Good morning. The Home Repair shop is open and you are all welcome.
I am drawing a blank on interesting things to say, but I'll be here for the first hour and then back again later, after I give my neighbor a ride to town so he can attend the wildland firefighters' training session. They do refresher courses for those who qualified in prior years. These are the people who go out and fight range and forest fires for the Forest Service.
The high desert of eastern New Mexico continues to be in "exceptional" drought conditions and water shortages are expected for this summer. At the moment, our river, the Pecos, is running just enough to fill one of the two irrigation canals, acequias, that serve this small traditional agricultural community. We have started the irrigation season a month early this year, in response to the parciantes' entreaties to grab some of the water coming down from the mountains while there is some, as we know from last year that there won't be enough later in the season. Snowpack in the high country is about two-thirds of "normal" (the 30 yr average), and the warm winter this year is melting the snowpack earlier.
Right now, I have diverted the entire flow of the river into our 175 yr-old acequia, which is just enough to fill it to maximum capacity (about 40 cusecs [cubic feet/second] of flow, or 300 gallons every second). The canal extends along 7 miles of the river valley, irrigating about 500 acres of small holdings, producing mostly forage for animals kept by the farmers.
Soon the farmers on the other side of the valley will demand their share of the water and it will be divided between the two acequias according to long-established traditions and protocols that have evolved to deal with dry years.
This is my second year as the elected Majordomo, or ditch foreman and I am responsible for the distribution of the water and the operation, repair and maintenance of the acequia. Seven feet wide and 2 feet deep, the canal runs right through my yard, about 30 yards from my kitchen door, and I'm out there every few hours to check the level of the flow at my reference point. The balance I must maintain is to keep as much water flowing as possible without overloading the system and causing a damaging and potentially catastrophic wash-out of the ditchbank as it wends its way along the valley.
The river flow is not constant, varying daily as daytime temps in the high country rise and fall and more or less water flows down. It takes about 8 hours for the daily surge of flow to reach us down here about 60 miles downstream of where the river rises at around 12,000 feet. Later in the year, I stay alert for rainstorms that can cause a huge surge in flow, and sometimes we close down the main gates to keep the river from overwhelming the system. A big rain upstream can raise the river level by a factor of 100, or even more, in a few hours' time, from a trickle of 50 cusecs to a roaring torrent of 5,000. The infamous "flash flood"; it happens, and is a sight to behold.
This is the diversion dam and headgates, which were re-built in 1939 with the help of the WPA using locally available stone:
This is the beginning of the acequia, with my neighbor Sam cranking the big wheel that raises and lowers the gate. He's the one doing the firefighter training today.
There are 2 gates, each about 4 feet wide:
The photos barely convey the ruggedness of the terrain and the splendor of this irrigation system that Sam's ancestors dug by hand almost ten generations ago. This is the river, from the clifftop, just upstream of the diversion dam. My village water tank is visible (tall and white) in the distance.
If you can find your way out here, I'd be delighted to give an informative tour...