General Secretary | Royal Canal of the Júcar
Years working in irrigation: 34
Years as manager: 33
Number of employees: 161 (including the governing board and local boards)
Size of service area in acres: 50,290
Amount of water diverted for irrigation per year in acre-feet: 132,050
Main crops irrigated: Citrus fruit, persimmons, rice, vegetables
Predominant irrigation methods: Drip, flood
Irrigation Leader: What is the top issue facing your irrigation district today?
Juan Valero de Palma: At the moment, completing the modernization of irrigation across our irrigable surface area to guarantee the viability of the crops grown here. It is an important challenge, because at present, only 17 of the 45 sectors into which the Royal Canal is divided are operational.
Irrigation Leader: What future issues are you preparing for?
Juan Valero de Palma: Modernization is a strategic project because it will allow us to guarantee generational succession by improving the quality of life for our farmers. The average age of farmers in our area is around 65. With the introduction of drip irrigation, we are incorporating new technologies into the rural sphere, making the work easier and thus making its future more viable.
Irrigation Leader: What are your top issues regarding personnel?
Juan Valero de Palma: Thanks to our modernization efforts, our team has been rejuvenated. We have hired engineers to manage our 1,500-kilometer (932‑mile) pressurized system, which runs at 15 cubic meters (530 cubic feet) per second. It is most important that all our personnel are engaged with the organizational culture—that they are at the service of our irrigators, who are the owners of the Royal Canal.
Irrigation Leader: What training do you currently provide your employees?
Juan Valero de Palma: We run training days—personnel meetings that involve brainstorming and the setting of personal goals—for each section of the Royal Canal. All our personnel know that they can always sign up for any training course relevant to their work and the community.
Irrigation Leader: How much do you spend on training each year?
Juan Valero de Palma: 12,000 euros ($13,050).
Irrigation Leader: What kind of safety programs do you have in place?
Juan Valero de Palma: We have a workplace risk prevention plan and a specialist who is assigned to ensure compliance with it.
Irrigation Leader: What is the most important thing you have learned as a manager?
Juan Valero de Palma: The necessity of dialogue and consensus. The Royal Canal of the Júcar is a corporation of public law with a close relationship with government agencies. This obliges us to collaborate, negotiate, and tirelessly work to reach points of agreement with these agencies to allow us to guarantee and to defend the rights of our users, the 25,000 irrigators who form the Royal Canal of the Júcar.
Irrigation Leader: What are the top skills needed to be a successful manager?
Juan Valero de Palma: Keeping an open attitude and listening to all parties involved in a project is always a guarantee of success. It is necessary to always be curious and open to learning. Our institution is very old—it has more than 750 years of history—and if it has lasted, it has always been because of the willingness to work for the common good of the society of which it is a part. You must build a good team of professionals who are aligned with the objectives and the mission of the organization, which is modernization. It is also important to have the most information you can and to analyze all possible solutions to find the one that is best for the irrigators over the short, medium, and long terms.
Irrigation Leader: What is the best way to work with a board of directors?
Juan Valero de Palma: We always try to reach consensus on all topics in advance, providing every sort of information to our governing board and general board so that everyone is thoroughly informed about the possibilities and the motivation that has led us to our decisions.