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An acequia (Spanish: [aˈθekja] ) or séquia (Valencian: [ˈsɛkia] ) is a community-operated watercourse used in Spain and former Spanish colonies in the Americas for irrigation. Particularly in Spain, the Andes, northern Mexico, and the modern-day American Southwest, acequias are usually historically engineered canals that carry snow runoff or river water to distant fields. Examples of acequias in New Mexico have lengthy historical roots to Pueblo and Hispano communities, and they are incorporated into traditions including the matachines, life in the Rio Grande Bosque of the Albuquerque metropolitan area, and pilgrimages to El Santuario de Chimayo.
The term can also refer to the long central pool in a Moorish garden, such as the Generalife in the Alhambra in Southern Iberia.
The Spanish word acequia (and Catalan séquia) comes from Classical Arabic as-sāqiya, which has the double entendre of 'the water conduit' or 'one that bears water' and the 'barmaid' (from سَقَى saqā, 'to give water, drink'). The Arabs brought the technology to Iberia during their occupation of the Iberian peninsula. The technology was adopted later by the Spanish and Portuguese (levadas on Madeira Island), utilized throughout their conquered lands, except in e.g. Mendoza, Argentina where acequias today run along both sides of all city streets but originally were dug all around by the indigenous Huarpes long before the arrival of the Spanish.
In the United States, the oldest acequias were established more than 400 years ago; many continue to provide a primary source of water for farming and ranching ventures in areas of the United States once occupied by Spain or Mexico including the region of northern New Mexico and south central Colorado known as the Upper Rio Grande watershed or Rio Arriba (see Rivera 1998).
Acequias are gravity chutes, similar in concept to flumes. Some acequias are conveyed through pipes or aqueducts, of modern fabrication or decades or centuries old (see transvasement). The majority, however, are simple open ditches with dirt banks. In many communities, the ditchbanks are important routes for non-motorized travel.
Researchers affiliated with the Rio Grande Bioregions Project at Colorado College initiated a pioneering collaborative, farmer-led, and interdisciplinary study of Colorado and New Mexico acequias in 1995-1999. Among the most significant findings of this study was that the acequia farms provide vital ecosystem and economic base services to the regions in which they are located. One study, as reported in Peña (2003), found that acequia agroecosystems promote soil conservation and soil formation, provide terrestrial wildlife habitat and movement corridors; protect water quality and fish habitat, promote the conservation of domesticated biodiversity of land race heirloom crops, and encourage the maintenance of a strong land and water ethic and sense of place, among other ecological and economic base values. This pioneering research on acequia ecosystem services, led by environmental anthropologist Devon G. Peña, has more recently been confirmed in other studies (Fernald et al., 2007, 2010, 2015; Raheem et al., 2015).
Known among water users simply as the Acequia, various legal entities embody the community associations, or acequia associations, that govern members' water usage, depending on local precedents and traditions. An acequia organization often must include commissioners and a majordomo who administers usage of water from a ditch, regulating which holders of water rights can release water to their fields on which days. In New Mexico, by state statute, acequias as registered bodies must have three commissioners and a mayordomo (see Rivera, 1998, pp. 59–60). Irrigation and conservation districts typically have their own version of mayordomos, usually referred to as "ditch riders" by members of the districts.
In recent years, acequias in New Mexico and Colorado have successfully developed and implemented changes in state water laws to accommodate the unique norms, customs, and practices of the acequia systems. The customary law of the acequia is older than and at variance with the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation, and the statutes promulgating acequia water law represent a rare instance of water pluralism in the context of Western water law in the United States (see Hicks and Peña 2003). For example, the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation is based on the principle of "first in use, first in right," while acequia norms incorporate not just priority but principles of equity and fairness. This is evident in the fact that Prior Appropriation considers water to be a commodity owned by private individuals while acequia systems treat water as a community resource that irrigators have a shared right to use, manage, and protect. While Prior doctrines allow for water to be sold away from the basin of origin, the acequia system prohibits the transference of water from the watershed in which it is situated and thus considers water as an "asset-in-place". The Prior regime is based on a governance regime in which the members of a mutual ditch company will vote based on their proportional ownership of shares so that larger farmers have more votes. In contrast, the acequia system follows a "one farmer, one vote" system that has led researchers to consider this a form of "water democracy" (see Rivera 1998; Peña 2003). Acequia water law also requires that all persons with irrigation rights participate in the annual maintenance of the community ditch including the annual spring time ditch cleanup known as the limpieza y saca de acequia.
