Active Research project

Acequias as a Paradigm of Direct Community Involvement in Tribal Nation Water Resource Infrastructure and Watershed Management

Project Information

Acequias are small irrigation diversions and earthen conveyances utilized by the tribal communities, among others, predominantly in northern New Mexico.  Communal irrigation practices have been utilized by Indigenous communities since before colonization of the region, and there is a strong cultural tradition that involves rural disparate communities cooperating to maintain main channels and diversions.  Recent technological changes and updates to the infrastructure have affected the ways that acequias are maintained as well as the communal nature of that upkeep process and interactions with stakeholders outside of the tribal community.  In particular, the Acequia Rehabilitation Program was a significant effort by the Army Corps of Engineers to improve delivery of water for irrigation and reduce losses and required maintenance of the acequia system.  While this endeavor was successful in its mission, it had distinct impacts on the operations of these systems, the ecology directly surrounding them, and the communal relationships involved in the utilization and maintenance of these conveyances.  This project aims to investigate acequias in a historical context through the lens of engineering with nature concepts.  This will include the period prior to the improvements undertaken under the Acequia Rehabilitation Program and into the present through literature, practical and conceptual ecologic and hydrologic models.  This will be accomplished by evaluating geospatially referenced datasets in collaboration with input from Tribal communities. This collaboration will discern the unique value of acequias and Indigenous practices of communal participation in infrastructure to contrast and compare the value of approaches to engineering with nature to modern systems.  Insights will be disseminated through technical documentation, ESRI Story-maps, webinars/seminars, refereed articles, and educational materials.


Point of Contact

Research Civil Engineer, CERL


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