Volume 14 Issue 1 January WA

What Washington Irrigators Should Know About Assura
by Chris Polly

While New Zealand may seem very far away from Washington State, the
issues faced by irrigated farmers in both locations can be surprisingly similar. This helps explain why my good friend Hamish Howard’s Assura software has found a receptive audience in Washington as well as in other locations in the United States. This month, we look closely at Assura’s potential for Washington State clients. In our cover story, we talk with Mr. Howard; then, we speak with several of his central Washington– based clients.

We are also honored to feature an interview with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson about the importance of irrigation to Arkansas—the nation’s number 1 rice producer—and the need to think strategically about future water supplies in the face of competing demands for water and declining groundwater levels. We then speak with two water professionals who are working hard to do just that through major water infrastructure projects. Edward Swaim, the executive director of the Bayou Meto Water Management District, tells us about progress on the Bayou Meto Irrigation Project, which will distribute water from the Arkansas River to about 268,000 acres of farmland, and Dennis Carman, the director and chief engineer of the White River Irrigation District, tells us about the Grand Prairie Irrigation Project, which will supply water to farmers from the White River. We also talk to Kenneth Graves, the chairman of the Arkansas Rice Growers Association, about the importance of the irrigated crop for Arkansas’s economy.

Next, we interview Kirk Byles, the CEO of FreeWave Technologies, about his company’s radio devices and sensor products, which enable an entire smart agriculture ecosystem, and about the company’s new partnership with center-pivot manufacturer Reinke.

After he received an e-mail from the Nebraska Cattlemen Association about its Beef in Schools program, 14-year- old Kolter Wellman of Waverly/Eagle, Nebraska, spearheaded the expansion of the program to his school district. We speak with Kolter and his family about how Beef in Schools is connecting students with local agriculture.

Dawnie and Justin Stewart are Arizona farmers with roots in the region going back to the 1920s. Recently, however, urban sprawl has led them to shift their Gilbert-area operations farther away from the greater Phoenix metro and to transition their property in Gilbert to a master-planned community. Our interview with them provides a fascinating look at the intersection of water, agriculture, and urban development.

American Leak Detection’s high-density polyethylene irrigation ditch liner is a lightweight, robust, man-portable lining system that is easier to install than concrete and pipe, conserves water, and provides years of service while reducing annual maintenance costs. We speak with Chief Technical Officer Kenneth Suazo about the system’s genesis and potential.

I hope our Washington-based readers enjoy learning more about Assura. I know that Mr. Howard would be happy to speak with any of you, and I would be happy to make the introduction.

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.