Earth Day 2012 found us thinking about water, especially since the Santa Fe River has a gentle flow right now, thanks to the late spring snows and subsequent melt that we have so fortunately received. The Inn has a perfect Santa Fe location right across from the river, so we are participants in the Adopt-a-River program of the Santa Fe Watershed Association, and we are especially cognizant of times when the water flows.
Water use in the dry Southwest is inextricably tied to the acequia (pronounced a-SAY-key-a) system, a community-operated irrigation method born in the arid regions of Spain and transported to the Spanish colonies of the new world. Generally engineered to carry snow-melt and runoff to distant fields, acequias bring communities together to preserve precious resources. The state of New Mexico, including the City Different, has a long history of water challenges, which is why the acequia system was, and still is, so critical to regional farming.
The Acequia Madre, the Mother Ditch that fed the Santa Fe farmers of yesteryear, is just around the corner from the Inn on, you guessed it, Acequia Madre street. Whenever spring melts permit, the Acequia still runs through town, both above- and below-ground, down through the Railyard and all the way to the southwestern end of Santa Fe. So far, the Mother Ditch is dry, but with the 402nd cleaning scheduled for this Sunday, April 28th, we expect to hear the acequia burbling its liquid song again soon.
Most of the northern NM villages have functioning acequia systems, and those who live along the ditch and hold water rights are responsible for keeping the acequia clear of debris and impediments throughout the growing season, so that each user has ample flow when it is time to water. For an in-depth historical view of functioning acequias, you can head to El Rancho de Las Golondrinas, Santa Fe’s wonderful living outdoor museum.
You’ll notice when you arrive just how dry our high-desert air can be, so Santa Fe travelers, remember to drink water, and plenty of it! It’s the life blood of the the Southwest, and we appreciate every precious drop.