Repartimientos de agua: New Mexico’s tradition of water sharing

Repartimientos de agua is how community acequia systems operate in times of water scarcity. Custom originally arose out of conflict and the ongoing elastic process of negotiation and reconciliationitself, of meeting year after year to divide the water according to agreements forged in crisis long ago.

Acequieros believe that water scarcity should be shared equitably among irrigators with decision made locally about distribution. This in contrast to the concept of priority calls which can allocate all available water to the most senior user. Historically, Mayordomos have resorted to daily, ditch-by-ditch repartos. Still, in many cases, no one ever got enough water, and there were days when livestock and crops went thirsty.

That’s the New Mexico Acequia Association’s explanation of how some communities here have managed water in drought for a very long time.