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Acequia - Of Arabic origin, the Spanish acequia refers to a ditch or irrigation canal

Acequia Madre - lit. mother ditch. The acequia madre is the main irrigation canal through which water is supplied to communities and fields.

Adjudicación de Aguas - To adjudicate or finalize legal rights to water among members of a acequia system.

Agua Sobrante - refers to excess or left over water. The Anglo equivalent would be tailwater.

Aguas Subterraneas - lit. subterranean waters or groundwater.

Arar - lit. plow. May refer to either the implement or the action of plowing.

Arrendamiento de Derechos de Agua - the practice of renting or leasing water rights.

Atarque - Semi-permanent or temporary dams constructed of earth, rocks-and-brush, or logs. These structures raise water levels sufficient for water to enter the head or intake of an acequia; also known as presa.

Bordo - refers to earthen ridges bounding individual fields that hold irrigation water until it can soak into the ground; used primarily in flood irrigation.

Campo - a field that is as yet unplanted

Campo Sembrado - a planted field

Canoa - lit. a canoe. A device for transferring water across obstacles such as arroyos; the Anglo term is flume. These formerly were built of hollowed-out logs. Later, they were replaced by milled lumber and, most recently, by metal culverts.

Carreta - lit. Cart. Refers to a two-wheeled animal-drawn cart; often used to refer to a wagon

Ciénega - refers to a marsh or swampy place.

Comisión - The commission, or governing body, of an community acequia association. Association commissioners are elected on annual basis, usually for a one year term. The commission sets rules, establishes annual fees, and often adjudicates disputes between members of the association.

Compuerta - temporary devices for diverting water from the acequia madre into smaller irrigation canals, or contra acequias. The equivalent Anglo term is sluice, floodgate, tap, or check.

Contra Acequia - lit. a counter ditch. These are lower-order ditches used to divert water from the acequia madre into individual fields or pastures.

Cuota - An annual fee paid by each member of a community acequia. Fees are used for ditch maintenance and repairs.

Derechos de Agua - lit. right to water. Refers to the rights of individual members, as well as ditch associations, to water.

Desagua - a channel or outlet usually located at the terminus of an acequia system used to drain agua sobrante or tailwater back into a river or, in some cases, into another canal

Estanque - a small earthen tank used for temporary storage of irrigation water

Faena - lit. work or labor. This refers to work assigned to individuals when cleaning acequias in the spring.

Fanega - refers to a measure of grain and seed equal to a hundred weight, or an English 112 pound bushel. A fanega historically varied between 1.5 to 2.5 bushels depending on local custom. A fanega can also refer to a measure of land, fanega de tierra, equivalent of 400 square fathoms.

Fatiga - lit. fatigue. This generally is applied to annual ditch cleaning activities.

Fresno - lit. a staff or lance; this may be an adaptation of the term freza which can refer either to animal dung or turned up ground. In normal usage, this refers to a square wooden (later metal) scoop drawn by animals (horses, mule, or oxen) used in removing earth to construct acequias or, alternately, remove manure. The fresno is guided by means of an extended wood or metal shaft/handle, hence the name.

Guadanar - lit. to operat ascythe. Guadanar refers to cutting or mowing grain or hay.

Jardincito - lit. a garden plot. Often refers to truck gardens located near dwellings.

Labor - lit. labor. This refers to a variety of activities associated with farming.

Legua - a Spanish unit of distance measurement equivalent to 2.6 miles


Mayordomo - lit. steward or servent. An elected official responsible for the day-to-day management of an acequia. Mayordomos levied fees, mustered labor for emergency repairs, and oversaw the distribution of water among members of the community acequia. In some places, mayordomos were required to carry performance bonds to insure they performed their duties faithfully.

Merced de Agua - lit. a grant of rights to water. These were granted following a formal petition to Spanish (later Mexican) authorities, but were unusual since most water rights were attached to land grants (i.e., water was appurtenant to land).

Milpa - refers (generically) to a parcel of cultivated ground; sometimes used more narrowly to refer to a field of maize.

Mojonera - lit. A landmark. Used more generally to refer to cairns or other markers delimiting property boundaries.

Molino - lit. a mill; variously used with other terms to refer to, e.g., windmills (monilo de viento), water-powered mills (Molino de agua), stamp-mills (molino de estampar) and sawmills (molino de aserrar). Most often used to refer to mills used in grinding grains.

Parciante - generally refers to members of a community acequia receiving allotments of water from the acequia.

Peón - lit. day-laborer.

Presa - lit. dike, dam, or bank. Most often used to refer to temporary water diversion structures constructed of brush-and-rock, earth, or logs.

Propietarios - lit. proprietor, owner, or landlord.

Rastro - lit. a rake or harrow. Historically these were horse- or mule-drawn implements for collecting hay; may also refer to the action of harrowing.

Regadío - lit. Irrigated lands.

Repartimiento de Agua - lit. to partition, divide, distribute or apportion water among members of a community acequia.

Sangria - lit. bloodletting. Refers to lowest-order irrigation ditches far removed from acequia madres (i.e., at the terminus of acequia systems). The term presumably is an analogy to veins in a human circulatory system.


Sacar la Acequia - lit. Sacar means to extract, draw out, or remove. The term usually applies to activities revolving around ditch cleaning in the spring

Siembra de Regadio - lit. Seeds that are irrigated. More generally refers to irrigated crops of all kinds.

Siembra de Temporal - lit. Seeds that are temporary. Usually refers to all kinds of dry-land (i.e., non-irrigated) crops.

Sobrante - lit. Residual. Refers to surplus water, or tailwater, generally found in the lower ends of fields or canal systems.

Surco - lit. a furrow. This more generally refers to a measurement of water roughly equivalent of a flow of approximately 51 gallons per minute.

Tapón - lit. a cork, plug, or bung. This term is often used to refer to small earthen dams situated in contra acequias to temporarily check the water for diversion into adjacent fields.

Tarea - lit. a shift, task, or work assigned by another. This term is used by mayordomos to designate a section of canal to be cleaned by an individual.

Tasa - lit. a measure or rule. More generally, a tasa refers to the amount of water received by a parciante during any one irrigation cycle. This amount usually varies directly with the size of fields.

Tequío - lit. a charge or tax. In agricultural contexts, this refers to a stick of standard length used by a mayordomo to delineate the tarea of each person cleaning a ditch; this insures a fair distribution of labor among parciantes.

Tienda - lit. a shop or stall. This term sometimes refers to repairs that must be made to equipment during ditch-cleaning operations. Time spent completing any tienda work is often docked against the time that a parciante must contribute to maintaining the acequia.

Trecho de Terreno - lit. distance (or area) of land. More generally a size estimate of land area used by mayordomos to determine water allocations among parciantes.

Vena - lit. vein. Used to refer to the smallest of the distribution laterals in a community acequia system.