Sonia Lambert is the general manager of Cameron County Irrigation District #2 and Cameron County Drainage District #3 in San Benito, Texas. The drainage district encompasses 148 square miles within Cameron County and includes the City of San Benito, the fourth-fastest-growing metropolitan region in the state of Texas. The irrigation district covers 58,000 acres that include 226 miles of canals. Under Ms. Lambert’s leadership, the districts have undertaken extensive water conservation, delivery, and drainage projects to better serve South Texas. In this interview, Ms. Lambert tells Irrigation Leader about what her districts are doing to safely serve their customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Irrigation Leader: How has the COVID‑19 pandemic affected your operations?
Sonia Lambert: Our operations are still continuing, and we are delivering water to both our farmers and municipalities through the COVID‑19 pandemic. What’s different is that we are unable to shake hands and have face-to-face conversations with the people that we have dealt with for years. That is very much missed.
Irrigation Leader: How are you keeping your customers and employees safe?
Sonia Lambert: We have closed our office doors to the public and are conducting business by phone, mail, and e-mail. Our maintenance staff ’s schedules were staggered: We have groups of 10 or fewer employees report to and leave work at 30‑minute intervals. All our staff are required to wear face coverings when 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained. Our board meetings are also temporarily being held by telephone.
Irrigation Leader: What is the most innovative thing you have done to maintain your workflow?
Sonia Lambert: Although it is not really innovative, doing business by phone, mail, and e-mail is something we were not doing widely before the pandemic.
Irrigation Leader: Do you expect any of the changes you have made to be retained after the pandemic is over?
Sonia Lambert: Our customers are getting used to conducting business over the phone. They have commented about how quick and easy it is and how they plan to continue doing business in this manner. We sure will miss the personal contact if this does change! There is no replacement for face-to-face meetings and handshakes.
Irrigation Leader: What advice do you have for other districts?
Sonia Lambert: I believe each district has adopted the changes in the way it conducts business that best suit its needs and operations. Keep doing whatever works for you to keep your staff and customers safe!