The Water Resources Development Act of 1986, "Acequia Irrigation System," authorized "such measures are necessary" to protect and restore acequia systems. This act essentially established the USACE Acequia Restoration and Rehabilitation Program. Under the Act, the restoration and preservation of the systems were declared to have cultural and historic value to the region.
Community irrigation ditch systems in New Mexico (acequias), provide irrigation water to about 160,000 acres on an estimated 12,000 small family sustenance farms and date from the sixteenth century. There are approximately one thousand acequias throughout the state.
The acequias, which have both historic and social significance, play a major role in the local economies throughout the state. At the most critical times for irrigation, high flood flows from the spring snowmelt at the beginning of irrigation season and from intense summer thunderstorms during the peak of irrigation cause structural damage or complete loss of ditch structures needed for delivering water to crops and livestock.
The program's purpose is to provide technical and financial assistance to Acequia Commissions or Community Ditch Associations for rehabilitation and improvements of their acequia systems. The work is to protect and restore the river diversion structures and associated channels attendant to the operations of the community ditch and acequia systems. Since 1987, USACE has assisted in the restoration of 35 acequias, some built as far back as 1710. In total, more than 2,400 acequia users have benefited from these projects.