6th Annual Celebrando las Acequias

Celebrando las Acequias 2013

Celebrando las Acequias 2013

HERE \ NOW: Drought, Climate Change and the Lower Embudo Valley



The sixth Celebrando las Acequias, an annual gathering “exploring land, water and culture in the Lower Embudo Valley,” occurred on Saturday, July 13th, 2013.  This year’s Celebrando was different from the last three events in that it was smaller in scope, both in days and presentations: it was intentionally kept to a maximum of 50 people and focused more on local acequia issues.  


Since 2013 was one of the driest years on record through July, with only 1951 drier, the morning session focused on “Handling the Drought.”  As the Celebrando invitation stated, “Drought tests the limits of land, customs, patience and trust. It asks us hard questions, and requires that we take stock.”  Participants formed small groups, from five to a maximum of eight people.  


Discussion was facilitated by Arid Lands Institute co-directors Hadley and Peter Arnold, who have worked with citizens of the Lower Embudo Valley for approximately ten years, Jan-Willem Jansens, of Ecotone, Santa Fe, an ecological landscape planning and consulting firm, and Estevan Arellano, community coordinator for the USEPA\NMED watershed-based planning grant and president of the Junta y Ciénaga acequia.


Four questions were asked during the morning session with the community responding within three main themes: 

  • Engage Local Youth;

  • Sensitively Introduce New Technologies into a Traditional Culture;

  • Stop the Loss of Traditional Knowledge.



Morning Session: Handling the Drought

Introduction and Welcome

Estevan Arellano, Acequia Junta y Cienega;

Framework for Dialog / Overview + Workshop Format

Hadley + Peter Arnold, Arid Lands Institute.




Question 1:  Is it worth it?  

Why bother with the hard work of acequia culture? 

In response to this question—is the hard work of maintaining the acequia way of life worth it?—“Yes” was the answer given by all.  The reasons given for this commitment to acequia culture ranged from history (ancestral culture) to the future (resilience to climate change), and from social benefits (a land-based democracy) to environmental benefits (hydrology and habitat).




Question 2:  What’s not working? 

What practices are making drought harder on you?

This question gave participants an opportunity to look more closely at the limitations described in Question 1.  Participants identified several pieces of the acequia system that are broken or in need of repair or maintenance.  Some of those pieces are social or governance-related, for example, policy that needs clarification or enforcement.  Others are physical, for example a technology that requires repair or development.  




Question 3. What might work? 

What am I open to trying? 

There was strong consensus on the great need for raising acequia literacy, improving how we communicate about acequia life: explaining and enforcing the rules by which the acequias operate, socially and physically; creating dialog around new techniques so their impacts can be measured and evaluated; sharing ideas and case studies of techniques or practices that may be unfamiliar.  Greater education and awareness will improve cooperation throughout the valley.  



Question 4:  What do I need to be effective?  

How do I find out more?

Participants brainstormed on ways to support each other and all residents of the valley in adopting best practices to manage aceqias, especially in times of drought.  Many people expressed interest in looking at case studies, and taking advantage of local research underway or already completed.  




Afternoon Session:  Adapting to Climate Change

An Updated Watershed-based Plan for the Lower Embudo Watershed

The US Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] and the New Mexico Environment Department, Surface Water Quality Bureau [NMED] have green-lighted a watershed-based planning process for addressing urgent water and land-use issues for the Lower Embudo Valley.  The two-year process, funded by the federal Clean Water Act Section 319(h), is a direct outgrowth of ongoing efforts in the Embudo Valley community to form a long-term, collaborative program for ecological restoration and stabilization of soils, arroyos, acequias, and streams in the valley.  

The objective is to produce, by 2015, an updated Watershed-Based Plan (WBP) for watersheds within the lower Rio Embudo drainage, northern New Mexico.  

Participants in the afternoon session worked in small groups to answer five questions by drawing areas or indicating places of importance of that will shape the watershed-based planning process.


Overview of the EPA Watershed-Based Planning Process:  

Where we have been, where we are going, what your role might be, and how is today going to work?
Peter Arnold, Arid Lands Institute;
Jan-Willem Jansens, Ecotone.


Question 1.   What about this Valley do you cherish? 

What would you preserve unchanged?

Participants indicated responses to questions on a shared map.  A designated spokesperson summarizes table discussion.


Question 2.  What is missing?  

What’s not working?  
What would you change? 
What would you add?  
Where do you see those changes taking place?

Participants indicated responses to questions on a shared map.  A designated spokesperson summarizes table discussion.


Question 3.   Why make those changes?  

Why allocate that particular land to those changes?  
How would those changes affect the region?


Participants indicated responses to questions on a shared map.  A designated spokesperson summarizes table discussion.


Question 4:  What role do you see for yourself in this process? 



Afternoon Special Performance

Song of the Acequias by David Garcia




Click here for the Program.




July 13, 2013 | 12:00am