The group photo on the cover of this issue of marks a departure from our regular covers that feature a single manager of an irrigation district. Several months ago, I asked Mike Murphy, executive director of the Montana Water Resources Association (MWRA), and Jim Foster, manager of the Helena Valley Irrigation District, both of whom I have known for over 20 years, for their ideas on the cover for the Montana-focused issue of Irrigation Leader. Their response was thoughtful. “We sat down and talked about this and decided irrigation and water management requires a team,” Jim Foster explained. Jim is exactly right, and his comment underscores a truth throughout the West. Every successful irrigation district or water management entity relies on a strong team of highly capable managers, consultant engineers, and water attorneys. Jim’s comment shows his philosophy, and that of other successful managers: He relies on information from a variety of specialists to make the best decisions. The better the information, the better the decisions Jim and his board of directors will make.

In explaining his concept for the group photo and interview, Jim also referenced the importance of preserving water rights and the work of the MWRA. In addition to their day-to-day responsibilities, irrigation districts and other water management entities must be informed and active participants in water policy. Mike Murphy does a great job of keeping his members engaged. As an affiliate of the National Water Resources Association, the MWRA is also active at the federal level. The work done by Mike Murphy and his fellow state executives from other western state water associations is increasingly important.

An important observation about the group interview is the direct way challenges are identified and addressed. There is great interest in new technology as well in finding new ways to work with others to arrive at solutions. The irrigation districts in Montana, like those in other western states, have an eye on the future.

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