On Stands Now
February 2024

Questa  •  Red River  •  Cerro  •  Costilla  •  Amalia  •  Lama  •  San Cristobal

northern new mexico news boy
Access Back Issues of
Print Editions Here

Share this article!

Post Date:

Written By:

Photo Courtesy New Mexico Acequia Association

Multimillion Dollar Bill to Fix Acequias Heads to Legislature


New Mexico’s water systems can be traced back as far as AD 800. Ancestral Pueblos utilized the water that flowed from major rivers and tributaries—this is how they created agricultural opportunities for their communities. When the Spaniards arrived in the 1540s, they brought with them irrigation practices and governance used in Spain.


While Native American people are credited for creating the system, the Spanish settlers brought in the written documentation, forming the governance of water law over acequia systems to create an equitable and functioning process, so that all would benefit. This practice is still in place to this day, however, over the past several hundred years, the acequia systems have seen little improvements or investments in its critical infrastructure, which poses a threat to the way of life for people in the small communities of northern New Mexico.


Over the past several weeks, Senator Bobby Gonzales has been working with Norteños in northern New Mexico to identify critical projects which could use funding to improve their viability. A bill is being proposed in the upcoming legislature, which requests funding to repair and improve centuries-old water systems. Overall, an unprecedented $12.7 million is being requested to fix 16 projects between 2025 and 2028.


Community leader and generational rancher Juan Cisneros spoke with Questa del Rio News about the bill and how it could impact and change lives in northern New Mexico. “I am the sixth generation farmer in my family. I grew up on the ranch learning lessons and providing food for my family. I can still remember my grandpa working before the sun came up and coming home after the sun went down. He never had a watch… he kept at it until the work was done.”


Cisneros says this bill could change the agriculture landscape in northern New Mexico as we know it. “The acequia systems have not been able to keep up with the major repairs needed to ensure the water is utilized at its full capacity. This has resulted in a lot of wasted water leaking out from various areas, so people who are toward the end of the acequia won’t get water at all. These improvements could change things like that.”


The improvements proposed in the bill are asking to effectively fix many of the structural issues, which negatively affect field yields and production. These fixes could ensure that ranchers and farmers will continue to produce hay to feed their animals and food to feed their families. “Ranching has taught us that no matter what, regardless of the setbacks and struggles, you remain grateful for the lessons. This bill could help reduce the number of setbacks for people, while ensuring our traditional way of life can be maintained. This bill could save us,” Cisneros says.


Louis Herrera, President of the Llano Ditch Association, shares the same sentiment, saying, “Senator Gonzales understands the importance of water that irrigates our farmlands in Northern New Mexico. With such a precious resource, the need to update critical infrastructure required to accurately measure and channel water to various irrigation associations is greatly appreciated as so many are in desperate need of improvement. This bill will have a lasting impact on our communities, our culture, and the future farmers and ranchers of our community, as we preserve our way of living in northern New Mexico.”


Chistian Isely, Chevron State Government Affairs Representative provided a statement which reads, “Chevron is very pleased to be supporting Senator Bobby Gonzales’ water infrastructure bill for the benefit of the Village of Questa, domestic water providers, and acequias. If passed, this bill will be a game-changer for communities throughout Taos County by enabling more efficient water usage, improving water system reliability, and supporting our acequia-based farmers.”


A list of the bill’s proposal includes:

  • $1 million to plan, design, improve and construct a wastewater treatment facility and water system for the Village of Questa
  • $1 million to plan, design, improve and construct a wastewater treatment facility and water system for Taos County
  • $380,000 to plan, design, and construct improvements, including a diversion dam, for the Questa Citizen’s middle ditch
  • $1.2 million to plan, design, construct, repair the Llano Irrigation Company (Llano Ditch), including diversion structures, including Cabresto Lake
  • $30,000 to plan, design and construct improvements, including a diversion dam, for the Jose Cleofes Arellano Acequia Association in Amalia
  • $275,000 to plan, design and construct improvements, including a diversion dam, for the Santa Barbara Ditch Association in Peñasco
  • $30,000 to plan, design and construct improvements, including a diversion dam for Los Cordovas ditch association in Los Cordovas
  • $180,000 to plan, design and construct improvements, including a diversion dam, for Los Lovatos Acequia Association
  • $250,000 to plan, design and construct ditch improvements, including an irrigation pipeline, for the Rio Lucio Water Ditch Association
  • $2.4 million to plan, design, construct and improve an irrigation system for the Rio Costilla Ditch Association
  • $35,000 to plan, design, construct and improve a flume project for the Tramps ditch association in Trampas
  • $35,000 to plan, design, and construct ditch improvements, including an irrigation pipeline for the Sanchez Ditch Association
  • $1.8 million to complete construction of a mitigation well for Acequia del Monte del Rio Chiquito to comply with the Abeyta settlement
  • $2.2 million to plan, design, construct, to improve water system infrastructure for the El Prado Water and Sanitation District
  • $1.6 million to plan, design and construct a mitigation well for Llano Quemado Mutual Domestic Water Association
  • $300,000 to plan, design, and construct a water line for the El Valle de Los Ranchos Water and Sanitation District.

Author