Every irrigation district manager has a story or two about a canal breaches, vehicle accidents, or personnel injuries. There will always be accidents and events beyond the control of managers, but what can be done to reduce risk and improve responses and repairs? This issue of Irrigation Leader magazine examines the experiences of several managers and the importance of having a plan.

Kennewick Irrigation District General Manager Chuck Freeman discusses his district’s experience with a canal breach that took place last June. Thankfully, no one was injured. However, the experience is a cautionary tale for all irrigation districts on the importance of diligent communications with property owners, local authorities, and insurance companies. Mr. Freeman and his staff deserve much credit for their quick response, professionalism, and established emergency plans. Quincy– Columbia Basin Irrigation District Hygiene and Safety Manager Mike Miland discusses his work to update the district’s safety manuals and implement training programs. According to Mr. Miland, “A fresh pair of eyes comes in handy for hazard recognition and identifying opportunities for improvement.” Much of what Mr. Miland talks about, for example, installing handrails, is common sense; however, such things can be overlooked on older and remote structures. Westlands Water District Senior Field Engineer and Safety Officer Kelly Vandergon discusses the 30 introductory and ongoing safety training courses contained in the district’s safety handbook. Director of Operations and Maintenance Bill Pierce, Mr. Vandergon’s colleague, describes Westlands’ safety mindset: “Anyone who sees something unsafe can and is encouraged to speak up or ask questions, no matter what level of worker they are. If needed, we will stop work to address a safety problem.” My favorite quote from this issue of the magazine is from Mr. Vandergon, who says, “The most important reason we emphasize safety is not to reduce workers’ compensation costs or save the district money, but rather so that every employee can go home from work every day safe and sound to their families and loved ones. That is what it is all about. This theme is embodied in Westlands’ newly adopted safety slogan: ‘One Company, One Family, One Purpose, Safety First’.”

We hope you enjoy this issue of Irrigation Leader and find information and ideas that are helpful to you and your district safety operations. Additionally, we hope you will join us in Phoenix, Arizona, on February 1–2 for our 5th Annual Operations and Management Workshop, the theme of which is Emergency Management Plans. Please see the inside back page of this issue for more information on our workshop.

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.