BOUNTIFUL — Water has been the staff of life for a Bountiful native in more than one way for about half a century.
Jack Barnett, now a Farmington resident, was honored for that service recently when he was awarded the Calvin K. Sudweeks Award by the Utah Division of Water Quality. It was presented by Sudweeks, who was a former director of the water quality division.
“My work with the Colorado River Water Salinity Program and the Bear River Commission Water Quality Committee” was specifically highlighted when the award was presented.
Barnett finds dealing with water and its management as “fascinating.” That’s why he continues to work well beyond the age that most men and women have retired.
He obtained his degrees in geology and specifically as it dealt with groundwater geology from the University of Utah.
By 1966, he was hired by what is now the Idaho Department of Water and moved to Boise, where he and his family lived for eight years.
Most of his career has been spent based in the Beehive State, while dealing with issues that impact much of the West.
Upon his return, Barnett was tapped as executive director of the Western States Water Council. It was an organization of governors from across the West and dealt with water resource issues.
“We had an interesting time to be their during some drought years, figuring out how we could work together,” he said. “When (Pres. Jimmy) Carter came into office, his staff listed projects they would terminated. All of those to be terminated were in the West.”
That meant spending countless hours in Washington, D.C., meeting with high level staffers about how that would impact the West. He appeared before many during that time, Barnett recalled.
Six years later, he was invited to lead the Colorado River water Salinity Forum, the first full-time person
For the past 34 years he has led the Colorado River Water Salinity Forum and for nearly that long, was manager-engineer for the Bear River Commission. His son Don has now assumed the top executive rule with Bear River, but Jack is still lends his expertise and many hours to work dealing with both entities.
Both agencies deal with water issues that cross state lines and impact many thousands, if not millions of people.
“I’ve worked with Jack for many years,” said Walt Baker, current director of the Utah Division of Water Quality. “He’s well respected in the water industry. Jack is a problem solver. He has a gift of bringing people together.”
He also praised Barnett for his “knowledge base. He’s been around so long he brings a persective that is uncmoon. We have relied on Jack for many years in different areans.”
Barnett was raised in Bountiful, attended the old Stoker School that now serves as the University of Utah Davis Center. He then went to Bountiful Junior, when it was called South Davis, and graduated from Davis High School.
He’s been able to maintain an office for the two agencies in Bountiful. They were part of the agreement when he took the jobs.
He and his wife Ilene have seven children, 24 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Barnett’s spare time is spent with family, whether it’s wishing a granddaughter well as she departs on a mission or a good life to a grandson getting married.
He and Ilene also enjoy traveling.