El Agua es Vida – Water is Life
Beyond the ecological benefits flood irrigation brings to dryland ecologies, Acequias are valuable in their social structure. It is believed that water is sacred and may not be owned, but shared across the community. The people who use the water tend the water. As we face dangers of water privatization, looking towards social structures that maintain essential resource of water in the commons provides the space to maintain functioning foodsheds that widen wildlife corridors through deserts. Acequias are a time tested solution to mitigate the desertification caused by climate change.

View of the Taos Distillery kitchen & upper deck from the Casita patio
The Distillery | TAOS, New Mexico

The Taos Distillery is an historic adobe which housed a bootleg operation during prohibition. The moonshine supplied the speakeasy in the back of the Taos Inn run by Vincente Mares, who tended this land at that time. We think of it now as a place for the distillation of ideas and a platform to help realize restorative acts as we explore how to cultivate the high desert steppe through a combination of ancient practices and emergent technologies. SEED to table, hugelCULTURE, Acequias, and native plant restoration are all themes that have been explored here. We host storytellers who explore our relationship with western landscapes while following the tendrils of cultural influences that helped define it. Storytellers from across disciplines are invited to apply for residencies or retreats to learn from the ancient ways of cultivating dry ecologies and share ideas on how to reverse desertification, promote restoration and amplify efforts that have demonstrated success.

Green Olive Arts | Tetouan, Morocco
Public Fountain in Chefchaouen, the Blue Pearl of the Rif

2022 Residency exploring the roots of Acequia practice in the Rif
This residency provided the opportunity to explore origins of Acequias. Having adapted systems that originated in Persia four thousand years ago, Moroccans built sequias throughout the Atlas and Rif Mountains. Upon establishment of alAndalus on the Iberian Peninsula in the 9th century, they built the same systems as part of their farm networks. After the Spanish pushed Andalusians back into Northwestern Africa, they recognized the benefit of flood irrigation to amplify the water tower effect offered by mountain hydrology to broaden alluvial plains through dry steppe ecologies in order to cultivate the desert. The Spanish kept the systems in place, and eventually carried these methodologies to the Americas to install or broadened indigenous systems though the Andes, Patagonia, Mexico and the desert Southwest.


Walk up the Zarka Valley to see verdant farms thriving despite the mid summer heat

Urban Farm utilizing Acequias along the Martil River below Tetouan

Printmaking at Green Olive Arts using plants sourced on our walks

AADK | Blanca, Spain

2023: An upcoming residency in Blanca, Spain will explore the functionality of Acequia systems installed by Maghreb settlers who founded the town centuries ago.

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