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2007_6_Nr6_EEMJ

Archambault and

Archambault and Ulibarr/Environmental Engineering and Management Journal 6 (2007), 6, 491-495 Economists classify environmental and cultural attributes as nonmarket goods, which do not have prices and cannot be traded in a traditional market place. Valuation studies are carried out to name a monetary figure to represent society’s willingness-to-pay (WTP) for nonmarket goods. Valuation techniques have traditionally been used to capture the nonmarket value of environmental goods, although the techniques have been expanded to capture the value of cultural and agriculture amenities. Brunstad et al. (1999) suggested that the total value of agriculture should not only include the market value of products produced, but also take into account agriculture landscape amenities, such as open space and tree cover, the security of food production capacity, and the preservation of rural communities and rural lifestyles. Understanding the full value of agriculture production, beyond solely the market value of agricultural output, can be used to weigh the costs and benefits to society of policy measures that impact agricultural production. There have been a number of previous nonmarket valuation studies of agriculture landscapes, several are mentioned here. Hedonic pricing studies have determined that the presence of agricultural open space, pastureland, and irrigation water increased property values and rents of nearby residences, while the presence of large animal farms decreased the value of these nearby properties (Faux and Perry, 1999; Ready and Abdalla, 2005). Employing the contingent valuation method (CVM), surveys have asked respondents their WTP for hypothetical changes to a landscape that could potentially impact the existing agricultural attributes, such as the amount of grazing land utilized, or the chosen conservation and land management strategies (Berrens et al., 1998; Schlapher and Hanley, 2003). The primary purpose of nonmarket valuation studies is to discover a quantitative value for nonmarket goods. However, valuation studies have been criticized for not including input from organizational structures that have specific interests in, and knowledge of, the nonmarket good in question. It is argued that there is a need to analyze the key stakeholders, institutions, and agencies that are interconnected with the good to fully understand the context in which nonmarket values are perceived by society (Kontogianni, et al., 2001). Stakeholder analyses have become increasingly popular tools for evaluating the role various stakeholders have in influencing policy (Brugha and Varvasovszky, 2000). Ecological modernization studies use stakeholder analyses to understand the political ecology of an industry, to determine strategies for integrating policies and activities that promote principles of sustainability in the industry (Archambault, 2004). The contribution of this research is to use a stakeholder analysis to qualitatively explore the context with which environmental and cultural attributes of traditional agriculture practices are deemed valuable by society. This analysis is then used to identify management and policy initiatives that increase the value of these attributes. 2. Case Study: Acequia stakeholder analysis The stakeholder analysis carried out for this study relied primarily on secondary data collected from academic journal articles, as well as government and non-government policy and report documents. Meetings were carried out with members of New Mexico’s legislative finance committee, Think New Mexico, and academic researchers. Other agencies were contacted via email. The primary purpose of this communication was to verify interpretation of the documents reviewed. 2.1. Governmental agencies A brief database search of New Mexico state law turns up a number of rules that pertain to the operation, maintenance, preservation, or water rights of acequias (NMCC, 2007). In 2005, the state government put in place the Strategic Water Reserve, which allows the state to buy or lease water rights from users to ensure rivers and streams have the legally required quantities of water to be delivered to nearby states, and to maintain levels needed by endangered river ecosystems (New Mexico, 2005). Under the law, the Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) is given the power to purchase or lease water rights from willing sellers for a price no greater than the appraised market value. However, the policy does not allow water to be purchased from acequia communities. Additionally, state and federal funds are available for acequia rehabilitation and improvement projects. In 2004, the state’s funding share to these projects was $2.4 million (ISC, 2004). One of the major players for water use in New Mexico are the quasi-government irrigation districts that regulate and distribute water according to the state’s established doctrine of prior appropriation, whereby those who have been using the water the longest have the most senior water rights (Thompson, 1986). This hierarchy means that users with junior rights may not receive water in times of low supply. The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) was created in the early 1900s through the incorporation of seventy-nine independent acequia communities who recognized the need to coordinate the use of water from the Rio Grande (MRGCD, 2007). However, with the rapid development of urban and industrial centers, the MRGCD must now balance the various demands placed on this surface water (Thompson, 1986). Because acequia communities collectively hold senior water rights, the MRGCD and other irrigation districts must give them higher priority for water delivery. The exemption for acequias in the Strategic River Reserve, the funds provided annually to acequias, and the mechanism of protecting senior water rights indicates that the state recognizes that acequias have value to New Mexico. The support 492

