An area-wide Acequia Association was proposed by members of the acequia community to create a singular, centralized organization as a resource and ally to all of the ditch groups in the Questa area.
There are 15 acequia associations from San Cristobal, south of Questa, to the state line in the north. Each “ditch” is an independent, self-governed entity, with its own leadership structure—this will not change with the establishment of the regional organization.
The Questa Economic Development Fund received a grant from Chevron to act as fiscal agent while working as a liaison with the community to initiate efforts to form the Association. In 2023, $60k was received from Chevron with an additional $50k committed for each of the next two years.
QEDF hired Judy Torres, current Director of the Taos Valley Acequia Association (for the last 14 years) as a consultant, to facilitate public meetings and planning.
Since May 2023, seven public meetings have been held. To reach the greatest number of parciantes (landowners with acequia water rights), the meetings were held in the communities where the acequias are located.
Examples of the benefits of the regional association were presented (see sidebar), with water rights adjudication often cited as important to help retain and protect water rights.
Torres said, “The biggest benefit I see is the roundtable discussions; the acequias are able to come together and see some issues that are common and get ideas on how other acequias have dealt with them. Also, it is easier for one main organization to set up workshops, meetings, etc. so that the commissioners are able to concentrate on their roles as volunteer leaders.”
There were often lively discussions at the meetings around the history of water rights, ownership, transfers, and usage. Attendees expressed concerns about Chevron being involved in the new group, since they are providing the funding. There was a feeling that they would try to control the direction and operations of the organization.
Christian Isley, Chevron’s state government affairs representative, explained, “Chevron will place no conditions on the acequias participating in the establishment of the regional association, and, Chevron will not have a role in its governance structure or operations. It will be led by the acequias themselves. It is our intent that the next disbursement of $50,000 will go directly to the newly created organization, who will decide how those funds are used.”
Inaccurate information was voiced throughout the community, creating confusion and dissent. After attending public meetings and speaking with Torres, Danny Garcia, president of the Cabresto Lake irrigation community ditch association, admitted that he had had concerns about the organization because he “got wrong information from a community member.” Garcia is in support of the association “as long as it continues to come from the community. A collaborative effort is needed in our area.”
At the public meeting in Cerro on January 17, it was agreed to create a steering committee to form the Area-Wide Acequia Association. Each acequia will appoint one representative to have a voice in its conceptualization.
After the acequia annual meetings in the spring, the steering committee will meet with Torres, who will facilitate the proceedings. “It might be a slow process, but we need to just be patient and continue to work with the community and all of the acequias,” said Torres.
For more information about the Area-Wide Acequia Association, contact Judy Torres at firstname.lastname@example.org or (575) 758-9461.