On January 23 and 24, Irrigation Leader magazine hosted a special meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, titled, the “Operations and Management Workshop.” The intention of the meeting was to provide a face-to-face opportunity for irrigation district managers and their respective board members to discuss issues directly pertaining to the operations and management of their districts. Just as the magazine provides a forum for districts to learn from the experiences of their peers, the workshop was designed to provide a similar experience. All the topics, panels, and speakers were suggested and selected by irrigation district managers. Initially, we planned for 40 to 50 registrants; however, we had nearly 80 attendees.

TruePoint Solutions, a regular advertiser in the magazine, included the following text in its ad for this issue:

“One of the highlights of the conference,” said TruePoint’s Kent Johnson, “was the fact that vendors who attended were treated as peers and not isolated to an exhibit space in another room, which is typically the case at professional conferences and tradeshows. The workshop provided a forum for an extremely knowledgeable group of individuals to come together with the unified goal of learning from each other and ultimately running a better irrigation district.”

Credit for the idea to include vendors as speakers and presenters must be given to Russ Luscink of Northwest Pipe Company. Russ told me, “If you include vendors as speakers on specific case studies, you will get their information without the infomercial.” He was right. The vendors we paired with district managers to present on specific projects had a tremendous amount of information to share.

The true key to the success of the meeting was simply to provide an opportunity to learn from the experiences The Water and Power Report is the one-stop site for news on water and power issues in the 17 western states. Sign up for the Daily to receive a notice of the top headlines and press releases posted each business day. The Water and Power Report www.WaterAndPowerReport.com of people like Shannon McDaniels and Dave Solem, the former and current managers of South Columbia Basin Irrigation District; Rusty Jardine of Truckee Carson Irrigation District; Craig Simpson from East Columbia Basin Irrigation District; Darvin Fales from Quincy; Tom Knutson of Farwell–Sargent; David Breniger of Placer County; Ed Gerak of Roosevelt; Tom Davis of Yuma County Water Conservation Association; and many, many others. At some point during the workshop, every attendee made a presentation, asked a key question, or shared an experience that added to the overall value of the meeting.

While I have known many of the meeting attendees for more than 20 years and am well aware of their knowledge and abilities, the credit for the idea to gather the managers together to share their experiences must be given to my good friend Trevor Boomstra of Rubicon Water. Trevor and I spent a lot of time together on a trip touring Washington State this past summer. Rubicon is a unique company in that its culture is all about innovation and ideas. Trevor said, “Rubicon has learned if you gather the top people to share their ideas and experiences on a particular problem or challenge, they will develop and share solutions. Likewise, if you bring the leaders in irrigation together to share their ideas and experiences, they will also develop and share solutions.”

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 Kris.Polly@waterstrategies.com.