Identification and Dating of Indigenous water Storage Reservoirs at Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico, USA

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Journal of Arid Environments




Academic Press

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An investigation into indigenous water storage on the Rio San José in western New Mexico was conducted in support of efforts by the Pueblo of Laguna to adjudicate their water rights. Here we focus on stratigraphy and geochronology of two Native American-constructed reservoirs. One reservoir located near the community of Casa Blanca was formed by a ∼600 m (2000 feet) long stone masonry dam that impounded ∼1.6 × 106 m3 (∼1300 acre-feet) of stored water. Four optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) ages obtained on reservoir deposits indicate that the dam was constructed prior to AD 1825. The other reservoir is located adjacent to Old Laguna Pueblo and contains only a small remnant of its former earthen dam. The depth and distribution of reservoir deposits and a photogrammetric analyses of relict shorelines indicate a storage capacity of ∼6.5 × 106 m3 (∼5300 ac-ft). OSL ages from above and below the base of the reservoir indicate that the reservoir was constructed sometime after AD 1370 but before AD 1750. The results of our investigation are consistent with Laguna oral history and Spanish accounts demonstrating indigenous construction of significant water-storage reservoirs on the Rio San José prior to the late nineteenth century.

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