The Finance Issue

By Kris Polly

Irrigation districts are not usually awash in cash, yet they face high capital expenses for the construction and maintenance of major infrastructure projects. In this issue, we take a look at the different budgeting methods and funding mechanisms that can help them fulfill their missions. 

First, in our cover story, we interview Rick Reinders, the co-CEO of Watertronics, a Wisconsin-based manufacturer of a wide variety of pump stations, control panels, and telemetry products for the agricultural, industrial/municipal, landscape irrigation, and golf irrigation markets. 

Kipp Drummond, a longtime finance professional who has worked in the public and private sectors, including at the Kennewick Irrigation District (KID), walks us through the process of budgeting for an irrigation district and gives us insight into the respective advantages of bonds and loans. Then, for a practical look at the same question, we speak to Matt Lukasiewicz, the general manager of three central Nebraska Reclamation and irrigation districts, about his experiencing issuing bonds. We then speak with Chuck Freeman, the secretary and district manager of KID, about how his district began charging administrative fees to control its urbanization-driven workload. We also speak with Dean Marrone and Josh German of the Bureau of Reclamation about the agency’s WaterSMART program, a significant source of funding for water efficiency, drought resilience, and watershed management projects. Finally, Andy Schultheiss of the Colorado Water Trust tells us about how his organization enters into market-based agreements with irrigators to increase flow in rivers while preserving the agricultural industry. 

We also interview Mike Mills, Reinke Manufacturing’s director of sustainability solutions, about the company’s approach to sustainability, from manufacturing and recycling to deploying technology to help growers achieve maximum water application efficiency. 

Finally, we speak with Jack Russell and Alex Boyce of Nebraska’s Middle Republican Natural Resources District about the district’s recent work to carry out an airborne electromagnetic survey of local groundwater. 

Irrigation districts carry out vital work to support our nation’s agricultural producers, the economy, and our food security. Solid finances and access to funding mechanisms are important factors in making that possible. I hope you find our look at this topic interesting. 

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