Deciphering the ditches
" José A. Rivera, Acequia Culture
The acequia system of ditch irrigation marks time in many of the small communities of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. The communal system and its seasonal rituals are a part of life for locals; to outsiders, however, the tangle of ancient decrees, modern laws and family relationships can make acequia politics almost indecipherable. There's hope, though. In a new book, Acequia Culture: Water, Land and Community in the Southwest, José Rivera lays out the history of the system, from its beginnings in Spanish water law to its role in the northern New Mexico "condo wars' of the 1990s. The book, which includes copies of original documents, is a valuable reference for those who want to learn more about the origins of the system and its place in Southwestern society. Rivera's academic style is not an easy read, but among the footnotes hides a strong case for the preservation of this ancient, but still vital, way of life.