Paula Garcia: Acequias Return to the Land

Protecting a 400-year-old water management system from industrial takeover is also about protecting the Southwest's future.
Paula Garcia

As executive director of the New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA), Paula Garcia  advocates for the protection of acequias—traditional irrigation systems in the Southwest maintained by community associations. This method of water management has been used for 400 years but is under threat from industrial agriculture’s buying and selling of water rights.

Garcia began working toward strengthening acequia governance after studying at the University of New Mexico. Her leadership of NMAA over the years has led to legislation that protects the rights of acequias to control irrigation water in their communities.

Recently, the NMAA was awarded $900,000 in federal stimulus money for water restoration projects. “Agriculture is our past, but it is also our future,” said Garcia when she received the award. “These investments are also part of a cultural renewal in our communities. Acequias are getting stronger over time because of our return to the land.”


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