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NMSU hosts acequia hydrology symposium, tour in Santa Fe

SANTA FE - Acequia irrigation systems are an essential part of New Mexico agriculture along the Rio Grande River. They are not just watering systems, but are intrinsic to the society and culture of the communities in the Rio Grande valley.


New Mexico State University and the Rio Grande Basin Initiative will host the first Acequia Hydrology Symposium on Wednesday, Oct. 21, at the Santa Fe County Fair Building to report the results of research on the hydrology of these traditional watering systems. Presentations will address both technical and socio-cultural aspects of acequias along the Rio Grande.

"The main thing the research has shown is that acequias seem to have a lot of value for New Mexico operating the way they have for decades," said Sam Fernald, NMSU associate professor of watershed management. "We've gathered the science behind it and are finding that the systems are good."

Fernald will present a report of his research team's six-year study of the hydrology of acequia-irrigated valleys. "We're finding that there are a lot of features in these systems that support the hydrological ecosystem. The biggest one is that the seepage from the ditches recharges the ground water and eventually returns to the river later in the season. This is actually good for the downstream water users because water comes later in the season when they need it most," he said.

Other presenters will discuss additional topics related to acequia systems' impact, including riparian areas, wildlife habitat, greenery esthetics and culture.

Presenters will include Steve Guldan, professor at NMSU's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde; Michael Cox, Indiana University; Jose Rivera, University of New Mexico; Craig Roepke, Interstate Steam Commission; Carlos Ochoas, NMSU resource specialist; and Yeliz Cevik, NMSU graduate student.

"Lots of conferences by acequia groups talk about the practicality of managing the systems, said Fernald. "Our perspective is what does the research tell us about these systems."

The symposium is open to community irrigators, Extension agents, water policy specialists, hydrologists, legislators, public land and water managers and the general public.

It will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, at the Santa Fe County Fair Building, 3229 Rodeo Road, Santa Fe. The symposium registration fee is $15.

A tour of local acequia systems will be held from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22. The tour fee is $70, and participants must register for it by Sept. 21.

For more information and to register, visit http://aces.nmsu.edu/acequiahydrology or contact Selina Trujillo at (505) 852-4241.