Nonmarket valuation of acequias: stakeholder analysis provided by the state ensures acequias are able to continue their operations. 2.2. Local development Local city governments have to contend directly with the conflicting demands on water and land resources from acequias and urban development. One example of balancing growth and acequia cultural preservation is seen in the agricultural village of Los Lunas, located just south of large city of Albuquerque. Los Lunas has relied on acequias for many generations, but now faces pressure to develop residential communities for its rapidly growing population. The Los Lunas comprehensive plan emphasizes the need for a mode of development that maintains their agricultural heritage (Los Lunas, 1999). The interest and struggles of communities to maintain acequias despite development pressures, underscores the presence of a cultural value held for acequias. 2.3. Policy advocacy groups There are different special interest groups, think tanks, and policy lobbyists who advocate for specific policy objectives that concern acequias. Think New Mexico is an advocacy organization that was extensively involved in promoting the implementation of the strategic water reserve, and lobbied for acequias to be exempt from transferring water to the reserve. Their policy documents call attention to the unique social, cultural, and ecological benefits of acequias that would be damaged if the reserve policy transferred water away from acequias. They mention the millions of dollars New Mexico is able to generate from tourists who come to experience the state’s cultural heritage, of which acequias play a visible role (Think New Mexico, 2003). Another advocacy group is the New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA). NMAA was founded in 1990 to serve as a platform for expressing the common concerns and goals of acequia communities around the state. Acequia users and other interested parties pay dues to have membership in the NMAA. The association organizes people and resources to meet goals, provide education, and advocate for policies that are in the interest of acequia communities. The association particularly calls attention to its mission of sustaining the acequia culture and traditions, protecting water as a community resource, and maintaining the ability to grow food (NMAA, 2007). One category of special interest groups includes those groups with specific interests in promoting environmental issues. The Forest Guardians are particularly vocal about their interest in maintaining healthy river ecosystems. They have concern for the large quantities of water required for some agriculture activities, including the growing of alfalfa, which many modern acequia communities produce (Forest Guardians, 2007). However, many environmental advocacy groups do not promote the termination of acequia culture. Instead, they emphasize the contribution acequias make to the cultural landscape, and propose ways that acequias could be managed in the most environmentally feasible manner, so there is water available for both acequias and instream flows. Possible techniques include growing valuable crops that use less water (Brown and Rivera, 2000). A series of environmental organizations, including Forest Guardians, made a statement in 2000, saying that increasing the efficiency of agriculture irrigation is the most effective way to increase river flows and maintain river habitats (Alliance for the Rio Grande Heritage et al., 2000). This statement indicates that acequias have a potentially valuable role to play in managing New Mexico’s scarce water resources. 2.4. Religious organizations Historically, the predominant religious institution in New Mexico is the Roman Catholic Church. There is evidence in activities of the Church that highlights the cultural significance of acequias. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe has an Ecology Ministry through their Peace and Social Justice Office, which advocates for acequia communities. Along with community and environmental organizations, such as Amigos Bravos, the Church is involved with the annual Fiesta de San Isidro, where acequias are blessed and a traditional Catholic Mass is held (Amigos Bravos, 2007). The work of the Church to support and advocate for acequia culture represents the Church’s recognition that acequias contribute value to New Mexico communities. 2.5. Academic research Academic research also gives some insight into the cultural value of acequias. The hypothesis is that if there are large numbers of researchers involved with studying acequia culture and activity, one might conclude that acequia culture has a level of importance in New Mexico. Social research concerning acequias has included acequia history and culture (Rivera, 1998), acequia legal structure (Delara, 2000), and efficiency, equity and shared resource studies (Klein-Robbenhaar, 1996). 3. Discussion and policy implications This analysis has indicated that stakeholders look beyond market economics, and assign value to acequias based on their unique social structure, cultural and traditional heritage, and actual and potential environmental contributions. There are also characteristics of acequias that may diminish their nonmarket value, including interference with urban and industrial development, as well as inefficient use of water. There is specific environmental concern that acequias leave less water available for endangered river ecosystems. 493

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