Henry was elected to the Orange County Water District for a four-year term beginning in 1957 and re-elected six times after that for a total of 28 years—16 of them as president. His leadership helped usher the area through a transition from a rural region where 90 percent of the water was used for agriculture to a densely populated and thriving community where 90 percent of the water goes to residential, commercial and industrial uses. During his time on the board, the water district was a leader in efforts to protect and replenish the aquifer that underlies Orange County, at a time when the dangers of salt-water intrusion were just being understood. If salt water came into that aquifer, it could have destroyed it as a resource for drinking or agriculture.
He led a team that included Stanford University engineers to develop innovative reverse osmosis for a proposed desalination plant in Huntington Beach. The plant ultimately wasn’t built, but the