Eventually five mission complexes were established, linked by seven acequia systems, between the headwaters of the San Antonio River and its confluence with the Medina River. The acequias served as San Antonio's water system for almost two hundred years and were the first municipal water distribution system in North America. They were remarkable engineering feats for their time, and some are still in use.
The third stop on our exploration of American Water Landmarks (catch up on stop one and two here) is the The Acequias of San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas. AWWA picked The Acequias as a American Water Landmark in 1977.
In the early 1700s, Spanish missionaries were building missions in Texas. As part of building permanent settlements, they needed to create self-sufficient communities. Without the big box superstores and modern food distribution that we know and love today, farming was critical to their success. They found that in the hot, dry southern Texas climate, the irrigation ideas originally brought to Spain by the Romans and Moors worked particularly well. This started one of the earliest recorded engineered water projects in North America.
The project consisted of constructing seven gravity-flow ditches, dams, and at least one aqueduct. Without the use of modern machinery, they constructed a 15 mile network that serviced 3,500 acres of land. The Spanish missionaries oversaw the construction, while the Native American's labored.
According to the Edwards Aquifer Website: