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  • Writer's pictureTaos Acequias

Sacando la Acequia and the Caronavirus (COVID-19)

Participants at an annual ditch cleaning, or sacando la acequia. Photo by the New Mexico Acequia Association

By Paula Garcia

Our annual tradition of sacando la acequia is an expression of our values of the dignity of work, equity, and community. Many local acequias have called asking for guidance on how to manage the essential work of our ditch cleanings because it is essential to getting our water flowing for the irrigation season. The NMAA has asked for an official opinion from the state, but until we get a response, we can follow the guidance that has been provided so far to limit person-to-person contact to slow the spread of the virus. So far guidance from the Department of Health is to avoid groups over 10 people and to use social distancing of 6 feet.

We are sharing some examples of how some acequias are getting work done while also protecting the health of everyone involved:

  1. Canceling the spring cleaning event and asking each landowner to clean the section of acequia that runs through their property.

  2. Limiting the number of people at the cleaning by not hiring any outside workers.

  3. Using the same small crew (under 10 people), spaced out by 12 feet each, to complete the work over several days.

Finally, Phillip Villareal from Acequia de Chupadero in Santa Fe County shared this plan which attempts to strike a balance between public health and completing critical work in support of agriculture and ranching:

  • If you have traveled out of the country or to any of the hot spots in the United States, PLEASE DO NOT ATTEND.

  • If you are 70 or OLDER PLEASE DO NOT ATTEND

  • If you have immunocompromised health PLEASE DO NOT ATTEND

  • If you don't feel safe or comfortable attending PLEASE DO NOT ATTEND

  • We will be breaking up the crews to 5- 7 people or less depending on turn out, and will space individuals 10 feet from each other. Crews will be dispersed to various parts of the ditch to avoid as much contact with each other as possible.

  • We have hired 7 outside workers and hoping for a few more.

  • We will NOT be meeting after ditch cleaning to celebrate the day as we usually do.

We would like to know how your acequia is handling the ditch cleaning during this time of COVID-19. If you have similar examples, please feel free to share them with TVAA and NMAA. Email your examples to and, and we will share them with your permission. We will survive this by working together and keeping each other healthy. Que Vivan las Acequias!

Paula Garcia is the Executive Director of the New Mexico Acequia Association in Santa Fe.


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