[Music, Water Sounds] >>One of the things that happened here during the Depression is that people did not feel the depression because for centuries people's lives were difficult but food and water, the essentials were always taken care of.
>>Don Bustos: So when I grew up it wasn't about survival of the fittest, it was about your survival depending on the community surviving.
All we did was build on what our ancestors showed us.
>>Regis Pecos: We always planted corn because mother corn is so important in our prayerful ways, in our life ways.
In time of harvest we would visit families and gift to people; whether it was cucumbers or melons or corn or chili, that is the greatest blessing.
>>Levi Romero: In those days when you went to visit somebody the only room that you experienced in that household would have been the Cocina, the place that makes you feel safe where you feel at home, where you feel like you belong.
Around the wood stove around the table with food and sharing of stories, right?
>>Paula Garcia: That feeling of- It's self-reliance and there's an instinct of survival and at the same time it's an instinct of cooperation and mutuality.
That's a value that's been ingrained in our culture for many generations and it still lives on in the acequias.
[Music] >>Alejandro LÃ³pez: We were eleven children and the chores were divided evenly between women and men and we planted lots of corn, melons, and every other sort of vegetable because we also took our produce to the Pueblos, and my sisters and my mother were responsible for opening up thousands of peaches so that my mother could dry them as well as canning.
It was a small paradise.
We were completely surrounded by orchards, if you can imagine, and so we lived in a forest of fruit-bearing trees.
>>Arturo Sandoval: We were 11 children, we had a lot of neighbors, we were all Chicanos right, in EspaÃ±ola.
Some of our neighbors had all these beautiful Orchards but they couldn't hire anybody because they didn't have the cash to actually hire pickers and so they would hire our family if we'd pick all the fruits and we would share crop it.
So 50 percent of everything we picked we got to take home and 50 percent went to the owners of the orchards.
>>Paula Garcia: Some of my fondest childhood memories are of picking wild foods.
Both my mom and grandma always used herbs and they taught me at a young age how to find them, how to identify them, and how to prepare them.
It was magical.
>>Miguel Santistevan: In the past we relied on nature's abilities for the sustainability the sustenance of our communities and the acequias represent that connection to the ancient agriculture that is worldwide that you find in desert regions of the world.
How are these people able to survive generation after generation in what is known as hyper-arid conditions?
>>Estevan LÃ³pez: We're amongst the thirstiest of all the states.
We are the second driest state in the nation.
That's what makes our water so precious and we have to be so vigilant about protecting.
>>Regis Pecos: We're at a really critical juncture in our life journey when it comes to the maintenance of a way of life and there is tremendous, tremendous pressure in all of our communities to abandon this way of life and yet we know deep in our hearts that this way of life was gifted to us by our creator.
>>Paula Garcia: ...and I've traveled the state I've been to every nook and cranny where there's an acequia in New Mexico and everywhere I go I see very deeply committed people of all ages.
[Onscreen] ...there close the mouth, there you go, perfect.
>> There's a worldwide struggle taking place between those who see water as a commodity to be put on the market and sold to the highest bidder and those who say, "no, it's part of our community, our common Heritage, it belongs to future generations as much as it belongs to this one".
>>Regis Pecos: The pressures of of creating these gifts to be commodities is a real dangerous deviation from our way of life and why I feel so important that again we ask the question, "What do we want future generations to inherit from us?"
[Music] >>The San Juan mountains of Southern Colorado.
It is here, deep within these snowpack mountains where the headwaters of the Rio Grande emerged millions of years ago.
From here the snowmelt runoff pushed south through New Mexico and all the way down to the Gulf.
>>David Gutzler: I think it's fair to say that the bulk of the flow in the Rio Grande is from snowmelt runoff.
>> Just 13,000 years ago the Rio Grande was already ancient when the first humans reached its banks.
>>Regis Pecos: Like all emergent stories, like all Pueblo People, the migration stories take us all the way back to Bandelier, Mesa Verde, to our present place.
Growing up in Cochiti was a really beautiful experience for a little boy among his friends.
Farming during the summers, swimming in the rivers, was...
I refer to that place in Cochiti as a paradise of an incredible life opportunity.
>>The Cochiti people came to the Rio Grande Basin from the highlands to the west.
On their arrival, they along with other Pueblos continued their old irrigation water practices.
By the early 1400s their descendants had created a complete system of gravity- fed irrigation ditches on the major rivers and tributaries.
