Publication Title

University of Colorado Law Review


prior appropriation

Document Type



This article presents an account of the landscape and water institutions of the acequia communities of Colorado's Rio Culebra watershed. The physical and social landscape of the Culebra watershed, a product of water institutions introduced by Hispano settlers in the years immediately following the Mexican War, and the persistence of those institutions after the introduction of the system of prior appropriation, offers an instance of a successful engagement of community water institutions in the creation of a sustainable and resource-rich watershed landscape. The ultimate goals of this article are threefold. First, the article describes the acequialandscape and its social, cultural, and legal norms, to reveal the necessity of a multicultural perspective on water rights and water use in one community in the American West. Second, we explore the lessons that the history and waterways of Hispano irrigation communities offer to policymakers seeking to adapt water law and water institutions to support community well being and the flourishing of the natural environment. Third, this paper explores the ecological principles on display in the Culebra acequia communities, and the requirements for maintaining acequia institutional arrangements so as to promote the survival of a landscape that is collectively managed for optimum watershed functionality.

Included in

Water Law Commons



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