Water Resources Professional Project Reports


Amy R. Miller

Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Acequias in New Mexico are the oldest water management institutions of European origin in the United States. Remarkably, the acequias studied in this project have been continuously maintained for over 200 years. These communal water management systems have survived through major droughts and persisted through time, but are now vulnerable to new disturbances that threaten their livelihood. Research on these disturbances helps us protect acequias, not only for their inherent cultural and historic values, but also for the example they provide as an effective way to manage water in times of scarcity. This should be particularly important in an era and region of current and projected water shortages. Three major disturbances affecting the Rio Hondo acequias were studied in this project: land use change, climate change, and demographic change. Land use change was quantified over time by examining historic and contemporary aerial photos of the region in a Geographic Information Systems program and by utilizing a historic crop report. Climate data were collected from a number of sources and evaluated using a statistical trend test. Demographic data were collected mainly from the U.S. Census and the American Community Survey and analyzed through time. The findings suggest a loss of 25 percent of the agricultural lands in the Rio Hondo between 1969 and 2010, a shift towards less crop diversification, and displacement of agricultural land by development. The climate change research findings indicate that the region has experienced increased temperatures and drier conditions over time. Substantial shifts in demographics took place, including a decline in Hispanics and increase in Anglos, an aging of the population, and large overall population growth rates. Even with these major changes, the acequias in the Rio Hondo are found to be resilient, although there is some evidence of weakening of the acequia institution. Recommendations for future resilience are provided based on the report findings.

Language (ISO)



Irrigation canals and flumes--New Mexico--Rio Hondo Watershed--History., Irrigation water--New Mexico--Rio Hondo Watershed--Management., Water-supply, Rural--New Mexico--Rio Hondo Watershed.


A Professional Project Report submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Dual Degree of Master of Water Resources, Water Resources Program, and Master of Community & Regional Planning, University of New Mexico.