Responding to the Drought on the Colorado

By Kris Polly

As Arizona irrigators know, the tier 1 cuts to Colorado River water deliveries are starting to bite. The drought on the Colorado is a deadly serious affair. This month, we are pleased to feature a column by United States Senator Mark Kelly, whose Colorado River Indian Tribes Water Resiliency Act would help free up more Colorado River water for irrigation. 

We also look at the tier 1 cuts from the district perspective. This year, the Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation and Drainage District (MSIDD), based outside Phoenix, will receive only about one-third of its previous water allocation. We talk with MSIDD Director of Water Operations Tony Solano about the district’s efforts to dig wells, build infrastructure, and keep water flowing. 

This month, we are also pleased to bring you an interview with the 24th commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, Camille Calimlim Touton. Ms. Touton is from Nevada and is a well-known friend of the western water community. She has many years of experience in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee, and she previously served as the deputy assistant secretary for water and science in the U.S. Department of the Interior. 

Next is another interview with a top-level female water professional, Commissioner Maria‑Elena Giner of the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), the entity responsible for applying the boundary and water treaties between the United States and Mexico. Commissioner Giner tells us about the IBWC’s maintenance of levees, reservoirs, and dams; its water accounting and allocation; and its work on sediment management and removal. 

Irrigation Leader readers will know about Nebraska’s successful system of natural resources districts (NRDs). In this issue, Alan Bartels of the Lower Loup NRD writes about the agency’s work to conserve water, build consensus on drought mitigation, and conduct crop and moisture studies, all while carrying out its duties to manage water and soil and provide recreational opportunities. 

Southern Irrigation’s name belies its location—the agricultural and irrigation supply company is based in British Columbia, Canada. We speak with Chris Ford about his family’s background in irrigation on two continents and the wide variety of irrigated agriculture he helps support in British Columbia today. 

Tom Osborn, an energy engineer at the Bonneville Power Authority (BPA), tells us about the agency’s efforts to improve the energy efficiency both of BPA customers, including irrigators, and of power stations and substations. 

Finally, we speak with Dick Schober, managing director of public finance investment banking at Piper Sandler, about what irrigation districts should know about bonds and loans. 

Irrigated ag in the West faces many challenges, but water management professionals are up to the task of facing them. I hope that this month’s interviews give you a sense of the professionalism and determination that they bring to the task. 

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