Water expert found his roots in #water scarcity — The #GrandJunction Daily Sentinel

Max Schmidt, general manager of the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District in Palisade. (Photo by Osha Gray Davidson)

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Sam Klomhaus):

[Max] Schmidt, 72, has managed the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District since 2009. Before that, he spent almost 20 years with the Natural Resource Conservation Service designing irrigation systems. And, before that, he was a produce farmer in West Texas.

In Texas, Schmidt cultivated cabbage, carrots, watermelon, broccoli, spinach, sweet corn, cantaloupe and peppers.

When he was 40, Schmidt realized he was working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and he wanted to watch his three children grow up, so he packed up and headed to the Grand Valley. He loves it here, and so do his kids…

Schmidt says he thoroughly enjoyed farming when he did it, and he misses it sometimes, but “I like watching other people farm.”

Agriculture is very important to Schmidt, and it’s clear that’s one of the things he likes best about his job and living in Western Colorado…

Working in water means Schmidt understands the complicated subject of water rights better than most.

“Colorado’s water history is really interesting,” he said. Some of the buildings he manages are 110 years old…

Orchard Mesa Irrigation District power plant near Palisade. Water from Colorado’s snowpack is distributed across the region through a complex network of dams, pipelines and irrigation canals. Photo credit: Orchard Mesa Irrigation District

The Orchard Mesa irrigation District and Grand Valley Water Users Association are looking to build a new hydro plant adjacent to the current one in Orchard Mesa, to the tune of about $10 million.

Schmidt said he plans to retire after the new plant is completed. After that, he wants to travel. He said he’s going to start with all the national parks, and maybe ride some trains around.

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