Irrigation Leader
Featured,  Interview

Tom Buchanan Altus, OK

General Manager | Lugert-Altus Irrigation District

Years working in irrigation: 40+ 

Years as manager: 20+ 

Number of employees: 20+ 

Size of service area in acres: 50,000 

Amount of water diverted for irrigation per year in acre-feet: 0–80,000 

Main crops irrigated: Cotton 

Predominant irrigation methods: Flood (70%), subsurface drip (30%)

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

Tom Buchanan: Conserving water and the modernization of existing infrastructure, focusing on improving delivery percentage from supply to farm. 

Irrigation Leader: What future issues are you preparing for? 

Tom Buchanan: The protection of water rights as increasing groundwater withdrawals affect surface flows. 

Irrigation Leader: What are your top issues regarding personnel? 

Tom Buchanan: The implementation of new technologies throughout the district has actually resulted in a smaller workforce, so maintaining our current employees is the priority. 

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

Tom Buchanan: As new infrastructure and technology is installed, we help employees get the most out of that investment, resulting in better service to landowners. 

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

Tom Buchanan: It varies greatly. The expenses are related to training refresher courses or new improvements. 

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

Tom Buchanan: Ongoing safety reminders. 

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

Tom Buchanan: Growing up in this community and working for my neighbors while still having ag interests of my own allows me to maintain a firsthand knowledge of and awareness of growers and crop production, which gives me the insight needed to respond to grower needs. 

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

Tom Buchanan: Being a jack of all trades and knowing when to empower employees. 

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

Tom Buchanan: In my case, it is being involved with board members during the ever-evolving processes of planning, implementation, and funding. Equally important is being involved proactively in the broader community, whether local, statewide, or national. 

Tom Buchanan is the general manager of the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District. He can be contacted at buchanantom2011@gmail.com.