The history of Utah is intertwined with the development of irrigation. Native Americans irrigated crops in the region for centuries. Beginning with the settlement of Salt Lake City in 1847, irrigation was developed on a much larger scale. According to the Utah Division of State History, by 1865 the Mormons had dug over 1,000 miles of canals and the territorial legislature granted individual irrigators the ability to form irrigation districts. The districts had the authority to tax their respective members for the purposes of operating and maintaining their canals. The beginnings of the basic principles of western water law, including the doctrine of prior appropriation, beneficial use, and the creation of the water master, can also be attributed to those early years in Utah.

Today, that long history of irrigation is evident in the quality of irrigation leaders found in Utah. Their knowledge, people skills, and above all, patience allow them to accomplish great things. Some of my favorite Utah irrigation leaders are in this issue of Irrigation Leader magazine. Tage Flint, Keith Denos, and Jeremy Sorensen are all managers I highly respect. In his interview, it is clear Tage Flint is an accomplished leader with an eye to the future and the ability to tackle challenges effectively. Highly intelligent, even keeled, and strategic in his thinking are all accurate descriptions of Tage. Those who know Tage’s father would agree, “The apple did not roll far from the tree.”

I cannot say enough good things about Keith Denos. He is a manager who has accomplished the impossible. Any manager can tell you about the difficulty of building a project, working through environmental laws, building a coalition of different interests, or raising large sums of funding. However, Keith Denos can tell you how he and his board dealt with all those challenges and succeeded at piping a major canal for the benefit of everyone involved. Lots of folks worked on that project, but it would not have happened without Keith.

Jeremy Sorensen is much newer to management than Tage or Keith, but he has the stuff of great managers and has already done well. Many of the managers with smaller boards of 3 or 5 directors marvel at Jeremy’s 18-member board. “It takes us 30 minutes just to sit down,” he once told me about their meetings.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Carly Burton, executive director of the Utah Water Users Association. Carly and his wife, Barbara, are fixtures in the western water community, known and liked by all. Always helpful, Carly is the first person I recommend to anyone interested in Utah water issues.

We hope you enjoy this issue of Irrigation Leader magazine and thank you for your continued support

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