Human Ecology

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 311-324

First online:

Applying a Social-Ecological System Framework to the Study of the Taos Valley Irrigation System

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This paper applies a social-ecological system (SES) framework to the analysis of a SES in the Taos valley of northern New Mexico. The SES analyzed is a set of interconnected irrigation communities known as acequias. These have persisted in the area for several hundred years. In this paper I combine concepts from multi-level governance, social network analysis, and interconnected action situations to diagnose the factors that have enabled the acequias to maintain the levels of cooperation needed to persist as farming communities in a high desert environment. To conduct this research, interview data were collected on-site to complement existing court testimonies and other relevant primary and secondary data. These data were analyzed via a step-wise diagnostic process that is inspired by the SES framework and used to illustrate how the acequias form a multilevel governance system via key network attributes, and how this governance structure maps onto the resource system while not overburdening the participants and providing sufficient benefits to motivate continued cooperation over time.


Social-ecological systems Acequias Irrigation Diagnosis New Mexico Institutions