Volume 15 Issue 5 May MT

Making a Difference in a Small District

By Kris Polly

In this month’s cover story, we speak with Jeff Koch, who serves as the volunteer president of the Big Flat Irrigation District. Mr. Koch’s story will sound familiar to some: His small district has aging infrastructure, limited resources, and encroaching urbanization. Yet although he is a volunteer, he’s made steps toward transparency and professionalization.

Next, we focus on a serious situation in South Texas. According to the 1944 Treaty on the Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande, Mexico needs to deliver 350,000 acre-feet of water a year to the United States on the Rio Grande, averaged over a 5‑year cycle. With 1 year to go before the cycle ends, Mexico is nowhere near fulfilling its obligation, with serious consequences for South Texas irrigators. In our cover interview, we discuss these issues with Congresswoman Monica De La Cruz of Texas’s 15th Congressional District and other Texas water leaders, and then we get the farmer’s viewpoint from Brian Jones, who also serves as a state director for the Texas Farm Bureau.

Please see the obituary of our very good friend, Mr. Pat O’Toole, the president of the Family Farm Alliance and a champion of western water issues. Pat was an exceptional man, generous with his time and always kind and thoughtful. He is sorely missed by all who knew him.

Next, we turn to a water supply challenge in west-central Colorado. Paonia Reservoir, built from 1959 to 1962, suffers from serious sedimentation issues that are beginning to affect its functionality. Tom Alvey, the president of the North Fork Water Conservancy District, and Steve Fletcher, the superintendent of the Fire Mountain Canal and Reservoir Company, tell us about the issue and what they need to resolve it.

Then, we turn to solutions. The Chilean company Capta Hydro manufactures affordable, robust telemetry devices as well as automated gates and water management software. Growing quickly in recent years, it has expanded to Mexico and is actively working toward a U.S. launch. Chief Commercial Officer and Finance Officer Gastón Dussaillant tells us more.

Moleaer manufactures a range of nanobubble generators that inject water with millions of microscopic air bubbles, with benefits for many industries. Michael Davidson, the senior market development manager for irrigation water, tells us why airshould be classed alongside water, sun, and soil as critical inputs for crops.

We also interview Congresswoman Harriet Hageman, who has represented Wyoming in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2023. Congresswoman Hageman, a fourth-generation Wyomingite and a former high-level water lawyer, has much of interest to say on irrigation, infrastructure, and water resources issues.

Irrigation across the West faces a variety of challenges, but even in the smallest irrigation district, the efforts of managers make a difference. We salute the many men and women across our nation working to improve their local irrigation districts.

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.