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Water and Community Resilience - northern New Mexico

DISES: Water and Community Resilience Through Spatial Integration of Ecohydrological Processes and Traditional Sociocultural Knowledge. The project will employ an innovative convergence research approach that integrates biophysical and social sciences into Ecohydrologic and Social (EHS) science.

Traditional irrigation systems of northern New Mexico, also known as acequias, embody integrated socio-environmental systems; they are at once physical surface water delivery structures and community water management organizations. Because acequias rely on diversions from rivers and streams, they are acutely vulnerable to variable surface water availability. In a region subject to periodic water scarcity, acequias' resilience has historically hinged on maintaining inherent connectivities between surface water and groundwater, between irrigated landscapes and contributing watersheds, and among community members with different levels of involvement in water management. New seemingly existential threats challenge acequias' resilience. These include reduced snowmelt runoff due to climate change, residential expansion into previously farmed and wild lands, tourism and recreation development, reduced youth involvement in agriculture, forest health impacted by drought and wildfire, and reduced community involvement in water management. These challenges will require new adaptations to maintain the resilience of acequia-irrigated farmlands, their associated communities, and contributing watersheds. Building on two decades of partnership, this project is an innovative research collaboration between local stakeholders and university researchers at the highest level of community engagement, where the direction of the study is community-led in problem definition, identification of existing system drivers, and resilience scenario development. This project will support a new set of community adaptations for the 21st century; these could transform water and land management as well as the legal and political webs of support for healthy and productive communities and landscapes. New knowledge generated in this project will be disseminated through formal and informal channels, including scientific, extension, outreach publications, university coursework content, and community meetings and workshops.

Funding Source

National Science Foundation (NSF). This project is jointly funded by the Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems program and the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).