Over the centuries they became master farmers producing bumper crops of corn, beans and squash-the foundation of their existence.
>>Robert Templeton: Pueblos kept something like six years worth of grain stored >>Regis Pecos: and so land and water and the connections to both as a source of our sense of spirituality our sense of identity is defined by these two essential spirits of water and land and the seeds of life.
It is a life not just of survival but it is a spiritual life continuance.
[Music] >> Into this world view marched Francisco Vazquez de Coronado, who in 1540 planted his banner in New Mexican soil claiming the entirety of the new land in the name of the Spanish king.
Coronado failed to find the mineral treasure he was looking for and the half-dozen explorers who followed recognized upon their arrival that New Mexico was not another Aztec or Inca Empire as Coronado and others had imagined.
Instead they discovered that the wealth of New Mexico was the Pueblo people themselves.
In the 1580s when Don Antonio de Espejo traveled up the Rio Grande Valley, he admiringly noted, "We found many irrigated cornfields with canals and dams built as if by Spaniards...".
>>Jose Rivera: They marveled at how they were constructed; they meant it as a compliment because they were earthen ditches much like they had seen back home in southern Spain.
>> In 1591 explorer Gaspar CastaÃ±o de Sosa made a comparable evaluation of the northern pueblo's Rio Grande farming when he wrote, "All six of these settlements had canals for irrigation which would be incredible to anyone who had not seen them with his own eyes."
>>Enrique Lamadrid: There was irrigation going on in the Rio Grande Valley and there's plenty of archaeological evidence of this, where it's clear you can see you can see the fields you can see the channels that were there.
>>Sosa's attempt to establish a colony in New Mexico ended in Failure but it led to a permanent settlement seven years later in 1598 under Juan de OÃ±ate.
>>Arturo Sandoval: OÃ±ate was the first one authorized to actually settle, Coronado was just exploring.
>>OÃ±ate had every intention of building a lucrative new frontier in New Mexico.
In April of 1598 he led his troops and colonists from Mexico City up the Camino Real.
With him are more than 400 Mexican families and eight thousand head of livestock in a procession four miles long that traveled eight miles a day.
Once they reached the border... >>Jose Rivera:...they followed pretty much the Rio Grande from El Paso and Juarez north and they took a shortcut just before Socorro at the Jornada del Muerto and almost did not survive but they made it to Socorro and then continued following pretty much the course of the river.
>>The colonists arrived in today's EspaÃ±ola Valley on July 11th, 1598 and settled in the pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh at the confluence of the Chama and the Rio Grande.
>>Arturo Sandoval: OÃ±ate, basically he did take over the pueblo Ohkay Owingeh, so they were eating food that the natives had raised for themselves and it was difficult for the inhabitants of Ohkay Owingeh.
>> Sylvia RodrÃguez: When the colonial settlers came into New Mexico, the first thing they compelled Native Americans to do was to dig the ditches.
>>OÃ±ate came to conquer the terrain for the Spanish Empire and look for gold, this he did with a vengeance as documented by the friars and soldiers who were among the first wave of colonists.
>>Miguel Santistevan: I think even in a Spaniard said of himself or the natives noted of the Spaniards- that they have a sickness that can only be cured with gold, you know, and it's greed.
>>Arturo Sandoval: You know there was a widespread destruction of the indigenous cultures here by OÃ±ate >>Narrator:...and the colonists staved off starvation only by taking the food stores of the Tewa people.
>>Arturo Sandoval: They were unhappy because it's hard to grow food out here, there's very few watersheds, winters are really tough.
And so they gave up and went back to Zacatecas.
>>Following the mass exodus of the colonists the effort to colonize New Mexico was almost abandoned, but on January 1609 Viceroy Luis de Velasco issued an order placing the new colony under royal control.
OÃ±ate was tried and convicted of cruelty to both natives and colonists and was banished from New Mexico for life.
Now with royal funding, governors, Franciscans, and the remaining settlers worked to establish Spanish institutions with a body of legislation known as the Siete Partidas.
>>Suzanne Schadl: So the Siete Partidas are probably the most important medieval legal code because they are really dealing with a system that sets up a clergy, sets up governing powers, and Alcaldes as the sort of center of the governing power in a particular space and they sort of serve as the basis for the Laws of the Indies.
