The irrigation that makes agriculture in the West so productive could not exist without irrigation districts. And no irrigation district could function without the presence of a manager. 

Irrigation district managers must understand everything from 100-year-old concrete infrastructure to cutting-edge supervisory control and data acquisition systems. They must manage relationships with boards of directors, customers, employees, and regulators. They must look ahead to discern the kinds of training their employees need to become the leaders of the future. And they must adapt, adjust, and learn every day. With such a universal role, a good manager is the key to an irrigation district’s success.

With that crucial role in mind, we are ushering in the 2020 year of Irrigation Leader magazine with a special managers issue. In this issue, we speak with 23 managers about their work, their top issues, their preparations for the future, their training programs, and what they’ve learned from their work. Each of them also tells us the top skills needed to be a strong manager.

The managers we speak to come from across the West—including Arizona, California, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming—as well as countries abroad, including Australia, Chile, and New Zealand. They deal with a wide variety of environmental conditions, old and new infrastructure, hiring challenges, and training needs. All, however, are concerned with the future of the irrigation districts and the water users they serve.

Whether your district’s challenges are similar to those of these managers or different, you are sure to find some new ideas about management, hiring, and training in this broad collection of interviews. Each of the managers in this issue brings their own special talents to their work. I hope you find their words interesting, helpful, and informative. 

Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and president and CEO 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