District 1

Atrisco Acequia to be Celebrated

03/31/2021

Bernalillo County, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD), the City of Albuquerque, the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA), the South Valley Regional Association of Acequias (SVRRA) and CESSOS (Center for Social Sustainable Systems) are joining together to create an educational outdoor site near Central and the Rio Grande with the mission of celebrating the acequia culture and protecting and preserving agricultural  ways of life and traditions in the Rio Grande Valley.

On April 1 the MRGCD will begin diverting water from the Rio Grande to start the 2021 irrigation season in the Middle Rio Grande Valley.  Due to drought conditions not seen since the 1950s, the irrigation season is starting later than usual, but for generations farming has sustained the needs of the Pueblos, early Europeans, and the many settlers that came to the Rio Grande following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The formation of the water supply system we use today began with the construction of acequias (ditches) that served the early villages from Cochiti Pueblo south to San Antonio, NM that have developed into resilient communities that  kept farming alive in the valley through previous droughts and severe floods.  The release of this first water has been going on for centuries, and for centuries the communities of New Mexico have celebrated our acequias which have often been called the life blood of the community.

On the west side of the river, across from the Albuquerque BioPark, is the heading of the Atrisco Acequia, originating from the Acequia Madre de Atrisco, one of the oldest irrigation canals in the United States.  In order to share the history of acequia culture and the role the acequias have played in the valley through the years, four agencies have formed a partnership to fund a planning effort to create a conceptual site plan.  This planning effort will provide connections from the west side of the river to the east as well as connections from the north side of Central to the South Valley.  Improvements may include educational and recreational use of the Open Space through a system of trails and interpretive sites which will incorporate an historical marker developed by SVRAA and the State Historic Preservation Office.  

“Acequias are part of the cultural and physical landscape of New Mexico, and they should be celebrated and preserved,” says District 1 County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley.  

The planning effort is just beginning, and neighborhood, stakeholder, and public input is critical to the success of the design and broad public acceptance of improvements to the public open space and area surrounding the Atrisco Lateral and Atrisco Acequia.  To find out more about the site and the planning process please go to the MRGCD website at mrgcd.com

“Water is our most sacred natural resource in New Mexico. The efficient conveyance of water to our farmers is extremely important.  We must also continue to honor the traditions and educate our community about the history of our acequias and farming in the valley”, says MRGCD Director Barbara Baca. This project can bring our communities together and help to educate the future stewards of our land and water.”

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