Acequia Interdisciplinary Research

Funded by the National Science Foundation, part of the New Mexico EPSCoR program focuses on acequia interdisciplinary research conducted by the University of New Mexico (UNM) and New Mexico State University (NMSU) in partnership with the New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA). The NMAA is the main force that advocates for the needs of community based irrigation systems known as "acequias" (ah-SAY-key-ahs) or ditches. These acequias are unique to New Mexico and southern Colorado having endured more than four centuries of change in the region dating to Spanish colonial settlement history.

In the New Mexico EPSCoR project, researchers are studying how these ancient irrigation canals function as communal water management systems that provide unique physiographic and cultural elements to help understand the effects of changing mountain hydrology on land and water use, ecosystem change, and stream flow. In addition to researching the hydrological characteristics of the acequia systems, the project also documents the customs and traditions of water management in times of climate variability and its effects on human adaptation and governance. Fieldwork for the socio-cultural component of the research is conducted by UNM student research assistants supported by the NSF funding to NM EPSCoR with a subaward to UNM.

Every year, the NMAA convenes delegates from its network of regional and local acequias in a Congreso de las Acequias. For the 2010 Congreso, the Acequia Interdisciplinary Research team from NMSU and UNM partnered with the NMAA to feature acequia research posters at the event as a new addition to the conference program. The purpose of the posters was to bring awareness to the delegates about the research currently underway supported by the NM EPSCoR program, "Climate Change Impacts on Mountain Sources of Water." About 210 delegates from throughout New Mexico participated in the Congreso and viewed the posters presented by the NM EPSCoR students and project staff. In addition to the acequia participants, U.S. Senator Tom Udall and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan from New Mexico were present and addressed the delegates to express their support of the acequia culture in the state and the campaign of the NMAA, "Water is Life."


Acequia research culminated in the Congreso de las Acequias, which informed the public & NMAA of current EPSCoR research as it relates to acequias and New Mexico water.


Acequia research performed by EPSCoR scientists helps to further interdisciplinary collaboration by relating acequias and water use to culture, climate change, and mountain hydrology.

Source: José Rivera, NM EPSCoR, University of New Mexico,
Image Caption: Congreso de las Acequias, annual meeting of the New Mexico Acequia Association, Nov. 13, 2010