>>Chris Wilson: The Laws of the Indies called for, they...you know, they're calling for the Plaza as the starting point of a settlement, a grid of streets surrounding the plazas, but the vernacular inclination of the vast majority of people was to settle by their own fields.
>>Sylvia RodrÃguez: And so the settlement of New Mexico is regulated by Spanish law, involved locating the settlements near water sources and digging these canals to divert water off main-stem streams to their fields.
>>By 1700 an estimated 60 acequias were operating in New Mexico followed by more than 100 during the next century and at least 300 additional acequias were built in the 1800s.
Their construction required enormous physical labor.
>> Chris Wilson: I would describe what the early settlers were doing as ecological mimicry.
When they dug in an acequia they were basically creating an artificial stream and so they're diverting water, they're holding a contour, and so they pushed the riparian landscape from a couple of hundred feet you know off into as much as a as a mile wide and so from what were relatively narrow ribbons of water and plants in our very arid landscape they created these lush broad valleys.
>>Enrique Lamadrid: You may have emperors and kings and autocratic systems but at the grassroots level the acequias have always been about the people.
They knew what they were doing when it came to water and they knew how to set up a system, they knew how to govern it and it was one of their most democratic institutions.
>> Sylvia RodrÃguez: And over the course of two or three centuries they somehow developed into farmer-managed, self- organized, autonomous systems that were democratically operated as a way of managing the commons and a sustainable and resilient way.
>>Paula Garcia: There are approximately 700 acequias in the state.
And the acequias vary widely in size and their remarkable institutions and their complexity.
>> Levi Romero: You know when you're looking at the acequia system itself and you're looking at the governing body, you're looking at the Mayordomo who's the ditch boss and you're looking at the Comissionados and you know whether it's a treasurer or the secretary and they all have to work together to ensure that there's water available for everybody.
>>Mayordomo: So now we can get in the white truck, the maroon truck, and Mr. Lieber's truck.
>> Sylvia RodrÃguez: I mean a good Mayordomo has to have a tremendous amount of local place knowledge that's very specific to that particular stream, that particular watershed.
Walking the ditch to see where repairs are going to be needed in preparation for the annual limpia de la acequia, which takes place in the spring and the date depends on really the community.
>>Antonio Medina: The acequias are one of the last communal systems that we have when we get together to go clean the acequias, no?
It's a celebration and it's a community coming together.
>> Sylvia RodrÃguez: They start early in the morning, depending on how long the ditch is and how much work is needed whether it's weeds or trees or brush they have to clear it out.
>>William deBuys: It's not economic behavior in the sense that you work this much and you get something back from it that goes into your wallet; it's not how the labor around acequias works.
People have to work on acequias because they love them, because they want to keep the traditions alive, because they want to see the land flower and turn green in the way that the acequia allows it to do.
>> Sylvia RodrÃguez: Once the ditch is cleaned then they turn on the water and then the first water runs down.
[Music, Water sounds] >>Antonio Medina: It cleanses your soul.
It cleanses your conscience and they come out of there laughing and hugging each other and forgiving each other.
So it's a renewal, no?
It's a healing.
>>Paula Garcia: The acequias are so much more than just about water, but they're about working together and seeing common interest and having common purpose.
>> Enrique Lamadrid: This landscape is green because of the acequias.
It's not naturally green it's culturally green.
>> Sylvia RodrÃguez: If you look at Northern New Mexico through time both indigenous and Mexicano people have fought very hard to keep what they have; I mean the pueblos wrote the book on resistance.
>>Paula Garcia: When the U.S took this territory we saw a vast dispossession of the common lands of the land grants.
>>Arturo Sandoval: The U.S used English law to define what the commons were and to them then the commons meant they went to the government, to the federal government.
Whereas the common lands in Spanish law meant it belonged to whoever was living in that village.
>>Chris Wilson: And so they turned it into Federal Lands, Forest Service ended up with big chunks of that, for instance.
>>Suzanne Schadl: So not only are you talking about the Spanish laws overlaid with Mexican laws overlaid with territorial laws and overlaid with, you know, English law in the United States but we're also dealing with multiple pueblos and indigenous lands that have their own legal systems and codes as well.
One of the things that is very clear is that we are in a very contested space in the state of New Mexico.
>>Narrator: In the decades after the Civil War, Americans rushed headlong into the West.
The railroad, America's most visible instrument of its Manifest Destiny, pushed out tides of promotional material that sold the arid west as a Garden of Eden.
