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In northern New Mexico, Hispano subsistence farmers rely on irrigation ditches to water their crops. So once a year, the farmers come together to clean out the ditches so that their crops can get watered. The act of cleaning out the ditches, or acequias, and using them to water crops, is a tradition that is hundreds of years old. It’s a technique used by Native Americans, and was also implemented in Europe and the Middle East.

Cleaning out the acequias is more than just a once-a-year spring cleaning. The tradition reinforces communal bonds and their commitment to treating water as a precious shared resource, rather than as a commodity to be bought and sold.

Featured image by Deborah Martinez