Acequias & Science: Highlights from a Collaborative Workshop Connecting Acequia Communities with Research
By Lily Conrad, NM WRRI Graduate Research Assistant
In an era of changing climate, socio-economic dynamics, and water rights allocations challenging the resilience of acequia networks throughout New Mexico, there is a need to address gaps in scientific and community knowledge to prepare these irrigation networks for the future. To do this, researchers and communities must establish a foundation of transparent, mutually respectful communication and collaboration. On the evening of January 14th, New Mexico State University (NMSU) and the New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA) hosted a collaborative workshop connecting traditional irrigation communities with acequia research. The workshop presented highlights from a newly released book by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University entitled, Acequias of the Southwestern United States: Elements of Resilience in a Coupled Natural and Human System. The workshop also included question and answer sessions, and a discussion about how to direct future research to better address community needs.
The workshop attendance of over 100 participants reflects community interest and the justification for more workshops of this nature. The evening highlighted three blocks of research found in the newly published acequia book. First, Dr. Sylvia Rodriguez and Dr. José Rivera highlighted critical social and historical elements of acequias. The speakers and discussion emphasized the need for acequia research to be mostly interdisciplinary to encapsulate community relationships to the land and culture that promotes resilience. The second block of research presentations highlighted hydrologic and natural science-related findings from Dr. Carlos Ochoa and Dr. Andrés Cibils. These presentations spurred follow-up conversations surrounding on-the-ground implications and how these findings might inform changes in ditch or land management. The final portion of the presentations featured Dr. Vincent Tidwell and Dr. Sam Fernald tying together the previous topics with themes of connection, integration, and resilience. In the conversation that followed, researchers opened the floor for community members to voice their questions, concerns, and needs for the future resilience of acequias. As the workshop conversation concluded, facilitators and attendees were already looking forward to the next discussion to continue addressing more topics. In true NMAA fashion, the meeting ended with singing, celebration, and appreciation of acequias.