By 1860, over a million people had migrated to the western states.
New Mexico was changing as never before in its history.
Its population grew by almost 50 percent.
The newcomers saw in New Mexico the same thing that OÃ±ate and his colonists had seen: a land of irrigable valleys, infinite grass ranges, and mountains that looked rich in minerals.
New Mexico land and water was ripe for the taking, it was a moment of palpable excitement about the west and its promise for prosperity.
>>Robert Templeton: We came in claiming divine right to the land and taking the land and going forth.
>>Narrator: In that moment of supreme confidence, one voice reminded Americans that these outside expectations could never be realized.
That voice was John Wesley Powell, a Civil War veteran and tireless explorer most notably for an expedition he led down the Colorado River's path through the Grand Canyon.
These expeditions convinced him that the scarcity of water would become the single most important influence in Western development.
He explained with this colorful map the importance of keeping water within watersheds and tying water legally to the land it flowed within.
Without these measures, he warned, the American West was in for a future of contentious water politics and unsustainable practices.
>>Robert Templeton: If you want to talk about sustainability, all of the lands in the U.S were being taken care of by indigenous people.
There wasn't any blank land anywhere.
>>Narrator: Senators were outraged.
Powell dared to begin a national conversation about sustainable development when most everyone else looked upon land and water as an inexhaustible resource.
In May of 1901 President William McKinley proclaimed that New Mexico needed irrigation and agriculture before it could become a state.
Six months later McKinley was assassinated, but his successor Theodore Roosevelt echoed the same message by making big irrigation projects in the west a federal priority with the passage of the National Reclamation Act of 1902.
>> Adrian Oglesby: So think about you know the early 1900s, Elephant Butte Irrigation District getting built.
Carlsbad irrigation being built, we wanted another one here in the middle Rio Grande but they said we already had two and we'd have to wait on that.
>>Narrator: In other words New Mexico was on its own if it wanted a Conservancy district for the Middle Valley.
>>Adrian Oglesby: So the Conservancy District has sort of an intriguing origin story.
You had this intensive development happening in Colorado mid- 1800s to the early 1900s.
>>Narrator: It was 1878 when the Denver and Rio Grande railroad reached the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado.
Its arrival drops off capital-rich Anglos from the Midwest looking for wealth opportunities at the headwaters of the Rio Grande.
Within 10 years the newcomers built giant diversion canals capable of sucking the Rio Grande dry at its source.
>>Adrian Oglesby: Not only did you have a lot more water being taken out of the river, you actually had a lot more dirt being put into the river.
So the Middle Valley is experiencing a lot of flooding.
>>Narrator: In the early summer of 1884 flooding destroyed nearly every village between Albuquerque and El Paso.
Over the next 30 Years 11 more floods caused extensive damage culminating in the catastrophic flood that wiped out San Marcial.
Without federal support the new state of New Mexico, barely 10 years old, began the process of making the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District a reality.
>>Adrian Oglesby: The original goal of the Conservancy District was two-fold: flood control and drainage.
And the Conservancy District was formed largely at the urging of civic leaders not agricultural leaders.
>>Narrator: Farmers feared the new Conservancy District would replace their beloved community acequias with an engineered ditch under the control of unsympathetic outsiders.
>>Adrian Oglesby: It was Chamber of Commerce folks, it was local realtor organizations who were saying we need to dry out these lands so that we can build downtown, so that we can build the country club neighborhoods that created these communities and in fact a lot of blame was being put on the farmers because as primarily flood irrigators, 'so those guys are dumping water on the land and there's too much water everywhere it must be their fault'.
But what was really happening was the upper watershed was sort of collapsing, so the Conservancy was approved and formed and they went out and they using their big sort of steam-driven, coal- fired drag lines they were digging these huge drains down the side of the river and as they're doing so they're cutting through farm fields.
>>Narrator: A firestorm of opposition soon erupted, more than 3,000 Farmers signed a petition protesting the district's formation, on the grounds that the taxes would drown them in debt.
Before long, the first of many lawsuits ensued.
>>Adrian Oglesby: So within a few years the Conservancy Act is amended to include irrigation as the third primary purpose of the Conservancy District.
The acequias were incorporated into the Conservancy District and instead of having dozens and dozens of little diversions up and down the river, the whole system now is operated off of four major diversions.
[Music] >>Narrator: While Albuquerque promoters cheered the new developments in the Middle Rio Grande Valley, Lower Rio Grande interests in both New Mexico and Texas looked on with increasing alarm.
