In the arid lands of the American Southwest, water is politics. Nowhere is this more evident than in the irrigation ditches—the acequias—of the Middle Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico (Figure 1). Traditional technologies that predate European and American colonization in the region, they persist as uniquely spatial and legal infrastructures that retroactively stand as material witness to contemporary discourse around infrastructural urbanism, ecological frameworks, and regional planning. Within the field of landscape architecture, the past decade has seen an increased focus on both the historical role of infrastructure in shaping the urban environment and the potential to redesign these networks to create more vibrant and resilient communities. In this essay, we seek to reconcile these distinct discourses in an effort to learn from the ditches and to provide a platform for debate about collective resources and their management in a changing climate regime.
Keywords: landscape, environmental systems, infrastructure.