What are Acequias?
Acequias are the age-old, hand dug, gravity-fed irrigation ditches in northern New Mexico that make possible the cultivation of locally grown food. But they represent much more than that. As a social system implanted into the hydrological cycle for community subsistence, acequias constitute a place-based knowledge of watershed, intertwined with food traditions, community and culture. They are an instructive example of democratic self-governance, stewardship and sharing of resources. They are also the defining structure of their ecosystem. The unlined ditches allow water to seep into and recharge local aquifers, providing a rich riparian zone for wildlife, shade trees and native plants.*
*Source: Jorge Garcia, “The Genesis of Acequias in Atrisco”, Green Fire Times, 2015
The origins of the Atrisco Acequia, located on the west side of the Rio Grande near the present day crossing of Central Avenue, date back to the 1680s, just after the Pueblo Revolt. The acequia has been managed and maintained by inhabitants of the original Atrisco Land Grant for hundreds of years, cultivating a local food system that enabled the community and culture to grow around it. In 1934 an agreement was created which entrusted the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) with management and construction of new water-related infrastructure in the valley. Today, the MRGCD continues to provide maintenance to flood control, drainage and irrigation facilities. In the mid-2000s, the South Valley acequia associations, including the Atrisco Community Acequia Association, began to reorganize to assert the original connection between inhabitants and their right to the water and to participate in decisions related to water infrastructure.
The Board of Directors of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District adopted a resolution in December of 2019 to create a cooperative planning initiative for the Acequia Madre de Atrisco partnership to include MRGCD, Bernalillo County, City of Albuquerque and the ABCWUA. (ResolutionM-12-09-19-163)
The importance of this multiagency partnership and cooperative community planning rests on the fact that the acequias connect our communities across jurisdictional boundaries and run through a wide variety of neighborhoods of all socioeconomic levels, through urban and rural properties, working farms and developed communities. The Acequia Madre de Atrisco and surrounding public properties is envisioned to be used as a demonstration project to celebrate the Middle Rio Grande Valley and the unique cultural landscape of the acequia system and to provide educational opportunities to the community, particularly our youth, about the importance of responsible water management and the ditch and acequia delivery system. There is a need to protect not only the conveyance of water for irrigation, but the history, culture and natural beauty of our valley and our acequias.
Educate the community about our most important natural resource: water
Improve connections to trails, public open space and amenities in the Bosque
Celebrate and educate the public about acequia history and culture and irrigated agriculture in the South Valley
Provide educational and physical connection to the Albuquerque BioPark from the West Side and the South Valley