Rio De Chama Acequia Affiliation Seeks Truthful Therapy, Alternative To Retailer Water In Abiquiu Lake – Los Alamos Reporter


Rio de Chama Acequia Affiliation board members Carlos Salazar, Sam Garcia and Tim Seaman gathered just lately with the Los Alamos Reporter at Seaman’s orchard in Abiquiu. Picture by Maire O’Neill/

Darel Madrid, president of the Rio de Chama Acequia Affiliation, proper, chats with the Los Alamos Reporter. Additionally pictured is Mike O’Neill of Los Alamos. Picture by Maire O’Neill/


Members of the Rio de Chama Acequia Affiliation (RCAA) are adamant about persevering with the repartimento – the standard approach of sharing water in New Mexico. They need their acequia parciantes to be handled like all the opposite contractors within the San Juan-Chama River Venture they usually need to have the ability to retailer water in Abiquiu Lake.

The Los Alamos Reporter just lately sat down with the officers of the affiliation to debate the problems they’re going through and the options they suggest. RCAA chair Darel Madrid defined how within the Nineteen Sixties, water was diverted from the Little Navajo river in Colorado to construct up water within the Rio Grande by means of the San Juan-Chama River Venture. He stated most of that water streamed by means of a tunnel underneath the mountains and into Heron Reservoir.

“Ours is the one river system within the space that has overseas water working by means of it. Our water rights are tied to the native water rights of the Rio Chama basin. With local weather change, we’re getting much less and fewer snowpack. We’re getting hotter springs and all of the melt-off is working by means of our acequia system earlier than we’re prepared to make use of it,” Madrid stated. “In our local weather down right here, the rising season often begins the latter a part of Might or in June and continues into October. This water is melting off earlier and it’s passing by means of our system in March and early April. It leaves us in a bind.”

Madrid defined that as a result of the RCAA water rights are tied to the Rio Chama water, solely a sliver of the water that you just see working by means of their system is definitely their water.

“When folks see all this water flowing by means of the system, they don’t notice that solely a portion of that water is our water. We now have roughly 22 acequias from beneath the dam that run from the Trujillo-Abeyta ditch, which is the northern-most, to the Salazar Ditch, which is the final one to obtain water,” he stated.

The overseas water that’s working by means of the system is owned principally by contractors of the unique San Juan–Chama River Venture together with the Center Rio Grande Conservancy District which takes care of all people from Cochiti all the way in which right down to Socorro, and the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority. There are additionally minor contractors just like the County of Los Alamos, the Metropolis of Espanola, the Village of Taos, and the Metropolis of Santa Fe – all of whom purchased into the undertaking within the 60s.

“So that is all their water working by means of the system. In occasions of drought, our essential water is so minimal that we should depend on relationships with these different entities in order that we are able to use their water to hold our water on prime as a result of if we didn’t have all this overseas water working by means of, we wouldn’t have ample quantity of water to make it into a few of our ditches,” Madrid stated. “There’s lower than 100 cubic toes per second working within the system proper now, in order that’s not sufficient to make it over a few of our ditches for us to irrigate.”

For a few years there was much less of a drought scenario within the area so there was loads of water for everyone, he stated.

“It wasn’t an enormous deal then. It’s a large deal now due to the drought and we’re counting drops of water, so to talk,” Madrid.

He famous that there are three dams north of the Rio Chama  however the RCAA has no native water storage rights in any of them.

“When the Rio Grande Compact was established within the late 20s or 30s, not one of the RCAA acequias have been invited to the desk. They didn’t have a voice in these discussions in any respect. The parciantes have been busy being farmers and weren’t organized. The identical factor occurred through the San Juan-Chama River Venture. For all that we are able to inform, we weren’t invited to the desk and all these selections have been made with out our participation. When all was stated and performed we have been left with all these guidelines and rules that now we have to abide by so it’s virtually like taxation with out illustration,” Madrid stated.

He famous that rules for the acequias are all set by means of court docket orders with the State Engineer’s Workplace having essentially the most authority.

“We’re one in every of  essentially the most regulated river programs in your entire nation. We’re underneath all people’s thumb. We’re underneath the State Engineer’s Workplace, we’re underneath the Interstate Stream Fee, the Military Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, and on and on,” Madrid stated. “The factor that saves us is that the New Mexico state structure acknowledges the acequias.  Acequias have been the primary type of authorities and they’re acknowledged as such within the state structure the place there’s a entire part devoted to water rights and acequias are on the highest tier.”

As a regional acequia affiliation, Madrid says the RCAA’s job is to bolster these provisions, refine them.

“We now have to do extra to guard these rights and our first line of protection is our bylaws for every particular person acequia. As a regional affiliation we attempt to communicate with every ditch and make it possible for their bylaws are up-to-date. We’re a non-profit, we’re all volunteers and we don’t obtain a dime for our work – it’s a labor of affection,” he stated.

The 22 RCAA ditches have the oldest precedence dates for rights to the water with a few of them going again to the 1600s. Madrid believes these are most likely the oldest water rights in your entire nation, second solely to Native People. The ditch behind his house has been in continuous use for greater than 400 years. Households of others on the board have been irrigating for a whole bunch of years within the space.

