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2-12-06 HJM 65/aHAGC
SHORT TITLE Importance of Acequia Culture
APPROPRIATION (dollars in thousands)
or Non-Rec
(Parenthesis ( ) Indicate Expenditure Decreases)
LFC Files
Responses Received From
Office of the State Engineer – Interstate Stream Commission (OSE)
New Mexico Public Education Department (PED)
Synopsis of HAGC Amendment
House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee amendment to HJM65 amends the legisla-
tion as follows:
1. On page 3, strike lines 8 through 11 in their entirety, deleting language that en-
couraged state agencies to grant their employees administrative leave so they
could participate in the annual “Limpiada”
House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee amendment to HJM65 adds no appropria-
tion to the legislation.
Synopsis of Original House Joint Memorial 65
House Joint Memorial 65 recognizes the importance of acequia culture within the state of New
Mexico and recommends that an acequia holiday be declared the third Friday of every April.
Specifically the memorial notes that:
House Joint Memorial 65/aHAGC – Page
the historic role of acequias in New Mexico has been significant and impressive,
and the acequia can be accurately described as the birthplace of a community; and
after more than four centuries, the acequias have withstood the test of time, mak-
ing them the oldest water management institutions in the United States, with
strong historical ties to the even more ancient systems of medieval Europe and
northern Africa; and
currently, over one thousand acequias imprinting the rural landscapes of New
Mexico have survived virtually intact through a succession of political, legal and
administrative changes during Spanish, Mexican, territorial and statehood periods,
and the acequia has been the main force establishing the distinct place and bounda-
ries of communities; and
acequias are self-governing institutions and have continuously performed essential
services for the communities that they founded, enabling agricultural production,
sustaining popular participation, promoting income distribution and equity and
protecting watershed resources; and
technological, economic, demographic and social changes have produced pres-
sures and uncertainties beyond the acequias' control; and
the traditional system of common property placed a value on a set of communal
rights and responsibilities that has been challenged by another value system that
views acequia water rights as a commodity, putting at risk the acequias both as
physical watercourses and as democratic institutions for local water management;
the annual cleaning of the acequia was and still is one of the most important events
in New Mexico communities, and the cleaning of the acequia not only marks the
beginning of the agricultural season, it is also an occasion for the vecinos to ad-
dress other local issues, reconfirming the sense of tradition that undergirds the so-
cial and political life of the community; and
at the time of this annual ritual, parciantes renew their strong attachment to the lo-
cality, assuring the continuance of a place for yet another cycle of irrigation.
The memorial resolves that the third Friday of every April be set aside to recognize the contribu-
tions of acequia culture to New Mexico; and that counties, municipalities and state agencies that
employ acequia parciantes be encouraged to grant paid administrative leave to these employees
so that they may participate in their annual limpiada.
The memorial further resolves that copies of this memorial be transmitted to the governor and
the acequia commission for appropriate distribution.
There is no appropriation attached to this legislation.
House Joint Memorial 65/aHAGC – Page
The Office of the State Engineer – Interstate Stream Commission (OSE) indicates that water
rights in New Mexico are individual property rights and therefore may be sold by the owner.
While the state engineer does not allow transfer of groundwater rights from one underground ba-
sin to another, the water itself can be physically exported – if the exportation is done pursuant to
a permit issued by the state engineer and in accordance with rules and regulations of the state
engineer and state statutes. The state engineer regulates the use of water in the state – the place
and purpose of use, etc. - through the permit process. To change any element of a water right
including place of use (such as from one basin to another), the public must be given notice of the
proposed change in accordance with §72-12-3 NMSA 1978 and be afforded the right to file ob-
jections with the state engineer regarding the proposed change on the bases of impairment, con-
servation of water within the state, or public welfare. After the expiration of the time for filing
objections, if no objections have been filed, the state engineer shall, if he finds that proposed ap-
propriation would not impair existing water rights from the source, is not contrary to conserva-
tion of water within the state, and is not detrimental to the public welfare of the state, grant the
application and issue a permit to the applicant to appropriate all or a part of the waters applied
for, subject to the rights of all prior appropriators from the source.
OSE suggests that this joint memorial, if passed, contemplates that the State Engineer would ver-
ify that the application to export water is supported by “proof” of a need in the basin to which
groundwater is to be imported for water from the basin from which the groundwater is to be ex-
ported. The applicant also would have to show “proof” that there are no alternative in-basin wa-
ter sources available. The memorial is not clear as to what is to be done if the proof is not ade-
quate or what type of proof is required.
OSE notes that this joint memorial addresses the concept of “public welfare”. The joint memo-
rial discusses public welfare in the evaluation of water rights applications only in regards to the
source of the water. It does not address public welfare in regards to the proposed place(s) of use
of the water. The water statutes use the term “public welfare” but do not provide a specific defi-
nition. For water rights applications evaluations, the state engineer must consider the welfare of
the people of the entire state – not one area of the state versus another area of the state.