Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Álamos de Los Gallegos Acequia Association (ALGAA): Enhancing Resilience, Environment, Security, and Water Rights

Project summary

The ALGAA will be facing climate challenges including prolonged drought, increased frequency of intense storms that could knock down power poles with PCB-laden transformers and create pooling in oil-contaminated commercial surrounding neighborhoods. By implementing adaptation actions and education efforts with homeowners on the benefits of irrigation for biodiversity and land value, the ALGAA hopes to increase irrigation participation by homeowners in ALGAA from 60% to 90%.

Located in Albuquerque, NM

Learn more about this effort at: https://lasacequias.org

Note: This demonstration project used the Adaptation Workbook and Adaptation resources designed for agricultural systems to create an adaptation plan as part of an online multi-week training hosted by the Southwest Climate Hub. Learn more about the agriculture adaptation resources and tools.

blue line

 

Project area

The Álamos de Los Gallegos Acequia Association (ALGAA) is an urban Acequia Association located in the North Valley of Albuquerque, NM. The association was first established in the 1920s, and there are currently 100 individual property owners. The mission of the New Mexico Acequia Association is to protect water and our acequias, grow healthy food for our families and communities, and to honor our cultural heritage. The Álamos de Los Gallegos Acequia Association is working to improve environmental safety for the irrigation network and prevent water rights transfers from the irrigators to private entities.

 

Management goals and objectives

Broadly, the goals of this project are to keep the ALGAA urban irrigation network, first established in the 1920’s, viable in the 21st century by providing environmental safety for the ALGAA urban irrigation network, mitigating intrusion of ALGAA sub laterals by unauthorized persons, and preventing water rights transfers.

 

Climate impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:

  • Temperatures in the Southwest are projected to increase by 3.7 to 8.6 degrees between years 2036-2100, which will lead to decreased water supply for our urban irrigation ditches.
  • The Southwest is expected to experience more prolonged droughts under climate change, reducing water for ALGAA.
  • Warmer temperatures, reduced snowpack, and greater water demand for agriculture may also reduce available water for natural ecosystems in the Southwest.
  • The Southwest region is expected to experience between 0 and 25 fewer days per year with a minimum temperature below 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the middle of the century.
  • A lower supply of water will increase demand for water as a commodity that can be bought and sold, endangering our ability to have sufficient irrigation water. 
  • The frequency of intense storms increases the likelihood that power poles holding PCB-containing transformers will be knocked down, polluting our irrigation ditches and backyards.
  • Intense storms cause the pooling of water in adjacent oil-contaminated commercial neighborhoods, which is drained into our irrigation ditches.
Aftermath of windstorm - image by Dan Scott
Aftermath of a windstorm. Image by Dan Scott.

 

Challenges and opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:

Challenges

  • Lack of water availability may lead the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) to close off the water supply to urban irrigation networks such as ALGAA.
  • Severe storms may lower the priority for removal of PCB-containing transformers from ALGAA by the electric power company because the power company will have to spend more resources on repairing transmission lines downed by violent weather.
  • Heavy downpours, which will increase in likelihood and frequency according to climate models, create stagnant ponds contaminated with vehicle oil and other unknown pollutants in commercial property adjacent to ALGAA's northernmost irrigation ditch. Commercial operators drain these contaminated waters into this ALGAA ditch, often resorting to perforating barriers built to prevent flow. These illegal flows will, likely, occur more often with increased intense storm activity.
  • Infrastructure, such as personnel gates, needs improving so that it can withstand more intense storm activity predicted by climate models.
  • Personnel gates need to be built so that they can be removed easily to accommodate climate-driven activities along ALGAA’s irrigation ditches (e.g., egress of construction equipment to remove overhead power lines and bury them to avoid having to repair power lines downed by severe storm activity).
  • Increased droughts, predicted by climate models, will embolden developers to invest more in purchasing water rights from irrigators in the Albuquerque Metro area.

Opportunities

  • ALGAA has the opportunity to become a model for efficient use of irrigation water by making improvements to increase delivery flow and delivery efficiency.
  • Clean-up from a PCB spill is costly. The likelihood of PCB spills will increase with increased severe storm activity. Therefore, it is more economical for the power company to exchange the PCB transformers now, instead of waiting until they are knocked down by severe storm activity.
  • More frequent pooling may incentivize commercial operators to develop a permanent drainage solution that does not involve draining into ALGAA's irrigation network.
  • Increased droughts predicted by climate models will force irrigators to realize the importance of keeping their water rights intact.
ALGAA Sublateral photo by Dan Scott
ALGAA Sublateral photo by Dan Scott

 

Adaptation actions

Theme: To build resilience   

Adaptation approaches (drawn from the Menu of Adaptation Strategies and Approaches for Agriculture):

  • Approach 1.3: Match practices to water supply and demand.
  • Approach 5.2: Promote biological diversity across the landscape.
  • Approach 5.3: Enhance landscape connectivity.

Tactics:

  • Continue to promote ALGAA as an area that needs continued hydrologic recharging to obtain public tax funds to improve irrigation ditches to support required water flows (example, Interstate Stream Commission).
  • Increase irrigation participation by homeowners in ALGAA from 60% to 90% by educating homeowners of the benefits of irrigation for biodiversity and land value. Use the same education approach to expand ALGAA southern border to include the north side of Gene Avenue, which would include a number of ALGAA properties from 100 to 125.
  • Accommodation on sub laterals for larger turnouts from the main Gallegos lateral.

 

Theme: Environment

Adaptation approaches (drawn from the Menu of Adaptation Strategies and Approaches for Agriculture):

  • Approach 1.2: Protect water quality
  • Approach 7.1: Minimize potential impacts following disturbance

Tactics:

  • Investigate and pursue environmental regulations regarding PCB-containing transformers over waterways in the state of New Mexico.
  • Investigate and document the environmental regulations regarding PCB-containing transformers over waterways in the state of New Mexico.
  • Convince homeowners to trim back trees that are making contact with power lines.
  • Investigate the environmental regulations regarding the discharge of polluted water from standing ponds in parking lots into our irrigation ditches.

 

Theme: Security

Adaptation approaches (drawn from the Menu of Adaptation Strategies and Approaches for Agriculture):

  • Approach 8.4: Match infrastructure and equipment to new and expected conditions.

Tactics:

  • Find funding for precursor work that needs to be performed before personnel gates and fencing can be installed.

 

Theme: Water rights protection

Adaptation approaches (drawn from the Menu of Adaptation Strategies and Approaches for Agriculture):

  • Approach 8.1: Expand or improve water systems to match water demand and supply.

Tactics:

  • Develop a method for automatically highlighting proposals to purchase water rights from irrigators in the Albuquerque metro area.

 

Monitoring

Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:

  • Total water flows into the ALGAA sublateral ditches per watering weekend.
  • Number/ occurrence of PCB transformers in ALGAA.
  • Oil content in irrigation water in ALGAA's northernmost sublateral, which is adjacent to an apartment complex parking lot and a storage area for a piping company.
  • Notices from ALGAA residents about unauthorized people occupying the ditches.
  • The number of water transfers from Rio Grande irrigation system between the Angostura and Isleta diversions.
Gallegos Lateral at one of seven turnouts to ALGAA image by Catherine Garcia Scott
Gallegos Lateral at one of seven turnouts to ALGAA image by Catherine Garcia Scott

blue line

Contact the Southwest Hub for more information on this project. 

 

Location

Albuquerque, NM

Project Status

Start up
Oct 1 2021

Partners

Southwest Climate Hub, Colorado State University