The Spanish Acequias of San Antonio
Pioneering account of San Antonio's Spanish-era acequia system
The Spanish Acequias of San Antonio is the first book on the remarkable Spanish-era acequia system that supplied water to early San Antonio. One of the acequias, serving lands near Mission Espada, remains in use today. Its 1730s stone aqueduct is a major tourist attraction.
New towns throughout the semiarid Spanish Southwest depended on water from medieval systems designed by Spanish engineers, using techniques brought to Spain from North Africa by the Moors. Their acequias, or irrigation ditches, used a variety of ingenious techniques such as hollowed logs, diversion dams, and stone aqueducts to coax water from nearby streams to homes and fields.
San Antonio’s founding was due to the presence of two major sources of water—San Pedro Springs and the headwaters of the San Antonio River. From these was developed perhaps the most extensive acequia system in the present-day United States. The fifty-mile network encompassing six acequia systems that originally served both the civilian community and five Spanish missions. Their often erratic courses determined property lines and the winding paths of many present-day streets.
Archeologist Waynne Cox, who uncovered many forgotten remains of the system, outlines acequia technology and the construction, evolution and, in most cases, the closing by the early twentieth century of San Antonio’s acequias. His pioneering account draws from a wealth of new information unearthed in the city’s earliest municipal records.
- Winner of TOMFRA Book Award from the Texas Catholic Historic Society
“The crowning achievement of Waynne Cox's work in archaeology. It is the only definitive text on the irrigation system built by the Spanish in the early 1700s.”
— San Antonio Express-News
“The strengths of the book are many. It is concise, readable and fairly well illustrated. The maps in particular . . . show clearly the location, extent and complexity of the major acequias and their branches. . . . This is an essential book for historians of Texas and the Southwest, and recommended for anyone who wants to understand how San Antonio developed over the last three centuries or who simply has an interest in water use in the region.”
— Journal of South Texas