From their downstream perspective, the improvements upstream directly threatened to reduce their water supply, and the Middle Valley had similar concerns looking upstream at Colorado's San Luis Valley.
The suspicions raised by the competing interstate claims of Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado to the shared Rio Grande had long simmered.
>>Adrian Oglesby: So in the late 1920s we had a Rio Grande Compact that was adopted as law in each of the three states.
>>Paula Garcia: And so the acequias were, I would say, to a large extent undisturbed during that territorial period and the major shift from a legal standpoint was the Territorial Water Code of 1907, which eventually laid the groundwork for our state laws.
>>Adrian Oglesby: The imposition of the 1907 water code brought in this prior appropriation doctrine.
>> Sylvia RodrÃguez: It's like mining law: that first in time, first in right- whereas the allocation and sharing of water traditionally in acequia communities was based on equity and need.
>>Adrian Oglesby: So in times of shortage they technically can say, 'I want the people who have water rights that are junior to mine shut off until I get my full allotment'.
That's very counter to the culture of sharing, so that is still an awkwardness that we struggle with here in New Mexico.
Maybe it's more important to just be good friends with your neighbor.
>>Mayordomo: So that's what we're going to do, and we'll just wait until Mark cleans that up.
>> Sylvia RodrÃguez: There were other changes that came in with the American Water Code of New Mexico, one was a central figure to basically regulate all the waters in New Mexico and that was the state engineer.
>>Paula Garcia: And once there was a state engineer it created a whole different legal framework >>Miguel Santistevan:...which says that water is a separate property right than your land.
That's a foreign concept to us acequia people.
Land and water is one thing.
>>Jose Rivera: And so water was commodified during that Water Code of 1907, as property that could be bought and sold in the marketplace.
>>Paula Garcia: And with the commodification of water we have the threat that acequias could unravel piece by piece if people sell the water rights.
So it puts the acequias at risk.
>>Sylvia RodrÃguez: The issues that threaten the survival of these systems are pretty much the same all over the world, they take different forms, like you know, we have the water rights adjudications, we have drought, we have Western water law, we have the water market.
>>Narrator: And they have developers who disparage a acequias as water guzzlers.
But their claims have been disproved by recent research done here at the New Mexico State University's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center near the village of Alcalde.
Steve Gulden and his colleagues study the hydrologic effects of acequias.
Their research shows that the acequia may actually counter water loss due to evaporation.
>>Steve Gulden: We were able to find that the traditional irrigation systems here recharge the aquifer through the seepage that occurs from the acequias themselves as well as the typical flood irrigation that occurs.
Some of that water makes it down to the groundwater and actually raises the groundwater level during the irrigation season.
After the irrigation season it's released slowly back to the river.
>>Narrator: Their data shows that on average only seven percent of the water diverted from the Rio Grande into an acequia is lost to evapotranspiration.
The remaining 93 percent returns to the river.
In contrast when Elephant Butte Reservoir is full it loses approximately 140,000 acre feet of water to evaporation each year or roughly twice the total annual water usage of the City of Albuquerque.
>>Serafina Lombardi: Do you have the sense of: we're walking along these corridors of life that go through our communities, that coyotes run along them, the deer come to them to drink, my child plays in them in the winter.
All this movement of life and the flow of the water into our communities, it's so vibrant and you know that those were hand dug by handmade shovels maybe 300 years before us and yet we have a large contingent of the population as we have more and more urbanization who, it's lost on them what in an acequia even is.
>>Robert Templeton: That's the whole thing, in this world most of the decisions are made by people who are living in cement.
If you're not living on the land you can't imagine possible solutions to certain kinds of problems.
>>Miguel Santistevan: So it's incredibly frustrating to see that we're still subservient to development pressures.
The people who know how to raise food off of the land are being actively removed from the land with economic and political pressure.
>>John Nichols: Every plan is for Albuquerque to grow, for Santa Fe to grow.
That means drilling more wells into more aquifers, it means transferring water, getting water however you can get it.
The acequia is a part of the biology that sustains us.
We're going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg; that is what the acequias are facing.
There's so much pressure on changing them or making them more feeble.
They can't last without a real philosophical, ideological change in the attitude of all of us.
