The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 395
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Restoring the Oldest Water Right in Texas
project's coordinators when they observed the release of water into the
dirt channel as it passed a thick stand of cedar elms and hackberry trees.
Attention was called to the importance of this "cooperative venture"
involving the SARA, the SACS, Los Compadres de San Antonio Missions,
the National Park Service, and the city of San Antonio. The executive
director for the San Antonio River Authority lamented that the water
rights for the acequia were "nearly lost" but with the completion of the
restoration project "the right will live on."''76
For its part, the National Park Service announced its plans to create the
demonstration farm at San Juan Capistrano Mission, replicating Spanish
colonial farming techniques from centuries earlier. The NPS superinten-
dent at the ceremony focused on the importance of flowing water to the
success of the project to grow crops and educate school children and
other visitors about the way of life of settlers in early San Antonio: "a place
of outdoor classrooms for the American public." The superintendent also
described the companion project at the old San Jos6 Mission where a
restored grist mill from 1794 would once again grind flour for making
tortillas after its reopening and dedication, an event that took place on
August 29, 2oo001. The wheat for the San Jose Grist Mill will be grown on
the labores of the demonstration farm at San Juan Mission."
By all accounts, restoring the oldest water right in Texas was worth the
price. Without the litigation strategy employed by the landowner irriga-
tors, the San Antonio Conservation Society, and the Archdiocese of San
Antonio, the labores at Mission San Juan Capistrano would have remained
dry indefinitely and the water right eventually voided. Over time, public
entities that earlier had destroyed portions of the ancient ditch system,
and had resisted the desires of the property owners to restore river water
to the headgate, came to recognize the historic and cultural significance
of the system and undertook a leadership role in working toward its
preservation. The National Park Service eagerly lent its support as well
and currently serves as a shareholder in the San Juan Ditch Water Supply
Corporation. The fate of the acequia system appears secure for apprecia-
tion by future generations. San Antonio's colonial past, steeped in
Spanish land tenure and water laws, will continue to be reflected as long
as river water flows into the San Juan Acequia headgate through the main
canal and its laterals to nourish the old mission labores.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/463/: accessed August 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.