El Agua No Se Vende: Protecting Community Water Rights in New Mexico
The acequias of New Mexico offer a valuable approach to conserving shared water resources. Since colonial times, farmers in the area have worked together to operate and maintain a shared irrigation network, with community-elected managers ensuring that the water continues to flow and that it is share
d equitably in times of scarcity. Acequias demonstrate the effectiveness of community-based approaches to resource management.
But as Brian Daly (MCP 2013) shows in his thesis, New Mexico’s acequias are now at risk. The state’s water rights law, which encourages farmers to put their own needs above the community’s and encourages a “use it or lose it” mentality, threatens to undermine the long-term survival of the acequias. Fortunately, the state legislature has given acequias a means to prevent the sale of water rights to urban developers and create water banks that ensure unused water claims aren’t taken away from the community.
Brian finds that advocacy organizations have been effective in educating acequias about their rights and helping them adopt bylaws needed to take full advantage of new state laws. However, he also finds that more outreach is needed to inform all rural acequias about their rights, and to build their internal capacity to establish water banks. Read more about the acequias ‘approach to communal water rights in Brian’s thesis, here.