Skip to Content

1719 Acequia Madre and the Alamo Dam

What is an Acequia?

Acequias are gravity flow irrigation ditches developed in arid regions of the world. Acequias were brought to what is now Texas by the Spanish. There were over 50 miles of acequia ditches in San Antonio by the 1800s.  The acequias provided water to irrigate mission fields, villa, and presidio lands and to provide a source of water to the secular and religious settlements. Allowance of water to fields was specified in Spanish land grants. The word acequia comes from the Moorish word as-saqiy, meaning “the water conduit.”  

map showing general path of the 1719 Acequia madre through the city of San Antonio
This map by Waynne Cox shows the general path of the 1719 Acequia Madre through San Antonio (from Cox 2005: 21)

1719 Acequia Madre

The  1719 Acequia Madre,  also known as  the Acequia del Valero, or the Acequia del Alamo, an irrigation canal constructed to provide  a source of water for the Mission San Antonio de Valero. The Spanish and Native Americans of the Province of Tejas built the Diversion Dam at the first bend in the San Antonio River to channel water into the acequia.  The dam was a stacked stone structure that was either straight or slightly curved. The dam crossed the river at what is now the Witte Museum. The 1719 Acequia Madre flowed approximately south along what is now Broadway , more than two miles through mission farms, on its journey to Mission San Antonio de Valero and then back into the San Antonio River, a total distance of about 3.5 miles. Archaeological investigations in conjunction with the New Witte museum construction exposed a segment of the Acequia Madre and traced its course across the Witte Museum campus. The canal profile was about 18 feet wide and and 12 feet deep. The 1719 Acequia Madre was the first part of San Antonio’s acequia system which is a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.   The purpose of the acequia at this time was to irrigate fields north of the Alamo and to supply water to the mission.  The acequia provided water for domestic and agricultural use until its closure in 1905.

Check out the sections below to learn more!