New map shows where burn scar threatens historic acequias

By: - September 22, 2022 4:58 pm

The acequia that runs parallel to Cañoncito Creek and past Grace Vigil’s home sits dry after a flood July 12. (Photo by Patrick Lohmann / Source NM)

After months of effort, contractors with the New Mexico Acequia Association have a clearer picture of the 200-year old acequias in the burn scar of the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire. 

The irrigation ditches are carved through much of northern New Mexico, and there are about 80 in the 530-square-mile burn scar north of Las Vegas, N.M.

Association Director Paula Garcia said the first-ever mapping project was done to help document damage, and seek federal and state financial assistance. Until now, the Office of the State Engineer had only done rough outlines of acequias with the help of satellite data, and mappers there missed quite a few. 

After fire and flood, ash chokes acequias in northern NM

So association officials have walked every mile of the vast majority of the acequias in the burn scar. They found that almost all of them are damaged or full of silt due to the fire. 

Garcia and some mayordomos recently told Source New Mexico that they’ve been frustrated by the lack of federal and state help in clearing the acequias. The waterways could help channel floods spilling off charred land, and help spur the return of farming and living along the ditches.

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Federal and state programs are not well-designed for a systematic revival of the ditch system, Garcia said, and they’ve run into roadblocks in getting short-term debris removal and other help. 

The map reveals that many of the headgates of acequias are near where floods have been reported over the last few months. High-severity burn areas, which are more prone to flooding, also surround many of the acequias, especially in the northern part of the burn scar.

The new map data, which is published below by Source New Mexico, is limited in some respects. It does not show the length of acequias, only the points at which they are diverted from other waterways. 

And Garcia said that the association is still refining some of the data, including by removing a handful of private ditches on the map near Ledoux and adding acequias near Gascon.


See maps below of the acequias and flood reports:



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Patrick Lohmann
Patrick Lohmann

Patrick Lohmann has been a reporter since 2007, when he wrote stories for $15 apiece at a now-defunct tabloid in Gallup, his hometown. Since then, he's worked at UNM's Daily Lobo, the Albuquerque Journal and the Syracuse Post-Standard.