Rio Grande River Basin: First Valley Water 2012 tour takes in the San Luis People’s Ditch #water2012

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Here’s a recap of the first Valley Water 2012 tour from Lauren Krizansky writing for the Valley Courier. Here’s an excerpt:

A small group of water curious people listened hard through the sounds of water breaking over rocks in La Vega’s water channels to hear Cortez tell the story of the common grazing area, which is the last traditional commons left in America, and the power of The San Luis People’s Ditch, one of San Luis’ most precious veins.

“For nine generations we have been living here,” Cortez said. “We are a living history. We believe in the sustainability that has been handed down by our ancestors. We will never starve. We will never be alone.”

La Vega sits to the southeast of the oldest town in Colorado and is the only Mexican-Era land grant commons in the state. In 1863, villagers living in the Rio Culebra Basin allocated the commons 18 miles south to the New Mexico border. Today, 500 acres of La Vega remains and its fate rests in the hands of local descendants. A commission created in the ‘70s governs the commons, which is still a traditional, uncultivated wetlands used only for grazing cattle and horses for five months out of the year…

Running through La Vega is water from Rito Seco Creek and Río Culebra. It meanders through the meadow’s high grass and eventually finds it way to The San Luis People’s Ditch, an original acequia. The gravity-fed irrigation system was built in 1852 and it was eventually awarded the first adjudicated water rights in Colorado nearly a quarter of a century before Colorado became a state. Within the next decade, 14 other acequias were developed in the Culebra Watershed. Today, over 240 families in the Culebra watershed use acequias to irrigate over 24,000 acres of privately owned pastures and croplands.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

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