Communal irrigation systems known as acequias that have sustained farming villages in the arid southwestern United States for centuries are struggling because of dwindling snowmelt runoff and social and economic factors that favor modernism over tradition, a Dartmouth College study finds.
The results reflect similar changes around the world, where once isolated communities are becoming integrated into larger economies, which provide benefits of modern living but also the uncertainties of larger-scale market fluctuations. The study appears in the journal Global Environmental Change.
A PDF of the study is available on request.
Acequias evolved in the Middle East and Roman Empire and were introduced into the Americas by Spanish colonizers in the early 1600s. The term acequia refers to both communities of farmers as well as engineered irrigation canals that carry snowmelt-driven runoff to farm fields as a way for the agricultural communities to share a scarce resource in arid regions. The acequias system, which is common in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, provides a model of communal ownership that governs water rights, distribution, disputes and other issues.
Dartmouth Assistant Professor Michael Cox, the study's author, examined the acequias of the Taos Valley in northern New Mexico. He found the acequias are declining in terms of their agricultural productivity and have mostly lost their common property-based livestock pasturing system. The changes stem from a declining amount of snowmelt and a host of socio-economic factors, many resulting from population growth in the nearby city of Taos. The factors include state-level public policies that grant private water rights to individuals, which conflicts with the acequias' water sharing traditions; newcomers who are increasing demand for what water remains; increased tourism and land use development; and declining reliance on traditions in favor of modern, highly integrated economies.
Researchers typically focus on successful examples of community-based common-pool resource management systems, but Cox's study, which used a mix of interview, survey, remote sensing and census data, is among the few to explore the deterioration of such systems.
"While some of these changes can be attributed to declines in water availability, much of the change results from social drivers, including demographic changes, regional-to-global market forces and public policies," Cox says. "It thus seems quite unlikely that the acequias in Taos will return to their historical situation, meaning the acequia farmers must adapt to the current conditions."
Professor Cox is available to comment at Michael.E.Cox@dartmouth.edu.
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.
Broadcast studios: Dartmouth has TV and radio studios available for interviews. For more information, visit: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~opa/radio-tv-studios/
John Cramer | EurekAlert!
Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine