How many jobs have the responsibility of ensuring public safety, promoting the economic vitality of regions, managing numerous staff, and maintaining the efficient operation of expansive infrastructure, all under the direction and guidance of a relatively small board of directors? Many important positions have one or two of the above-listed responsibilities; however, few jobs that have them all. Managing an irrigation district has all these responsibilities and more. “Most of these managers are engineers by training, but they must perform a variety of tasks far beyond engineering. Being a manager is a very tough job,” said Richard Lemargie, attorney for all three Columbia basin irrigation districts for the past 30-plus years.

This issue of Irrigation Leader shares a sampling of challenges experienced and solutions implemented primarily by managers in Washington, Nebraska, and California. Though the topics are different, self-reliance, ingenuity, and general toughness are all shared themes.

There is no instruction manual or “general manager” degree program. Training is on the job, and the old military axiom, “Good decisions come from experience and experience comes from making bad decisions,” certainly applies. Managers quickly learn to ask questions of, and to share information with, other general managers. “This whole industry is based on gossip,” Tom Davis, general manager of the Yuma Count Water Users’ Association once told me. He further explained that managers often share recommendations and their experiences when they see each other at various water organization meetings.

Helping managers share information is a central mission of Irrigation Leader magazine. To that end, we have expanded from 32 to 40 pages and will promote upcoming water meetings like the Texas Water Conservation Association meeting advertised below. Leroy Goodson, executive director of the Texas Water Conservation Association, and his very capable staff run an exceptional meeting with many opportunities for managers to interact.

Mr. Lemargie is right. Being a manager of an irrigation district is a tough job, but sharing information and experiences can make it easier.

Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and president 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