Manager | Pershing County Water Conservation District

Years working in irrigation: 3 

Years as manager: 16 

Number of employees: 8 

Size of service area in acres: 41,000 

Amount of water diverted for irrigation per year in acre-feet: 160,000 in a full allotment year 

Main crops irrigated: Alfalfa, grain, livestock 

Predominant irrigation methods: Flood 

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

Ryan Collins: We have a hard time receiving the river flows that we have historically received. Long-term drought and the overappropriation of groundwater permits have drastically reduced historic river flows to our storage reservoir. 

Irrigation Leader: What future issues are you preparing for? 

Ryan Collins: We are looking at drought and a lack of water to service our constituents. Also, we have aging infrastructure that is very expensive to replace. 

Irrigation Leader: What are your top issues regarding personnel? 

Ryan Collins: Our top personnel issue is just trying to replace employees. We have a history of long-term employment—15–20 years, on average—and it is tough to replace people who have been in the district for so long. A training course can’t match that experience. Also, we live in a small community, which limits the number of job applicants. Salary is also an issue, as we cannot compete with the large gold and silver mines in our area. 

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

Ryan Collins: We do training through the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as our local trainings. 

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

Ryan Collins: With some of our trainings, there are no fees, but on average, we spend approximately $5,000 a year on employee training. Sometimes, we are able to train jointly with other government agencies in our area, which helps lower our costs. 

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

Ryan Collins: We do the required safety programs, including some yearly refresher programs with MSHA and OSHA. 

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

Ryan Collins: You have to adapt on the fly. You’re always putting fires out. 

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

Ryan Collins: Communication is always a big one. I’ve sat through a lot of management classes and have been part of bigger groups. If you don’t communicate effectively, that is a horrible failure. Everyone’s a little different in their ability to listen and communicate. 

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

Ryan Collins: You should communicate effectively, be honest, and learn to work with the different personalities on your board. It’s important that all the information presented to the board is clear and precise. 

Ryan Collins is the manager of the Pershing County Water Conservation District. He can be contacted at