>>Serafina Lombardi: There is a deep need for there to be a movement around acequias and we have a movement; we have people in communities across the state of New Mexico and in positions of power who recognize our ecology, our food systems, our livelihoods, our happiness our aesthetics.
>>Speaker 23: So think about these things look at all aspects of these things before you go down any one specific direction.
>>Sylvia RodrÃguez: The acequias have demonstrated a resilience through organizing against water rights transfers, the formation of a Conservancy District in Taos, which is what inspired John Nichol's book, The Milagro Beanfield War.
Under the onslaught of all of the difficult historical circumstances that people have here faced, whether it was urbanization, water rights transfers, the water market.
People have mobilized to hold on to what they have.
>>Estevan LÃ³pez: I give a lot of credit to the New Mexico Acequia Association and people like Paula Garcia and others that have really been vigilant about protecting the interests of acequias and seeking legislation to deal with issues as they develop.
>>Paula Garcia: In 2003 we achieved a major legislative victory and a major policy reform by enacting this authority for acequias to approve or deny water transfers.
It gives us a say in shaping the future of our community.
>>Miguel Santistevan: It's hard to not recognize that we're existing within a system that has more water rights on paper than there is liquid water.
>>Don Bustos: So it's about the acequia system being protected by people of knowledge, people of the land, of traditional areas.
We want to have healthy families, we want to have fresh water running down the acequias, we want to have jobs that we value and we want to have economies that benefit us.
>>Narrator: Don Bustos grows 72 organic crops on his Santa Cruz farm near EspaÃ±ola.
Everything from fresh blackberries and salad greens to his famous New Mexico red chile peppers.
The farm itself has been in his family for over 400 years.
>>Don Bustos: To me that's so beautiful how that 400 years of taking care of land, taking care of water, and taking care of family and community and this is the reward that we have.
[Music] >>Narrator: Don has amassed many generations' of farming knowledge, and is actively passing his knowledge on to the next generation of growers.
>>Nery Martinez: When you don't have that connection with Mother Earth you don't feel what she feels, but if you do agriculture it's like you are connected with her and you're gonna be connected with the ground, you're gonna be connected with humanity.
>>Narrator: Over the years, Bustos has trained more than 75 farmers in New Mexico and another 200 across the country.
He's a visionary too: Bustos is the co-founder and former president of the Santa Fe Farmers Market.
He tirelessly advocated for a covered pavilion so that farmers could sell their goods year round.
>>Don Bustos: Used to be in the 1980s there was only a handful of farmers markets and now they've exploded and that translates to more farmers, more smaller growers participating in direct marketing.
>> Paula Garcia: There's a trend all over the country about locally grown food and local food systems and we're perfectly positioned to meet that demand.
For example: Rio Arriba county has 18 million dollars coming into the economy because of agriculture.
In Mora County it's almost 12 million dollars.
>>Narrator: Bustos puts a great deal of faith in the acequias' 400 year history of collective governance and problem solving.
He's concerned about what he calls the corporate industrial militarization of agriculture.
In a state rich in land and agricultural traditions he laments the fact that only three percent of the food grown in the state is sold here.
New Mexico has one of the worst food security and access rates in the country.
>>Don Bustos: And we're having the serious discussions of what it means to farm.
It's not just about growing food, it's about freedom, it's about free to make choices, it's about how you run your life in your communities.
We're developing this whole system of people being able to have a sustainable New Mexico food system so that in the middle of the winter we can get tomatoes from Las Cruces, in the middle of the summer we could send peas, spinach, and lettuce down to Las Cruces where it's too hot.
So we can create a fair and sustainable New Mexico.
>>Narrator: To that end Bustos founded the Green Roots Institute a non-profit to foster community self- determination.
>>Don Bustos: My dream would be where the community comes together and they create a vision that impacts the whole health of the valley.
But we're tired of being come in and exploited just for the benefit of some other entity that has no clue of how important our beautiful New Mexico is.
[Music] >>Miguel Santistevan: You know a lot of us have left and those of us that remain you know are hanging on tooth and nail and trying to keep these acequias going and maintain this lifeline, maintain these traditions, you know, and luckily we're having reinforcements come in.
People who move into our community and they say this acequia does have value to me too.
>>Mackenzi Frederick: So today I started out with a shovel and I moved on to working with a rake because there's a lot of debris and it's hard to dig with the debris, so.
Surprisingly no easier than using the shovel, so.
>>Ed Reither: You appreciate what the traditions are so you're keeping them alive.
