Intercultural Dialogue – Acequia Culture + Water Scarcity
Acequias date back to ancient civilizations around the world. They exist in Spain, Egypt, Mexico and Peru. They have cultural and social significance for the traditional communities (Hispano and Tribal) deeply rooted in New Mexico.
Acequias have endured for centuries because of querencia, a Spanish word meaning attachment to place. For our traditional communities respect for the land, nature and the miraculous water that sustains the body, mind and spirit are inherent to their cultural identity.
We gathered together in February 2016 to have a conversation about the intersection of acequia culture and the water scarcity facing our New Mexico communities. Were these at odds with each other, or was there common ground? What about the history of shared water shortages? Perhaps there was an opportunity to gain insights about acequia culture, and consequently, enabling us better understand how farming practices old and new affect our traditional communities today.
EXCHANGE OF IDEAS
- Exchange of Ideas.
- Stream of meaning flowing flowing in and around us.
- Out of which it is possible for a new understanding.
- Nobody is trying to win.
- A different spirit about it.
- Not trying to make your particular view prevail.
- Idea of analysis.
- Points of view to analyze and break up ideas.
- Limiting…won’t get us past our points of view.
- Point is to win the game by convincing other of your point of view.
RULE OF DIALOGUE
Try to listen to each other without prejudice and trying to influence each other.
Fundamental to maintaining water rights under a system of priority administration is the requirement that a holder apply water rights to beneficial use. The NM Constitution states that “Beneficial use shall be the basis, the measure and the limit of the right to the use of water.” (Article 16, Section 3)
The NM Constitution does not further define beneficial use, but a series of judicial decisions characterize it as including irrigation, domestic, commercial and industrial uses. It does not include the wasteful use of water. There is no priority scheme by the type of use for allocation of water during droughts.
We are 7 billion people on earth with a projection of 9 billion by 2050. We must grow food to sustain ourselves. So, given the need to grow food, can we do it more efficiently? Is there a moral imperative to be more careful, efficient? How does this translate to farming practices?
Landraces- A botanical term for a local crop that’s adapted to many rough conditions like drought.
La Milpa- A plant community of corn, squash and beans. The corn stalk shades the squash, The squash cover the ground to reduce weeds. The beans grow up the trellis of the cornstalk. In this, space is saved, water is conserved and labor is reduced. If milpas are planted with landrace varieties then the benefits are maximized even more.
No Plowing– Turning soil over with a plow increases erosion and loss of nutrients. Soils maintain communities of microorganisms that are destroyed when soil s are tilled. Repeated plowing eventually depletes soil.
Soil Biology- Soil health is critical to the success of crops and to conserving water. Maintain a high level of organic matter in soil with amendment directly applied or with cover crops. Cover crops protect the soil from water and wind erosion and help to enrich soil with vital nutrients. Healthier soil requires less water to grow food.
Subsurface/Drip Irrigation– Irrigation with drip tape is used in hoop houses to maximize crop growth and conserve water. The challenge of drip tape is it’s use for a few seasons and then needs replacement.
Year Round Farming– Farming year round offers farmers the opportunity to better sustain themselves economically. When limited to the growing season with unpredictable rain and acequia water growing crops in hoop houses in the off season is viable.
WHAT DID WE LEARN?
On Thursday, February 19, 2015 a group of various community members came together to share their experiences and histories of acequia culture and to hear about views different than their own. What became apparent as the time progressed was that the dialogue around farming practices revealed water conservation is an inherent component in the history of acequia culture. It’s also been recognized that acequia farmers need to adapt to changing environmental conditions. To that end, it was revealed that a combination of old and new technologies and practices are used to effectively farm year round.
The Cornelio Candelaria Organic Farm employs a combination of practices including a hoop house with drip tape irrigation, cover crops, and flood irrigation on a portion of their land. In this, their connection to the land and respect for the water that brings abundance is maintained.
There is a place for acequia culture and values in New Mexico today. The querencia tied to cultural identity with acequia culture is a value to be treasured and respected. The deep connection to the land by our traditional communities has something to teach the rest of us about our interdependence upon the earth for sustenance, and critical need of our respect for the earth’s natural resources.
“We need to continue to evaluate how we use water”
Harold Trujillo, Board President, New Mexico Acequia Association
Congreso de las Acequias, November 2015