Agua es vida. Water is life.
For hundreds of years the Taos Valley was a small, self-sufficient community. We grew crops, raised livestock, chopped firewood, fished the streams and hunted game. This sustainable way of life was possible in a high desert environment because a communal acequia system had been constructed that distributed water across the Taos Valley to hundreds of small farms. Acequias have been in use in Northern New Mexico at least as far back as 1700.
This traditional way of life, though threatened, remains deeply embedded in the heart and soul of Taos. We must expand our efforts to revitalize the acequias and put them to good use. We must respect these traditions and honor the generations that came before us.
The acequias are crucial to our identity because they virtually define community. The acequia associations that govern their operations are among the oldest and most democratic political subdivisions in the country. Through the acequia associations, neighbors participate in sharing our limited water resources. Everyone suffers equally when the rivers feeding the acequias run dry, and all share in the bounty in wet years. Everyone pitches in to clean the ditch each spring. This sharing creates a community based on trust and respect for one another as well as this precious resource.
The acequias also represent our deep-rooted connection to the land. That connection remains vital to Taos’s culture and identity to this day. Increasingly, people want to know where their food comes from. The popularity of the Farmers Markets in Taos demonstrates the continuing support for local farms. Many restaurants are proud to source local produce. This reliance on local produce is possible because of continued existence of the acequia system.
I personally have a deep connection to the acequias and with those traditions. I have cleaned the ditches on family property since childhood. I have worked those fields and crops. I treasure those traditions that have been passed down to me by my ancestors.
As Mayor I will lead the Council in protecting the acequias through actions such as:
- Strengthening the Town Code to assure development does not hamper future use of the acequias;
- Adopting zoning regulations that protect prime agricultural land that is adjacent to an acequia remains undeveloped and available for crops;
- Partnering with Taos County, the Taos Land Trust, local farmers and Alianza Agri-Cultura de Taos to link land owners who are no longer able to work the land with those who wish to farm but do not own property.