Information about Acequias

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Acequias are unique and longstanding cultural and legal institutions in Colorado. Acequias are community-operated ditches brought to Spain by the Moors, and brought to the Americas by the Spanish. The Spanish and Mexican farmers and ranchers who settled here long before Colorado became a state created these systems for irrigation and water sharing that ensure sustainable use of water. This form of land settlement and irrigation was based on principles of equity, shared scarcity and cooperation in which water was viewed as a resource in place, rather than a commodity. Acequias continue to be the lifeblood of residents in Costilla and Conejos Counties – they not only serve to provide the water for the farms on which hundreds of families depend, but they also serve as a conduit for community services and support.

The Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association is dedicated to preserving acequias and their water rights in Colorado. For more information on acequias, visit our Water Information Archive.

  • The San Luis People's Ditch, which has the oldest water rights in Colorado. It is currently under nomination for designation as a National Historic Landmark
  • Land associated with acequias are long-lots, also known as vara strips, or extensiones. They are based on the idea that everyone should have direct access to the ditch for irrigation and have uplands for grazing.
  • Acequias are gravity-driven irrigation systems and water is diverted from the acequia madre onto a particular parcel, which is then flood-irrigated. This system allows for significant aquifer recharge.
  • The acequias in this watershed support Gold Medal fly fishing.
  • The San Luis Peoples Ditch at the Corpus A. Gallegos Ranch. This is the oldest adjudicated water right in Colorado; the acequia was dug out by hand in April 1852.
  • Friends and family gather to prepare heirloom white flint corn for an overnight adobe oven roast to produce the famous chicos del horno at Rancho Dos Acequias, home of The Acequia Institute, a parciante on the Peoples Ditch.