Small hydro can be installed in irrigation canals for electricity generation."Irrigation districts across the U.S. have installed power plants at diversion points and in-canal drops, which are traditionally used for flow measurement, to stabilize upstream heads and to dissipate energy where there is significant elevation change throughout the canal system."
The Rio Grande is one of the principal rivers in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. The Rio Grande begins in south-central Colorado in the United States and flows to the Gulf of Mexico. After passing through the length of New Mexico along the way, it forms part of the Mexico–United States border. According to the International Boundary and Water Commission, its total length was 1,896 miles (3,051 km) in the late 1980s, though course shifts occasionally result in length changes. Depending on how it is measured, the Rio Grande is either the fourth- or fifth-longest river system in North America.
Questa is a village in Taos County, New Mexico, United States. The population was 1,770 at the 2010 census. The village has trails into the Rio Grande Gorge, trout fishing, and mountain lakes with trails that access the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that overlook the area. Questa is on the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, near the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Red River. The "Gateway to the Rio Grande del Norte Monument", its visitors can drive to an overlook of the Red River meeting the Rio Grande in the depth of the gorge. The Carson National Forest parallels Questa to the east. The Columbine Hondo Wilderness and Latir Peak Wildness are in the Carson National Forest close to Questa.
The Gila River is a 649-mile (1,044 km)-long tributary of the Colorado River flowing through New Mexico and Arizona in the United States. The river drains an arid watershed of nearly 60,000 square miles (160,000 km2) that lies mainly within the U.S., but also extends into northern Sonora, Mexico. Indigenous peoples have lived along the river for at least 2,000 years, establishing complex agricultural societies before European exploration of the region began in the 16th century. However, European Americans did not permanently settle the Gila River watershed until the mid-19th century.
The Espada Acequia, or Piedras Creek Aqueduct, was built by Franciscan friars in 1731 in what is now San Antonio, Texas, United States. It was built to supply irrigation water to the lands near Mission San Francisco de la Espada, today part of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. The acequia is still in use today and is an Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and a National Historic Landmark.
Water right in water law refers to the right of a user to use water from a water source, e.g., a river, stream, pond or source of groundwater. In areas with plentiful water and few users, such systems are generally not complicated or contentious. In other areas, especially arid areas where irrigation is practiced, such systems are often the source of conflict, both legal and physical. Some systems treat surface water and ground water in the same manner, while others use different principles for each.
An arroyo, also called a wash, is a dry creek, stream bed or gulch that temporarily or seasonally fills and flows after sufficient rain. Flash floods are common in arroyos following thunderstorms.
Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge is a United States National Wildlife Refuge located in southern Colorado. The refuge is located in the San Luis Valley south of the town of Monte Vista, Colorado in southeastern Rio Grande County, Colorado, in the watershed of the Rio Grande. It was established in 1953 by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission to provide a habitat for wildlife, particularly waterfowl, in the San Luis Valley.
Dixon is an unincorporated community located in Rio Arriba County in the U.S. state of New Mexico, on NM Highway 75, just east of NM Highway 68 in the north-central part of the state, and is about 20 miles (30 km) southwest of Taos. The elevation of Dixon is 6028 feet above sea level. It is on the banks of the Embudo River, a tributary of the Rio Grande. The Embudo flows into the Rio Grande two miles (3.2 km) downstream from Dixon. The town is the hometown of the late singer-songwriter Al Hurricane, also known as "The Godfather" of New Mexico music. The town is home to the largest population of organic farmers in the state, as well as several wineries.
