Real Estate News

Acequias: A Centuries-Old Tradition of Water Sharing

by Mike Root, Co-owner Western Life Camp and Parciante, Rio Gallinas Acequia Association

picture courtesy of lasacequias.orgEl agua es la vida.  Water is life.  It’s a universal concept, but in a dry mountain region like Northern New Mexico where water is scarce, sacred, and coveted, the words ring especially true.  Western Life Camp sits next to the Gallinas River, a cool mountain stream and tributary to the Pecos River.  We and our downstream neighbors share an acequia, or community irrigation canal.

Acequias are a common thread that spans centuries of New Mexico history.  The indigenous tribes of the area were the first to use gravity-powered ditches for agriculture.  As early as 1400 AD the Pueblo Indians had created complex systems of irrigation lines fed from the area’s rivers and tributaries to grow corn, beans, and squash.  With the Spanish colonization of the area in the 1600s the term “acequia” as shared watercourse began to be used.  The Spaniards noted the similarities to the native watering systems to those brought to Spain during the Moorish occupation.  The word acequia is of Arabic origin.  In Classic Arabic “as-sāqiya” was a double entendre of “water conduit” and “one who bears water” or “barmaid.”

Today, acequias remain as community-operated irrigation ditches vital to Northern New Mexico.  Interestingly, acequias are recognized as governmental units under New Mexico law.  Smaller acequia associations are grouped under the state wide New Mexico Acequia Association.

A crucial function of each individual association is the annual spring cleaning.  In a cooperative effort orchestrated by a supervising mayordomo, the individual members, or parciantes, manually clean out the entire ditch of leaves, debris, and anything else that accumulated inside the ditch over the winter months.   When the spring rains and mountain runoff begin, the parciantes enjoy the benefit of their labor as water flows smoothly along the acequia, bringing life to their fields and crops.

At Western Life Camp we honor the tradition of water sharing through our acequia.  Visit to learn more about us.

Western Life Camp is being profiled as part of the All Things Real Estate “Unique Destinations” series.