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USACE completes Acequia restoration project in Northern New Mexico

Workers move a boulder up the cliff face near the Farmer's Mutual Ditch. The boulder was moved to prevent it from being a rockfall hazard during the construction and installation phase of the project.

Posted on April 24, 2024

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Albuquerque District Acequia Restoration and Rehabilitation program successfully completed project work for the Farmer’s Mutual Ditch Association in Farmington New Mexico, April 12.

The community irrigation ditch systems in New Mexico – known as acequias – provide irrigation water to about 160,000 acres on an estimated 12,000 farms. There are approximately 1,000 acequias throughout the state which provide irrigation to about 160,000 acres spanning across 12,000 small family sustenance farms.

“Acequias are historic features here in New Mexico with some dating back as far as the 16th century. They are essential parts of local communities and agriculture,” said Chris Zayas, acequia program manager, USACE-Albuquerque District.

“The Acequia program provides much needed assistance to communities that are in need of protecting their water for years and generations to come,” Zayas said. “The true importance of the program, in my opinion, is the impact our work has on local communities and the direct and tangible benefits that can be seen through the work we do to restore these Acequias.”

The work for the Farmer’s Mutual Project included scaling cliff faces adjacent to the existing earthen channel as a solution to resolve rockfall and debris slides that has caused serious maintenance and water delivery issues for the association. This preventative measure is designed to address future rockfall incidents and result in not only a safer working environment but more manageable maintenance for the associations ditch riders.

“The importance of this project is two-fold,” Zayas said. “First, the cliff faces in the project reach were extremely unstable. There would be frequent rockfall and landslides that would land in the open channel and damage it, as well as hinder water delivery. This would also result in deposit of sediment and debris causing a heavier maintenance burden.”

“The scaling of the cliff faces established more reliable face and works to prevent future rockfall and the pipe installation being buried protects the delivery system in that area, in the event a future rockfall or landslide event occurs,” he said.

This work also included the conversion of an open channel irrigation system to an underground system through the installation of about 3,000 feet of corrugated metal piping further protected by earth and concrete. These combined efforts allow the association to provide protected, sustainable, and environmentally sound delivery of its water to its current and future generation of members.

The Farmer’s Mutual Ditch.

Map of Farmer’s Mutual Ditch project area in northern New Mexico.


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