Acequia Assistance Project

Program Contact

Shaun LaBarre

shaun.labarre@colorado.edu

The Acequia Assistance Project is a joint effort by the Getches-Wilkinson Center, Colorado Open Lands, and the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association to provide low or no-cost legal assistance and educational materials to Colorado’s acequia communities.

What is an Acequia?

The word acequia means “water bearer” in Arabic. An acequia is both a physical irrigation system (a ditch) and a philosophical approach to water management. In Colorado, acequias exist in Costilla, Conejos, Huerfano, and Las Animas counties. Acequia communities believe that water is essential to life so they treat it as a communal resource. This approach shapes how communities interact with natural environments in the Southern Colorado watersheds, thus creating resilient natural and cultural systems.

In the western United States water is scarce, so we often equate it with wealth. In acequia communities, however, small scale farmers see water management as both a means to support their families and a powerful way to participate in community. Irrigators work together to meet each landowner’s water needs. So, in times of water scarcity, they cooperate to equitably distribute water. If that is not physically possible, they share fields. While they are treated like any other water rights in Colorado, acequias’ governance structures make them unique.

Our Work

As water becomes more scarce, acequias offer a powerful model of alternative water administration and use. To maintain their viability, the acequia community must first address some key challenges. For example, acequias have operated informally for generations thus many remain unincorporated and without bylaws.

With the guidance of faculty and numerous pro bono lawyers, University of Colorado Boulder law students help address these challenges by (1) drafting by-laws and governance documents, and (2) representing acequias and irrigators in water rights cases. Students have also drafted a Handbook for Colorado Acequias and participated in the annual Congreso de Acequias, which is held in San Luis, Colorado.

Available Publications

Colorado Acequia Handbook 3rd Edition
The Hallett Decress and Acequia Water Rights Administration on Rio Culebra in Colorado
Introduction to Water Resource Issues in Div 3.
Division 3 – Alamosa Rio Grande Basin
Amended Costilla Creek Compact Article

Student Deputy Directors:

Class of 2022: Johnsie Wilkinson (Johnsie.Wilkinson@colorado.edu) and Will Raley (William.Raley@colorado.edu)

Class of 2023: Cameron Abatti (Cameron Abatti@colorado.edu) and Grace Jimenez (Grace.Jimenez@colorado.edu)

Class of 2024: Mary Slosson (Mary.Slosson@colorado.edu) and Kasey Moraveck (Kasey.Moraveck@colorado.edu)

  • Acequia Assistance Project

    Location

    in colorado

    San Luis

    Dates

    Ongoing

    Public or Private

    Private Program (by request only or for a specific audience or group)

    Program Fee

    Not Applicable

    Additional Info


  • Acequia Assistance Project

    Location

    in colorado

    Conejos

    Dates

    Ongoing

    Public or Private

    Private Program (by request only or for a specific audience or group)

    Program Fee

    Not Applicable

  • Acequia Assistance Project

    Location

    in colorado

    Trinidad

    Dates

    Ongoing

    Public or Private

    Private Program (by request only or for a specific audience or group)

    Program Fee

    Not Applicable

  • Acequia Assistance Project

    Location

    in colorado

    Walsenburg

    Dates

    Ongoing

    Public or Private

    Private Program (by request only or for a specific audience or group)

    Program Fee

    Not Applicable

Sponsoring Units

  • School of Law

  • Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and Environment

Program Partners

  • Colorado Open Lands
  • Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association
  • Sarah Parmar (Colorado Open Lands/Acequia Association)
  • Allan Beezley (Allan Beezley, P.C.)
  • Peter Nichols (Berg, Hill, Greenleaf & Ruscitti, LLP)
  • Bill Paddock (Carlson, Hammond and Paddock, LLP)
  • The Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation
  • Valeria Gates Foundation
  • Kelcey (Nichols, Wood Nichols, LLC)
  • Megan Gutwein (Berg, Hill, Greenleaf & Ruscitti)
  • Allan Beezley and Marie Vicek (Beezley PC)
  • Sarah Pizzo, Esq.
  • Will Davidson (Moses, Wittemyer, Harrison & Woodruff)
  • Scott Holwick (Lyons Gaddis)
  • Julia Guarino (Four Corner Environmental and Economic Justice, Getches-Wilkinson Center)
  • Gunnar Paulsen and Cassidy Woodard (Porzak, Browning & Bushong)

Audiences Served

  • Government
  • Historically Excluded/Marginalized/Non-dominant Group(s)
  • Native American/American Indian
  • Non-Profit Organization
  • Rural Communities
  • Socioeconomically Disadvantaged