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Acequias – (from NM Acequia Association In arable valleys of water-limited regions worldwide, community water management systems have evolved to sustain communities in the face of unreliable precipitation. The acequias of the southwestern United States are community irrigation systems that are based largely on ancient technology introduced to the region by 16th-century settlers.
Acequias consist of gravity-fed earthen canals that divert stream flow for distribution to fields. They lie at the center of a set of complex self-maintaining interactions between culture and nature that appear to enable drought survival and maintain other sociocultural and ecosystem benefits. Local water management groups inherent in acequias ensure equitable distribution of water to each community, allocating less water for all users in dry years and more in wet years.
Acequias help maintain community identity and cohesion, economic sustainability, enhanced floodplain hydrologic function, and wildlife habitat. Contemporary acequia-based communities face new socioeconomic and natural resource pressures that threaten their existence, however. Population growth is accelerating the change from agricultural to residential land and water uses, while climate change threatens to bring warmer winters with less precipitation and earlier spring snowmelt. Traditional acequias create and sustain intrinsic linkages between human and natural systems that increase community and ecosystem resilience to climatic and socioeconomic stresses.
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