It's still the same spirit, which is an agriculturally based existence.
>>Andrew Hay: What you have is people who are moving to this Taos Valley area and they buy a property and it comes with water rights, and if they're like me they discover something that's amazing and that you can't really find any place else.
>>Miguel Santistevan: And so we're watching a revival of a of a community dynamic of a community pride where, you know, all kinds of people are getting together and we're talking about, you know, what's our collective interest?
What are our collective challenges?
What do we need to prioritize in terms of our river health, in terms of our landscape health?
So these things are going on in parallel.
[Onscreen]okay...can I put the stem?
So I can make hats.
La patita para abajo.
What does that mean?
So, the little foot...see how there's a pointy part, so the pointy part goes up... >>Narrator: Miguel Santistevan is a Taos farmer and doctoral candidate in biology.
His research interest is in the traditional acequia irrigated and dry land agricultural systems of the Upper Rio Grande and Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
He explores survival strategies modeled by the rich agricultural traditions of Northern New Mexico's tribal and acequia communities.
>>Miguel Santistevan: As I was learning from my elders, you know, there was a saying that went, "El maiz no mas ocupa una riega- corn only needs to be irrigated once."
It's more important to cultivate your soil, hoe your weeds, and pile up soil around your plants, than it is to irrigate.
So we have a modern system that is out of sync with traditional practice and knowledge because even if you have enough water you're in risk of losing it because of the way water is administered in the desert Southwest, you know, use it or lose it, so to speak.
So the agricultural policy or water policy actually encourages water wasting when it doesn't need to be so.
[Onscreen] this one and this one...which one's mine?
>>Narrator: Santistevan co- founded a non-profit called Agriculture Implementation Research & Education.
It allows him to continue doing his research along with farming and youth education.
With his wife Margarita and their daughters Anastasia and Simona, Santistevan grows a variety of crops on their conservation farm named Sol Feliz.
[Onscreen] ...That's a hard one... >>Miguel Santistevan: It is so nice to be able to expose my children to, you know, the acequia culture, you know, in a very hands-on direct kind of way within our family lifestyle but then be able to go to a larger group that is the New Mexico Acequia Association a statewide group with other youth who also value the acequias.
who also value the knowledge of the elders and want to continue those traditions in terms of agriculture or picking remedios or making chicos or knowing how to make posole or knowing how to make tortillas or knowing how to build an Orno, and all of these things that are central to what our culture is.
>>Serafina Lombardi: We've seen how fast we lose our knowledge of how to work with the land and the water and the elements and it takes practice and it takes wisdom and I want to be able to pass that on to the generations.
So I think our acequias are special nexus of those feelings for me.
We have to honor and support the acequias.
>>Arturo Sandoval: We have to go back to models that Native Americans in New Mexico and Chicano land based communities have been doing for centuries which is collective work.
Humans getting together again to figure out how they're going to put food on their tables collectively.
We don't have to learn those models we have those models living here under our very nose in New Mexico right now, so all we have to do is pay attention to those and we can go back to feeding ourselves.
>>Miguel Santistevan: My greatest hope is that people recognize what the acequias have done in New Mexico and worldwide for the sustainability of all the communities that practice this style of irrigation, this style of Agriculture and what it means for community organization, you know.
How are we going to get through climate change by ourselves?
We can no longer live in silos, we are going to have to get mutualistic.
>>Paula Garcia: Climate change is a major challenge for us.
Going forward we need to understand the extent of the temperature increase and the extent of the water shortage, the length of the droughts because our runoff is coming sooner.
>>David Gutzler: Yeah, here at UNM our research group has been trying to diagnose what makes a stream flow in the Upper Rio Grande vary from year to year and decade to decade, and what we see is that 50 years ago you could account for a very large fraction of the flow in the Rio Grande during the snowmelt runoff season just by estimating how much snowpack there was near the time of peak snow, around the beginning of April.
As the climate warms up there's 25 percent less snow on average than in the middle decades of the 20th century.
So we're in the first stage, I think, of what I envision as this transition from predictable snowpack to less predictable rainfall.
>>Paula Garcia: Last year for example we had drought and we had floods in the same year.
So when we did have rain it was too much rain and it would knock out acequia infrastructure.
>>David Gutzler: So the sooner we can adapt to the high probability of diminished water supply being delivered in a less predictable, harder to manage way the better off we'll be.
