Irrigation Leader magazine hosted its second annual Operations and Management Workshop in Phoenix, Arizona, on February 12–13, 2014. Around 80 people attended the workshop. The purpose of the workshop was to create a venue for irrigation district managers, board members, and vendors to share information and learn from each other. All topics and speaker panels for the workshop were suggested by managers and board members. A copy of the program can be viewed on our website at

While all of our speakers did a great job, two in particular stood out. Mr. Sam Francis addressed the workshop during the session titled, “Litigation Prevention— The Texas Solution Panel.” Mr. Francis, an attorney with the Texas Water Conservation Association (TWCA) Risk Management Fund, gave a history of how many of the irrigation districts in Texas used to be involved in a great deal of litigation individually. That changed, he explained, once the districts formed the TWCA Risk Management Fund and began defending themselves as a group. Kind of a one-for-all-and-all-for-one idea.

Mr. Francis explained that the fund allowed the districts as a group to hire a specialized legal advisor rather than the individual districts relying on their traditional counsel. The best quote from Mr. Francis’s presentation was, “Pay what you owe, but not more than you owe, and always do the right thing.” Mr. Shane Leonard, general manager of the Roosevelt Water Conservation District, and Mr. Keith Yaskin of Flipside Communications conducted a 90-minute presentation on providing information to the public, sending positive messages, and working with members of the media. It was an exceptionally informative and entertaining session. Afterward, representatives from two irrigation districts confided that they plan to hire Mr. Yaskin for media training.

One workshop attendee noted, “While some of the panels have run over on their allotted time, we have maintained tight schedule of eating every two hours.” Thus, special thanks are due to HDR Engineering, Van Ness Feldman Law Firm, AquaLastic and Huesker Canal Linings, Diamond Plastic Corporation, Rubicon Water, TruePoint Solutions, and Northwest Pipe Company for their generous sponsorships of our coffee and dessert breaks, luncheons, and receptions. Thank you, attendees and sponsors, for making the workshop such a success.

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