Steve Collup, engineer-manager of the ArvinEdison Water Storage District, is the epitome of an irrigation district manager, direct and solution oriented. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and have three favorite quotes from his interview. His answer to my question about the most important thing he has learned is the philosophy of this magazine is my first favorite quote.

“I am an engineer by trade, so I’m a problem solver. But I’ve learned to not recreate the wheel. If you look outside of your district, you can come up with real solutions to your problems that others have already tried and are proven. Don’t work in a vacuum; incorporate other districts into your universe of resources. I cannot overemphasize the value of partnerships and working cooperatively with others.”

Steve’s quote explains the thinking behind his district’s approach to water management, storage, and deliveries. Over the last 20 years, the district has focused on system improvements and local partnerships. In times of plenty, it banks water for its farmers and its municipal partners. During times of drought, the district uses its aquifer storage and makes use of internal district water markets to ensure deliveries. Having now survived two years without water deliveries to the district, Steve and his board of directors are to be commended for their foresight and leadership.

My second favorite quote from Steve’s interview discussed how the many interties and connections with other irrigation districts, canal, and river systems have yielded additional flexibility and solutions.

“One thing you learn from all these connections, big or small, is that they have a common trait. While you typically build them for a particular purpose or need, once they are complete, you soon realize dozens of other ways to utilize them—their uses being limited only by your, or your partner’s, imagination.”

Solutions lead to solutions. What a great way to consider the infrastructure of an irrigation district and to think about other potential uses for meeting the needs of irrigators.

My third favorite quote from Steve’s interview is his response to my question about his message to Congress.

“First of all, I absolutely deplore politics. If you have a problem you want me to solve, I’ll invest in finding a real solution, but if you want to play political games, count me out.” His actual quote was a bit more colorful and made me laugh, but I still like this version.

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