Volume 13 Issue 10 Nov/Dec MT

Supporting Irrigated Ag in Montana

By Kris Polly

Montana’s Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) plays a key role in supporting irrigated agriculture, which plays a major part in the state’s economy. Among other tasks, the DNRC handles water rights permitting and adjudication and administers several grant and loan programs benefiting irrigated farmers. In our cover interview with DNRC Director Amanda Kaster, we learn more about these important activities.

Next, we turn our attention back to the Colorado basin, where drought is still top of mind. We are honored to feature a cover interview with United States Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who is increasingly recognized as one of the top water leaders in Congress’s upper chamber. We also speak with representatives of two California irrigation districts that are fully supplied by the Colorado River. Water Department Manager Tina Shields of Imperial Irrigation District tells us about how her organization is conserving water, increasing operational flexibility, and increasing system and on-farm efficiency. Then, Palo Verde Irrigation District board member Jack Seiler tells us about his agency’s unique fallowing and transfer agreement with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which saves water and earns the district money. We also hear from Melissa Lowry, a grants and marketing coordinator at Rubicon Water, about how Rubicon is actively helping its clients, many of them in California, to apply for grants to fund system modernization.

Next, we talk to Executive Director Paul Arrington and Office and Program Manager Kathryn Scott of the Idaho Water Users Association about the Legislative Water College program it founded to help educate new legislators on water resources issues.

By carrying out confidential, anonymous interviews with an agency’s employees, the Situational Awareness Institute (SAI) can help water districts and other organizations maintain a satisfied and productive workforce. SAI Cofounder and Lead Instructor Phil Ball tells us more.

A decade ago, Nebraska’s Frenchman Cambridge Irrigation District launched a project to automate its canals using Rubicon’s Total Canal Control system, and today, its Cambridge Canal is fully automated. General Manager Brad Edgerton tells us about the automation process and its results.

Finally, in our Professional Focus feature, we introduce Marketing Manager Tanika Owens of Emrgy, a provider of modular hydropower units that should be of interest to any operator of open-channel conveyance infrastructure.

As Senator Sinema emphasizes, this moment requires leadership, compromise, and cooperation. Faced with serious challenges on the Colorado, it is important that the irrigation industry think creatively and be open to new solutions.

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and the 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.