“It is a lifestyle but it surely’s altering. The younger ones don’t have the identical enthusiasm as our era. I grew up in Pojoaque within the 70s when it was thought of a ceremony of passage to be concerned in spring cleansing. Should you received caught on the town on the weekends that they have been cleansing the ditches and not using a shovel in your hand you have been publicly shamed. On the weekends within the springtime you have been anticipated to be on the market with a shovel prepared to scrub ditches,” Madrid stated. “The youngsters these days don’t share that very same enthusiasm. There are a handful that do and they’re superstars proper now. We now have a number of in our group which can be already beginning to contribute to the method and we wish to encourage and foster that type of factor. In order that’s one other factor as a regional affiliation, we wish to look into the long run – not simply what we are able to safe for water, however who’s going to handle and deal with it at the moment.”

The RCAA is going through new points together with how new laws for the expansion of hashish within the state will have an effect on the acequias. There’s a concern that individuals with deep pockets will attempt to purchase up vacant properties within the area and never respect the historic acequia customs. The hashish laws doesn’t simply have an effect on the acequias but additionally the home water associations. One other concern is outsiders shopping for property within the Higher Rio Chama Basin and constructing ponds with out permission from the state.

“The place are they going to get the water from? It’s unlawful diversion and unlawful repurposing of water,” Madrid stated. He added that state authorities is extraordinarily short-staffed and has a few of the greatest obligations.

“Distinctive conditions create distinctive alternatives. We’re most likely the one regional acequia affiliation that may purchase overseas water and what we’ll do with that water is we’ll depend on the larger fish like Rio Grande Conservancy District water. They permit us to make use of a few of their water once they launch it – they name it depletions – and on the finish of the yr. No matter water we purchase, we pay them again with that so long as it doesn’t exceed that quantity. This has allowed us to complement our water. In occasions of shortages now we have this little pool of water that we are able to unfold out amongst all of the ditches,” Madrid stated.

Final yr, RCAA was in a position to purchase 750 acre toes of water which can sound like loads however when it’s divided amongst all of the ditches within the Affiliation, it’s not a complete lot.

“This is among the ways in which we are able to work in direction of supplementing the deficiencies of the native water due to the local weather circumstances. That’s the place Los Alamos County comes into play. We now have developed a relationship with Los Alamos County, one of many contractors on the San Juan Chama Water Venture,” Vice President Tim Seaman stated. “There’s no approach they’ll get the water as much as Los Alamos. Their full allotment on a very good yr is 1,200 acre toes and it will not be value efficient for them. The San Juan-Chama Water Venture presents water for a number of totally different functions. All of them should be of helpful use. Los Alamos received into it due to the Labs and the hydro-electric factor however they don’t use any of the water, they enhance the circulation to generate electrical energy with low-flow mills.”

Seaman stated if the water isn’t being utilized by the entities it’s leased again to the Bureau of Reclamation, which has the duty to honor the Endangered Species Act down within the decrease Rio Grande Valley.

“They get cash for his or her coffers from this water and Los Alamos County was insightful in wanting to assist the valley,” he stated, including that Ohkay Owingeh additionally leases 2,000 acre toes again to the BOR.

The RCAA water has helpful use reminiscent of irrigation for vineyards, vegetable farms, hay and alfalfa.

“Water couldn’t be extra valuable and extra helpful to all of us. It helps present total livelihoods. It means meals may be taken to the farmers’ markets and helps different non-profit organizations which can be taking meals to the much less lucky and gives for livestock. Plenty of this contributes on to the native meals provide and economic system,” Madrid stated.

RCAA Treasurer Carlos Salazar stated RCAA needs to discover a solution to retailer its water in order that it doesn’t have to purchase water and believes this might require federal laws as a result of the dams have been constructed with federal funds. The Affiliation hopes that the congressional delegation will assist them to discover a solution to retailer their native water as a result of it comes from their ancestral lands. As a result of the water can’t be saved, half of any water that flows previous the Otowi Bridge close to the Pueblo of San Ildefonso within the spring goes to Texas.

All of the RCAA acequias are metered by the state engineer. Their diversion is measured, however one of many large debates RCAA has with the state engineer is that not all of it’s consumed and the state expenses them for the entire diversion and doesn’t credit score them for any return circulation. One other burden the RCAA has to bear is that its member acequias are saddled with all the prices for the operation and upkeep.

“What makes it laborious is when you could have these excessive flows all yr spherical, you possibly can’t get any tools in there to do the mandatory upkeep when it must be performed.  There’s simply an excessive amount of water and it’ll wash all of your work away. That is true for all of the landowners. When the river will increase in quantity, it begins pulling down all of the banks and fence strains and nobody pays. We’re saddled with all that expense,” Sam Garcia, RCAA secretary stated. “In the event that they have been working at a continuing charge all of our jobs can be loads simpler.”

The RCAA believes all diversion ranges must be elevated by 30 p.c however they would want to put money into return circulation measurement to perform that and it will take $1,000 per ditch, a complete of about $54,000 to perform that.

Seaman famous that the RCAA is solely making an attempt to proceed the custom of the acequias.

“To me, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo assured each citizen all these rights and we don’t see it taking place now with this adjudication of water to the Rio Grande and the Metropolis of Albuquerque and our neighbors there on Heron Reservoir. All that imported water – the place have been the acequias?” Salazar stated. “I feel we must be handled pretty. Our rights pre-date all of them and we must be given a possibility to retailer water even when now we have to pay for the storage.”.

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