January 2014

Río Chama Water Sharing Agreement – Mutual Benefit by Cooperating



Rising to the challenges of historic drought and water scarcity, in 2013 the leaders of the Río Chama Acequia Association and the Asociación de Acequia Norteñas averted crisis and a priority call by coming together with the Office of the State Engineer to negotiate a water-sharing agreement. The agreement followed the tradition of repartimiento (or sharing), which guides communities in distributing water during a shortage. Thus, while the Río Chama acequias have senior water rights, the shortfalls did not leave the junior Acequias Norteñas without water. All experienced reduced flows and received less than a full allotment.

During a panel at the 2013 Congreso de las Acequias, Fred Vigil, president of the Río Chama Acequia Association, reminded attendees, “In a drought period pretty much nothing produces water; what a drought period does produce is cooperation, and that’s what we intend to do.” State Engineer Scott Verhines said, “We really did have a great collaborative effort between all of the parties—not only the acequias, but our agencies—to sit down and figure out how do this.” Medardo Sanchez, president of the Acequias Norteñas, explained the process of working out legal options, bringing it back to his constituents and moving the group to consensus, and then meeting again with other stakeholders. All parties showed a deep respect for one another as well the water—they have a model for the state of New Mexico that shows how acequia traditions can guide us through challenging times.



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