Water is the most precious resource we have, and without thoughtful consideration, the importance of this treasured life source can be overlooked. With our extensive farming initiatives here at Los Poblanos, it could be very easy to use more water than necessary. However, stewardship is one of our foundational core values and we actively work to use water in careful, strategic ways.
The Pueblo Peoples of the southwest had created acequia systems to irrigate their dryland farming long before the Spaniards arrived with the systems that for them originated in the Middle East. Drawing water from the Rio Grande, acequias are still at work in New Mexico today. Just like natural rivers and streams, they create agroecosystems that promote soil conservation and the creation of healthy soil, while also forming wildlife habitats. These gravity-flow ditches are maintained by the community under an elected official called the mayordomo.
The long-established acequia system here in the North Valley provided plentiful water that allowed us to flood irrigate our farm in the past, but as we observe the impacts of prolonged drought and water scarcity, we are working to use water in ways that are even more conservative and targeted specifically to crops in our fields. Now, we only flood irrigate a couple of lawns around the historic buildings and the allée of trees that line the entry drive. The acequia water is only used with permission, and if the ditch is dry, water is pulled from one of our wells instead.
For many years now, most farm irrigation has been delivered through efficient drip systems, with emitters directly on the root zone of the crops being irrigated. Crops are grouped by similar water needs so rows can be individually monitored, and water is delivered on a flexible schedule based on the level of soil moisture. Organic mulches are used where appropriate, and cover crops help hold soil moisture and nutrients for future plantings while also providing forage, pollen and nectar for pollinators.
You can learn more about New Mexico's ancient irrigation system and enjoy an inspiring poem about the Rio Grande by the award-winning poet Jimmy Santiago Baca here.