On Acequia irrigation 2014

20140620-064836-24516656.jpgToday is Thursday and the Mayordomo (ditch boss) of my acequia (community managed, gravity-fed irrigation ditch) called me yesterday and asked if I wanted the water.  Even though I had the water last Sunday, I decided to take advantage of another watering given the uncertain future of irrigation at this time of year.

At the beginning of the irrigation season there is so much water that sometimes our acequia can accommodate up to four irrigators at a time.  About a week ago our Mayordomo called and informed me that the water is starting to run out at we are down to one irrigator at a time.  This is not totally true, however, in that I am able to make use of the tailwaters, or scuridurras, of someone else’s turn of irrigation.  Since the Mayordomo and I are in constant communication (I am the Chairman of the acequia of which he is Mayordomo) I know when someone up-acequia might be using the water and let some pass down which I can then use.

We have already been sharing the water with Acequia Madre del Norte (we are Acequia Madre del Sur) since the end of April.  This means that all the water goes to the North side of the Río Don Fernando from Monday at 6 AM to Wednesday at 2 PM.  Then all the water comes back to the South side from Wednesday to the following Monday.  This is a nice arrangement for all in that there is plenty of water to be pushed to the end of the ditches and the ends of the fields.  If we were to split up the water in space as opposed to time, there would not be enough water to be efficient and thorough with the irrigation turns.  Since our ditches go dry for about three days it is easier to notice the decrease in volume when it finally returns.

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We are getting to the time of the year when the Mayordomo will give priority to the different water users in our acequia system.  At the beginning of the irrigation season, our Mayordomo gives the water for multiple days to the big fields in our system.  This is to make sure that the largest parcels of land get access to the water while it is available.  At this time of year the priority goes to gardens, livestock, and trees and the irrigators with fields get placed at the bottom of the list.  This is not a big deal at this time of year, however, in that many of the people who have big fields have recently cut their pasture or alfalfa, are letting it cure on the ground, and will be baling it soon.  So when this happens, the field owners do not want any water on their cut hay or alfalfa as it can mold and ruin their crop.  This would also not be the ideal time for rain as the baling process can be complicated if not ruined.

So the irrigation event yesterday makes for my third irrigation in my corn/bean plot.  The corn and beans are emerging.  Elsewhere in the field, the peas (alberjon) are flowering and will be giving peas soon.  The wheat is making a seed head (spigando) and the garlic scapes are forming and spiraling.  The season is progressing nicely here at Sol Feliz Farm and we predict a productive season that might even have bountiful monsoon rains.  Once the water runs out we will have to employ the strategies of soil cultivation and prayers for rain to help our crops persist in their water stressed context…

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About Miguel

Miguel Santistevan is a researcher, educator, and advocate for traditional agriculture crops and systems.
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