My dance with the hurricane rains began on my last day in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as I walked along a beautiful acequia that predates the United States (fig. 1). “Officially” established by the Atrisco Land Grant in 1692, the acequia connected New Spain’s water system to the irrigation systems of the Pueblo Indians. This and other acequias have been in continual use ever since. I love walking along these irrigation canals and experiencing their history, as they are beautiful corridors of water; food; shade; people on foot, bicycle, or horseback; and wildlife. Hands down this is the best way to get around town and connect to this place.

1 Albuquerque Armijo Lateral Acequia rwmStudies have also revealed that these acequias enhance the flow of the Río Grande River and the quality of associated groundwater—which is the lifeblood of both the community and the State of New Mexico. These unlined canals move the river’s waters throughout the whole of its floodplain, helping to reduce flooding in wet times. For similar reasons, the river is able to flow longer in dry times: Because much of the water that infiltrates the soil along the canals and throughout the floodplain slowly migrates back to the river by seeping through the soil (beneath the surface), evaporative loss of the water is greatly reduced. That slow seeping through the soil recharges the river up to 3 months after the rains and their runoff have ceased. The subsurface seeping also keeps the water cooler, as does the shade from the cottonwood-tree galleries and willows along the river’s banks—all of which is great for improving water quality, flood/erosion control, fish habitat, and soil building.

These are natural living systems/processes we can build on. Such had been the goal of a seven-day Water-Harvesting Certification Course with Watershed Management Group I had just helped teach in Albuquerque. The acequia walk gave me a little rejuvenation time before catching a bus to Ciudad Juárez, México, the location of the next stop on my trip.

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Click here to continue reading my notes and observations from my journey along the Rio Grande, which took me to a green-infrastructure conference in stormwater-flooded Ciudad Juárez, México; on to a series of community-supported talks and hands-on, rain-tested workshops in Alpine & Marfa, Texas; and finally to Big Bend National Park with its waterfalls, native Texas Persimmons, and grand vistas.

‘Drops In a Bucket’ Blog © 2014

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