New Mexico Acequia Association

New Mexico Acequia Association

For more than 400 years, family farmers and ranchers in arid New Mexico have relied on communal irrigation systems known as “acequias” to share scarce water resources. The word acequia refers to a centuries-old cooperative irrigation system in New Mexico Hispanic communities—both to the irrigation ditches and the community of farmers organized around them. But today, farmers are being pressured to divert water beyond agriculture and livestock, threatening lands and livelihoods.

The New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA) aims to protect the spirit of equity in more than 1,000 autonomous acequias. Since 1990, NMAA has helped acequias publish previously oral rules and regulations so that they are recognized by the state. In 2003, it won legislation giving acequias the right to approve or deny water transfer in their communities.

NMAA’s work exemplifies CCHD’s support of anti-poverty efforts in protecting family farms, and for its social justice principles of empowerment and low-income participation. Paula Garcia, NMAA executive director, credits CCHD’s contributions as critical to their success. “CCHD challenged us to focus on leadership development, institutional change and helped us develop in a healthy way,” she says.

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