Highlights from the 12th Annual Congreso de Acequias

Viva las acequias! The Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association (SdCAA) proudly to welcomed community members to the 12th annual Congreso de Acequias in San Luis, Colorado on Saturday March 9th,2024. SdCAA is a non-profit organization representing Colorado’s acequia communities whose mission is to preserve acequias and acequia water rights. This year, over 125 irrigators and community members from Costilla and Conejos counties along with numerous government and nonprofit partners joined the SdCAA in celebration of Colorado’s cherished acequia heritage.

The event began with the bendición de las aguas, a chance for participants to bring water from their acequia to be blessed and united with waters from across the region. Morning workshops included a panel discussion focusing on challenges and opportunities faced by those seeking to rebuild a robust local food system. Panelists included the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition, the San Luis People’s Market, and local producers Amyas Maestas, Richard Kuhn, and Elena Miller-ter Kuile. Participants also learned from Annie Overlin about rangeland and grassland drought resilience.

Attendees heard from Alazay Sanchez, a seventh grader at Centennial School, about his experience growing up in a family of acequia farmers and ranchers in southern Costilla County. Elementary students from Centennial, Sierra Grande and South Conejos Schools also joined in celebrating our land, water, and community through a poster contest. Students reflected on what the future of Colorado might look like if we took good care of our water resources. Fifteen prizes were awarded for the most outstanding depictions of the given theme. Congratulations to all of our talented winners and participants!

The afternoon began with a wonderful musical performance by Lara Manzanares, followed by a presentation from Gregor MacGregor and students from the CU Law School Acequia Assistance Project on how their program can provide free legal assistance for acequias and ditches. The afternoon concluded with a panel on different funding opportunities for acequia producers. On the panel were Kevin Terry from Trout Unlimited, Jenny Stricker with NRCS, Anna Greenberg from the Audubon Society, Regan Velasquez with the Colorado Soil Health program, Lawrence Gallegos with the National Grazing Lands Coalition, and Yates McConnell from the Costilla County Conservancy District. If you missed this panel and want to learn more about funding sources for acequia owners, please reach out to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

After Congreso, Frank Vigil updated those present on the status of the Cielo Vista fence issue that is affecting members of the acequia community. Following the update, a screening of the 1981 PBS documentary La Tierra was held, drawing parallels between issues faced 40 years ago and those still impacting residents today.

We are proud to represent and protect Colorado’s acequias and the unique way of life that they provide for. The Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association would like to thank all our presenters and partners who made this event a success, including Pepitas Catering, staff at Centennial School, and our generous sponsors of the event: the Trinchera Blanca Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation, the Acequia Institute, the San Luis People’s Market, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. This Congreso would not have been possible without their support!

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Stay tuned for information on next year's Congreso!