That's my main message about adaptation; the climate is already changing now and there is no immediate prospect that's going to slow down anytime soon.
>>William deBuys: Even if we stopped emitting all greenhouse gases tomorrow throughout the whole world, the worldwide climate would still continue to warm for probably a generation just because of how much sort of momentum there is in the climate pipeline.
That's why it's so important for us to get busy as soon as we can with as much as we can do because the environment of our children and our grandchildren and their children is at stake.
>>Paula Garcia: I think we're not preparing enough to be perfectly honest with you.
I think that our work around acequia governance is a good start.
>>This is the acequia potrero here and some of it dates back to 1695.
>>William deBuys: One of the fundamental importance's of acequias is how they tie us to the land, how they keep us connected to the annual cycle, how they keep us thinking about the water and the snow and the storms and all the things that keep us clued in about the deeper character of the places in which we live.
>>Speaker: I'm studying environmental engineering so I'm learning a lot about water and this kind of stuff so it's really cool to be able to dig in a traditional sort of like water distribution system almost.
>>William deBuys: Well I've been a parciante on the acequia abajo since 1976 and I've been a commissioner for, I don't know how many years.
>>Narrator: Bill duBuys, a prolific writer and conservationist, moved to New Mexico in 1975 to take a job as a research assistant.
He soon fell in love with the arid landscape of New Mexico.
>>William deBuys: Why do we fall in love?
You can't attribute it to an intellectual rational decision.
It just happens you know, it happens to your heart and I came out here as a young man very unformed, and I was a little bit like a a duckling or a gosling coming out of the egg and imprinting on the first big thing it saw.
The first big thing I saw were the Sangre de Cristo mountains and I just kind of thought, I want to know them well.
I want to be in them.
I want to drink their water.
I want to stand in there sunshine and take shelter under their trees.
The land to me seems so powerful with these magnificent mountains and a wildness to the land that I had never encountered before but which I felt was utterly intoxicating and where I've come around to is just reveling in the beauty of the world, the beauty of this world and especially of New Mexico.
We are so privileged to live in this land.
The beauty of this place is so great that whatever we do to defend that beauty is where we should be putting our effort.
>>Robert Templeton: I've done that.
I've sat with my hands on my shovel and just looking up at the snow in the mountains or the fall leaves around the valley.
The beauty of the land, the acequia, the people, the sharing.
I'm constantly thankful to the acequieros that kept it going all the way through.
I couldn't have dreamed up a better life.
It couldn't have happened.
>>Adrian Oglesby: I've been involved in water law for almost 20 years now and it was only this last August that my wife and I became parciantes and it's beautiful.
I mean, it's really magical.
I've only been doing it a couple months and I'm getting a little choked up thinking about like, these beautiful apple trees that now are our obligation to sustain into the future on land that has been farmed since 1610.
You know, standing out on that land, it's very different from standing in a parking lot somewhere.
We talk a lot about the importance of connecting land and water in New Mexico.
That's the place where you really feel it in your soul, yeah.
>>Levi Romero: Once people start sharing stories, you begin to see that we're all alike.
It doesn't matter whether you're Black or white or Indio or Chicano, it's the stories that make us feel like I can trust you, like you can trust me, but if you're only listening to my story, it's not enough.
I have to be able to listen to your story as well.
We all have to listen to each other right?
>>John Nichols: My perspective on the acequias is that they were one of the most wonderful things that ever happened to me in my life because it brought all of us together.
>>Robert Templeton: No matter what you think about the acequias, no matter what your relationship to your acequia is, I think it's the single most important infrastructure in New Mexico.
>>William deBuys: The acequias are part of the fabric of our land and of our communities.
If you let them die, a lot of other things will die with them.
If you want to keep that lifeblood flowing, well it flows in the acequias.
>>Regis Pecos: The cross- cultural collaboration is really at the heart of our cultural survival.
Of our communion of families.
That's what we have to come back to.
Is to not be driven apart from the pressures of external forces defining land and water as commodities.
But if we fall short in valuing those generational relationships, our generation will rob future generations from inheriting all that we have inherited that defines who we are.
>>John Nichols: If these mountains die, where will our imaginations wander?
If the far mesa's are leveled, what will sustain us in our quest to be larger than life?
If the high valley is made mundane by self-seekers and careless users, where will we find another landscape so eager to nourish our love?
And if the longtime people of this wonderful country are carelessly squandered by progress, who will guide us to a better world?