Chupadero Tightens Up
Report and photos by ERIC SHULTZ
Since our report on the water emergency in a village north of Santa Fe called Chupadero, the community water system remains in crisis mode. Under rationing, the village has managed to refill its storage tank and keep it full – a source of some comfort in fire season – but life has not returned to normal. As of time of writing, no one has offered a site for a new well. At a recent meeting, Water Association members authorized their board to explore a possible Santa Fe County takeover of the mutual domestic system. Making matters worse, the creek has dried up at Chupadero’s head gate and even the upstream settlement of El Rito is struggling to stretch out a dwindling supply.
For nearly a century and a half, the Chupadero valley has “imported” surface water from the Rio en Medio by way of one of a handful of inter-basin acequias that exist in New Mexico. The Chupadero valley irrigators usually gather in June for cleaning and maintenance on the “upper” ditch, which in normal years extends the irrigating season through the summer. This past Saturday (June 30), in a last ditch effort (sorry) to catch the monsoon rains, parciantes installed neoprene liners along two leaky sections. Even if this proves to be too little too late for this season, the act of making improvements expresses Chupadero’s commitment to the future of its acequia. On Monday, it rained enough to moisten the ground and give some relief from the horno-like temperatures. By Thursday, flow to the upper valley orchards had improved markedly. But the drought conditions are deep and may take years of above-normal precipitation to reverse. In Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks gave us the classic gag, “It could be worse: it could be raining.” Chupadero is one place where the opposite is true.