The COVID-19 pandemic that hit the United States in mid-March has disrupted countless aspects of daily life. Across the nation, many of us have been working from home; some people have lost their jobs or been furloughed; and all of us are wondering if and when things will go back to normal. 

Agriculture, of course, is the definition of an essential service, and the irrigation industry, by extension, is one as well. Irrigation districts do not have the luxury of temporarily closing up shop, especially during the spring, when many canals are being watered and prepared for the summer growing season. Their work must continue. 

How exactly are they pushing forward with their operations amid the turbulence caused by the pandemic? That is what this special issue of Irrigation Leader seeks to answer. We speak with the managers of irrigation districts, natural resources districts, water resources associations, and irrigation industry businesses from across the United States—and even a few from New Zealand. Each of these professionals has had to make smart, common-sense decisions about how to respond to the pressure of circumstances and continue their vital services while preserving the health of their employees and customers. 

I hope that reading about the innovative changes these professionals have made in their operations will inspire you and provide you with new ideas about how to keep your business running amid the COVID-19 pandemic and what changes you may want to make or retain once the postpandemic new normal sets in. 

Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and president and CEO of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at