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NMSU to offer global perspective in March 2-3 acequia symposium

New Mexico takes pride in its acequias, the age-old system of ditch irrigation - and social organization - especially prevalent in the northern part of the state. But this approach is actually not unique to the region, nor are the challenges faced by residents involved in acequia-supported agricultural activities.


Water flows in two parallel irrigation ditches curving around an empty field. A paved road can be seen to the right and mountains are in the distance to the lef
Water flows in the Lower Manuel Andres Trujillo ditch in lower Las Colonias near Taos shortly before spring planting. Acequias and similar irrigation systems around the world are the subject of the Acequias and the Future of Resilience in Global Perspective symposium, March 2-3, hosted by NMSU. (Courtesy photo by Sylvia Rodriguez)

With this in mind, New Mexico State University will host a unique two-day symposium, Acequias and the Future of Resilience in Global Perspective, March 2-3 at the Las Cruces Convention Center, 680 E. University Ave. in Las Cruces.

The term "resilience" in this context refers to the ability of ecosystems to recover from extreme circumstances, such as the prolonged droughts and higher temperatures anticipated as Earth's climate changes.

"Given the similarities among ditch irrigation systems in many parts of the world, we have developed a program with international scope," said Sam Fernald, New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute interim director and a professor in New Mexico State University's Department of Animal and Range Sciences. "We are looking for clues to sustainability from our acequias here in New Mexico and their analogs around the world. Presenters will address issues relating our system to ones in Mexico, Peru, Chile, Spain, Morocco and Bali."

While many of the scheduled presenters and panelists take a scholarly approach to the topic, the organizers stress that the event is meant to appeal to a wide variety of participants.

"In addition to scholars and students, our target audience includes parciantes - the farmers and ranchers who are the users of acequia-supplied water - environmentalists, elected officials, policy makers, journalists and the general New Mexican public," said co-organizer Sylvia Rodriguez, a professor emerita of anthropology at the University of New Mexico.

"I believe this may be the first such event to place the multidisciplinary study of acequias in a comparative global context," she said. "It will also bring scholars and activists together to talk about future research and policy agendas during a special workshop on Sunday afternoon."

The Sunday workshop is being coordinated by Quita Ortiz of the New Mexico Acequia Association and Jose Rivera, a research scholar at UNM.

The symposium is an outgrowth of a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation through its Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems Program. Fernald is the lead investigator on that grant, which fosters an integrated approach to issues. The symposium will incorporate not only biophysical and ecological dimensions, but also the interacting sociocultural and economic factors.

In addition to NMSU, NM WRRI, NSF, UNM and NMAA, the symposium is supported by New Mexico Tech, NSF's New Mexico Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, and Sandia National Laboratories.

The registration fee, which includes lunch both days, is $50 for general admission, $25 for students. Participants are strongly encouraged to register by Feb. 25 to ensure sufficient food and beverages.

For more specific information and to register, go to the symposium website at http://globalperspectives2013.wrri.nmsu.edu/ or contact Bobbie Jo Fossberg at Fossberg@nmsu.edu or 575-646-5141.