My public service philosophy came largely from Watermasters, and I continue this way of thinking in my business. The DWR Watermasters are good public servants, and they do what government employees are expected to do: serve the public – in this case, a specific segment of the population – as they regulate diversions per decrees, make quick and correct decisions to resolve problems, educate new landowners, and keep other agencies out of decreed water rights. However, Watermasters like Kevin Taylor and Joe Scott (and Les Grade, Ira Alexander, Mike Faber, Keith Dick, and others) taught me from the start, that the important part of the service is who is being served.
When Kevin would get complaints from diverters, he would often say, “I am interested in your success. Watermaster service takes money out of your pocket, and food off your table – I understand that. I want you and all the other diverters from this stream to prosper…and by making sure everyone can divert their legal entitlement, each person has the opportunity to succeed as far as it depends on the availability of a water right.” Really, Kevin said nearly those exact words, which you know if you have ever talked with him. Joe would often call diverters and say something like, “Hey, I just wanted you to know, flows came up and you can take another half a cfs. Yeah, just open the gate another 3 turns, and I will fine tune it when I get there today.” Or on the other hand, “Why did I turn your diversion down? You were taking way over your water right! Oh, you think that’s unfair? How about when your neighbor ______ upstream wants to crank up his diversion when he feels like it, and you can’t get your water? The same rules apply to everyone on the creek – learn it, love it, live it!”
Farmers and ranchers are the producers, bringing out of the ground, water, and air, what most of the rest of us do not have: plenty of top quality food, lumber, flowers, and every kind of grown product. The end results feed and supply our families, livestock, pets, as well as providing surpluses to export to other countries. If agricultural producers did not work the long hours, take risks, weather market ups and downs, and try to keep their kids interested in the family business, food and everything that is grown would cost a whole lot more. Sure, corporations own a lot of ag. land, but it takes the same people to make the farm work.
Government workers can do research, carry out the public will to contract (sometimes build) infrastructure, enforce laws and rules, and make resource use equitable or legal (not always the same thing). That’s where state Watermasters come in. They professionally administer Superior Court decrees, sometimes permits and licenses, day after day over many years, to ensure diverters get their legal share. The good Watermasters, like Kevin and Joe, always keep uppermost in their mind that they are serving agricultural producers. Every story needs a main character. In the story of agricultural water diversion, the main characters are men and women who put water to use growing food and products.