U.S. agriculture. Without the information collected, we wouldn’t know that 3.3 million U.S. farmers and ranchers – only one percent of our total population – provide food, fuel, and fiber to the other 99 percent. The census remains the only source of uniform and comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the nation.
Census of Agriculture questionnaires will be mailed in December. Responses are due by February 5, 2018. Producers are highly encouraged to complete their forms https://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Online_Response/index.php. Improved this year, the online census form is convenient and dynamic – it can be accessed on your mobile phone, tablet, desk- or laptop. It’s user-friendly and saves time by calculating totals automatically and skipping questions that do not pertain to your operation.
Your answers to the census help grow your farm’s future, shape farm programs, and boost services for you, your community and your industry.
For more information about the Census, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov or call 1-888-4AG-STAT (1-888-424-7828). The Census of Agriculture is Your Voice, Your Future, Your Opportunity.

2017 Acequia Needs Assessment Survey

West Sandoval Ditch Bank Stabalization Juanita Revak


Dear Acequia Commissioner or Mayordomo,
Thank you so much for your contributions to your local acequia. The New Mexico Acequia Association is conducting a statewide acequia needs assessment and we need your participation.
The New Mexico Acequia Association is a non-profit statewide organization of Acequias and Regional Association of Acequias. Our mission is to protect historic acequia water rights and strengthen agricultural traditions.
We are requesting your voluntary participation in filling out that attached Acequia Survey. Acequias are defined as local governments and the information requested is considered public information which would be shared with the state of New Mexico. Your participation supports acequias across the state.
Please note that every year we change and update many of the questions.
Please respond by December 11th at the latest.
Methods of response:
Call the NMAA office: You can dictate your responses to staff and be done!
Paper survey:

Complete the enclosed survey and mail, fax or scan it back to us Download and Print NMAA Acequia Survey 2017
Special Thanks to the Acequias Who Have Completed the Survey!
Acequia County Stream System
Pueblo Lateral Bernalillo Rio Grande
Tigner #1 Community Ditch Grant Mimbres River
Upper Gila Ditch Grant Gila River
Chosas Ditch South Lincoln Rio Hondo
Frank Allison Ditch Lincoln Rio Hondo
Acequia de La Joya Mora Naciemento/La Sierra
Acequia del Canon de Luna Mora Luna Canyon
Rainsville Norte Mora Coyote Creek
Tularosa Community Ditch Otero Tularosa Creek
Abeyta-Trujillo Ditch Rio Arriba Rio Chama
Acequia de La Plaza de Dixon Rio Arriba Río Embudo
Acequia De Los Barriales Rio Arriba Rio Las Tusas
Cordova-Martinez Acequia Rio Arriba Rio Capulin
Puerco Ditch Rio Arriba Coyote
Farmer’s Mutual Ditch San Juan Upper Colorado
Halford Ditch San Juan Animas River
Acequia La Rosa de Costilla Sandoval Las Huertas Creek
Acequia Agua Fria Santa Fe Santa Fe River
Acequia de los Ortiz de Nambe Santa Fe Nambe River
Acequia del Llano Santa Fe Santa Fe River
Potrero Ditch Santa Fe Santa Cruz
Monticello Community Ditch Sierra Alamosa Creek
Acequia De Cerro De Guadalupe Taos West Latir Creek
*If you have any questions or if there is any way we can assist your acequia please feel free to contact Toribio at 505-995-9644 orToribio@lasacequias.org.