Irrigation Leader
Featured,  Interview

Rick Smith Sunset, UT

General Manager |Davis and Weber Counties Canal Company and the Weber River Water Users Association 

Years working in irrigation: 23 

Years as manager: 6 

Number of employees: 13 

Size of service area in acres: 30,000 

Amount of water diverted for irrigation per year in acre-feet: 60,000–80,000 

Main crops irrigated: Beans, corn, grains, melons, onions, peppers 

Predominant irrigation methods: Flood (agriculture), sprinklers (secondary water/lawn and garden) 

Irrigation Leader: What is the top issue facing your irrigation district today? 

Rick Smith: Drought, the conversion of agricultural lands to residential development, and finding new staff. 

Irrigation Leader: What future issues are you preparing for? 

Rick Smith: Protecting water rights and installing water measurement systems and meters on our secondary water users. Secondary water is a pressure irrigation system of nontreated water for homes, parks, and so on. New legislation requires that we have our entire system metered by the end of 2029. 

Irrigation Leader: What are your top issues regarding personnel? 

Rick Smith: Retaining our current staff and finding more due to our system’s needs, and transferring knowledge from senior staff to the next generation of employees. 

Irrigation Leader: What training do you currently provide your employees? 

Rick Smith: Much of it is on-the-job training. We do provide opportunities to attend Bureau of Reclamation trainings, pesticide trainings, relevant conferences, and so on. 

Irrigation Leader: How much do you spend on training each year? 

Rick Smith: We have a budget for trainings, travel, and so forth, but most of our training is done on the job rather than through paid external trainings. 

Irrigation Leader: What kind of safety programs do you have in place? 

Rick Smith: We try to remind staff about being safety minded, and we take measures to be safe on job sites, wear personal protective equipment, and so on. There is no formal safety program or training, but we have had our insurance carrier provide presentations and online resources. 

Irrigation Leader: What is the most important thing you have learned as a manager? 

Rick Smith: It’s best to ask questions to understand situations, to treat people fairly, and to include people in decisions that will affect them so that they can provide their point of view. 

Irrigation Leader: What are the top skills needed to be a successful manager? 

Rick Smith: Sanity! Being able to balance demands on your time and to prioritize items. Being able to multitask and jump between tasks, since things arise all the time. 

Irrigation Leader: What is the best way to work with a board of directors? 

Rick Smith: Do your best in running the business and finances to maintain their confidence. Establish a good rapport, keep them in the loop on projects and operations, and get their support on long-term plans. 

Rick Smith is the general manager of the Davis and Weber Counties Canal Company and the Weber River Water Users Association. He can be contacted at ricks@davisweber.org.