Colorado Open Lands and The Acequia Institute are pleased to announce the completion of a project establishing a conservation easement on the Institute's 181-acre acequia farm in Viejo San Acacio, Colorado. 

The easement will also protect water rights on the oldest ditch in Colorado. The San Luis People’s Ditch (La Acequia De La Gente) is a gravity-fed irrigation system which was dug by hand and draught horses in 1851 and later widened and extended by plow. It was eventually awarded the first adjudicated water rights in Colorado, nearly a quarter of a century before Colorado became a state.

The Acequia Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting acequia research and community knowledge, purchased one of the varas, which was originally owned by Dario Gallegos, a founding member of the town of San Luis. The Institute worked to convert the property from a center pivot back to the historic flood irrigation methods practiced by acequias.

Devon G. Peņa, founder of the Acequia Institute, is a leading scholar on acequia history and culture, and is a passionate practitioner of acequia irrigation. Alfalfa is grown on the property and the Acequia Institute has been working on a seed saving and exchange that focuses on re-establishing the integrity of local heirloom varieties of corn and beans.

Not only does the property support agricultural production, but it has incredible wildlife habitat as well. The Rio Culebra runs through the property and supports a blue ribbon fishery. The farm contains 77 acres of wetlands and serves as a winter concentration area for bald eagles. Located just west of the town of San Luis, near the community of San Acacio, the farm is visible to travelers on the Los Caminos Antiguos National Scenic Byway.

This project was made possible by funding from The Gates Family Foundation, Great Outdoors Colorado, and the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. The Acequia Institute matched the grant with an investment of $18,000.

Dr. Enrique Salmon joins the Board of Directors

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. Enrique Salmón to the Board of Directors of the Acequia Institute. Enrique Salmón is an assistant professor in California State University East Bay’s Department of Ethnic Studies. His book, Eating the Landscape: American Indian Stories of Food, Identity, and Resilience, is now available from the University of Arizona Press. Professor Salmón previously served as a program officer for the Christensen Fund and has long served as a supporter and advisor to the acequia communities and organizations of the Rio Arriba Bioregion. He is a Native American/Chicano with ancestral roots in the Raramuri people of northern Mexico.

2015 College Spark-Washington Grant

The Acequia Institute is the fiscal sponsor of a $35,000 grant from College Spark-Washington to the Skokomish Longhouse Elders. The grant was received in October 2014 and administered during the current (2015) calendar year. The grant funds a youth mentoring project that was initiated in 2012 with support from The Acequia Institute.

This project focuses on educating tribal youth and community about treaty rights as well as “Teachings of the Tree People”.   Additionally, the mentors travelled with the students across the water in traditional canoes to truly experience the ancestral village sites located along the Hood Canal. The project ran through October 2015 and allowed the ‘Little Wolves’ to play an important role in the Longhouse's 20th anniversary celebration. A more detailed report will be posted shortly.


The Acequia Institute announces a multi-year direct-to-producer grant to the Skokomish elders in Washington state for the launching of a "First Foods Sovereignty" Project. The grant will fund development of a community garden and cannery project. For details, please visit our "Current Programs" page.

Acequia del Cerro, San Luis, Colorado

Mission Statement

The Acequia Institute, Instituto de la Acequia, is a private non-profit organization dedicated to collaborative research and education for resilience and social justice in acequia farming communities of the Upper Rio Grande bioregion. The Institute exists to protect and promote the acequia institution as one of the oldest forms of local democratic self-government and to nurture traditional forms of regenerative agriculture.

The Institute promotes collaborative community-based research through the Acequia Fellows program and makes small grants to community-based organizations working in areas related to environmental and food justice.

The Acequia Institute is a federally- registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization and all donations are tax-deductable.

Board of Directors

Devon G. Peña, Ph.D., University of Washington, Seattle, WA  Founder and President

Ramon del Castillo, Ph.D., Metropolitan State University, Denver, CO

Rosalinda Guillen, Community 2 Community, Bellingham, WA

Tania P. Hernandez, Peña Land Conservation and Restoration, LLC Treasurer

Rufina Juarez, South Central Farmers Feeding Families, Los Angeles, CA

Mario Montaño, Ph.D., The Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO 

Elisa Sabatini, Via International, San Diego, CA-Tijuana, Mexico

Enrique Salmón, Ph.D. California State University-East Bay, San Francisco, CA

Tezozomoc, South Central Farmers Feeding Families, Los Angeles, CA