There are many irrigation canals in Texas. The majority of large canal networks are in the Rio Grande Valley and the Gulf Coast, though smaller systems are located throughout the state. Canals provide water to dry climates to irrigate crops.
Water in Colorado is of significant importance, as the American state of Colorado is the 7th-driest state in America. As result, water rights generate conflict, with many water lawyers in the state.
Culebra Creek is a stream in Costilla County, Colorado. It begins at the junction of El Valle and Carneros creeks and flows into the Rio Grande 11 miles east of Manassa, Colorado.
The Albuquerque Basin is one of the largest and deepest of the structural basins in the Rio Grande rift. It contains the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) was formed in 1925 to manage the irrigation systems and control floods in the Albuquerque Basin. It is responsible for the stretch of river from the Cochiti Dam in Sandoval County in the north, through Bernalillo County, Valencia County and Socorro County to the Elephant Butte Reservoir in the south. It manages the Angostura, Isleta and San Acacia diversion dams, which feed an extensive network of irrigation canals and ditches.
The Middle Rio Grande Project manages water in the Albuquerque Basin of New Mexico, United States. It includes major upgrades and extensions to the irrigation facilities built by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and modifications to the channel of the Rio Grande to control sedimentation and flooding. The bulk of the work was done by the United States Bureau of Reclamation and the United States Army Corps of Engineers in the 1950s, but construction continued into the 1970s and maintenance is ongoing. The project is complementary to the San Juan-Chama Project, which transfers water from the San Juan River in the Colorado River Basin to the Rio Grande. Although distribution of water from the two projects is handled through separate allotments and contracts, there is some sharing of facilities including the river itself. The ecological impact on the river and the riparian zone was the subject of extended litigation after a group of environmentalists filed Rio Grande Silvery Minnow v. Bureau of Reclamation in 1999.
The American Dam, or American Diversion Dam, is a diversion dam on the Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas. It is about 140 feet (43 m) north of the point where the west bank of the river enters Mexico, 3.5 miles (5.6 km) from the business center. The dam is operated by the International Boundary and Water Commission. It started operation in 1938.
The International Diversion Dam is a diversion dam on the Rio Grande in Ciudad Juárez. The dam is operated by the International Boundary and Water Commission, and diverts water into the Acequia Madre for use in irrigation in Mexico. Water is diverted under the terms of the 1906 treaty on usage of Rio Grande water between the United States and Mexico.
Acequia Madre de Valero is an 18th-century agricultural irrigation canal built by the Spanish and located in the Bexar County city of San Antonio in the U.S. state of Texas. When Martín de Alarcón founded San Antonio for Spain by establishing San Antonio de Valero Mission in 1718, Franciscan priest Antonio de Olivares and the Payaya Indians dug Acequia Madre de Valero by hand. It was vital to the missions to be able to divert and control water from the San Antonio River, in order to grow crops and to supply water to the people in the area. This particular acequia was the beginning of a much wider acequia system. Acequia Madre de Valero ran from the area currently known as Brackenridge Park and southward to what is now Hemisfair Plaza and South Alamo Street. Part of it that is not viewable by the public runs beneath the Menger Hotel. The acequia was restored in 1968 and that year was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.
An aqueduct is a watercourse constructed to carry water from a source to a distribution point far away. In modern engineering, the term aqueduct is used for any system of pipes, ditches, canals, tunnels, and other structures used for this purpose. The term aqueduct also often refers specifically to a bridge on an artificial watercourse. The word is derived from the Latin aqua ('water') and ducere. Aqueducts were used in ancient Greece, ancient Egypt, and ancient Rome. In modern times, the largest aqueducts of all have been built in the United States to supply the country's biggest cities. The simplest aqueducts are small ditches cut into the earth. Much larger channels may be used in modern aqueducts. Aqueducts sometimes run for some or all of their path through tunnels constructed underground. Modern aqueducts may also use pipelines. Historically, agricultural societies have constructed aqueducts to irrigate crops and supply large cities with drinking water.
The Acequia Madre, in Las Vegas, New Mexico, is a historic acequia which was built at the time of Las Vegas' settlement in 1835–36. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.