Acequia Irrigation Systems

The acequia systems of Northern New Mexico (community-regulated, hand-dug, gravity-fed ditches that have irrigated the region’s villages for 150-450 years) are renown as feats of collective governance and preindustrial agricultural engineering.

Acequias were first introduced to Spanish culture by way of Africa, when the Moors invaded and settled the Iberian peninsula. Meanwhile, sedentary Native American communities had been practicing irrigation techniques for centuries before the Spanish settlers arrived. The Northern New Mexico acequia, therefore, is the result of inter-cultural exchange between Moor, Spanish, and Pueblo technologies.

The United States has since introduced irrigation systems that have run parallel to, but often in competition with, acequias: Dams and reservoirs, modern plumbing, and sprinklers. While these have made many elements of life more convenient, they have endangered acequia-based ways of life.