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OCCC Reads 2015-2016: Water Matters: Chapter 13: Acequias: Water Democracy

This guide provides a range of resources to use for OCCC Reads 2015-2016.

Chapter Summary


Paula Garcia gives a history of a centuries-old water sharing system, the reparto .  The title comes from the governance model used in New Mexico to mediate water rights and water allocation.  The “acequia world view” includes an ethic as well as a decision-making system.  The ethic is handed down from Arabic, Spanish, and Native American desert cultures who perceive water as a divine gift, and its decision-making system is guided by a principle of equity. The third essential point of acequias is that water belongs to a place.  In deep contrast to this is our modern Western worldview of water as a marketable commodity.  The latter view is becoming more and more the mode of water management, and is principled upon increasing supply for those with the most economic resources.  Places like the Southwest where urban and industrial growth meet limited water supplies become the testing grounds for future policies, sane or insane.

Thus, a question for all our futures:  if we can assume that water is a precious resource, sacred (or not), how do we share it in a democratic way (or not)?

Why Use this Chapter?

Why Use this Chapter:

  1. To set the stage, have students complete the water Calculator Quiz at page 196 or at the link below
  2. Have students, in groups, explore the advantages/possibilities of the “14 Actions You Can Take to Protect Our Water”  on pages 194-195
  3. The chapter is full of possible/writing/report topics:  the history of the acequias/Native American ethos/ water management systems (local, state, regional)/ water use as a social justice issue/lessons of the acequias for democracy/how a student thinks (or not) about water
  4. Set up a “controversy” between groups arguing the merits of modern water management systems vs the traditional acequias system and the two philosophies behind them.
  5. Research and explore the “spiritual” dimensions of water
  6. Agriculture makes-up about 70% of the world’s water use.  Explore the differences in water use between industrial agriculture and more traditional, small farm uses of water.
  7. Interview someone in a city water management office.
  8. Research/report great American conservationists
  9. Conservation project: Create a plan of action to reduce an individual’s household water use by 10%.
  10. Compare and Contrast the Civil Rights Movement to current Conservation Movements