By Nikki Jamieson
Westwind Weekly News
Some local irrigation districts are receiving provincial funding for infrastructure upgrades.
Through the Irrigation Rehabilitation Program (IRP), the Magrath Irrigation District is receiving $116,413 and the Raymond Irrigation District is receiving $271,432.
“All of the province’s irrigation districts work hard to ensure that water is there when we need it. Investing in infrastructure will ensure water is well-managed and that producers can irrigate more land with the same amount of water. Irrigation provides a huge economic potential and every dollar that’s invested in irrigation results in economic returns,” said Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.
The program aims to improve the water infrastructure that provides water for irrigation and agricultural operations, municipal use, recreation, wildlife and habitat enhancement. Started in 1969, the program provides cost-shared funds to irrigation districts to help rehabilitate irrigation infrastructure, with the Albertan government contributing 75 per cent of the cost and the irrigation district contributing 25 per cent.
Funds from the program are often used to replace open channel irrigation canals with buried underground pipelines that reduce water loss through seepage and evaporation, helping increase water management efficiency.
Local producers often invest in both irrigation district-owned and on-farm infrastructure improvements, and effective irrigation infrastructure helps ensure they are getting good value for their investments. Food companies will also invest in areas with reliable irrigated farmland, which create jobs, increase agricultural trade and grow the economy.
“On behalf of the water users of the Raymond Irrigation District, I wish to convey our gratitude to the government of Alberta for continuing to fund irrigation rehabilitation in southern Alberta. These funds are used in areas where all residents of the province will receive benefit,” said John McKee, chairman of the RID.
The province earmarked $10 million this year for the program, as part of the province’s 2020-21 budget, and will increase it to $12 million in subsequent years to help irrigation districts across the province.
“As well as supporting our farmers and ranchers and the food processing sectors they supply, this long-running program will ensure thousands of Albertans in municipalities across southern Alberta will continue to have reliable domestic water, aquatic habitats and recreational areas,” said Grant Hunter, MLA for Taber-Warner.
Alberta’s irrigation industry creates approximately 56,000 full-time jobs and contributes about $2.4 billion in labour income annually, and the irrigation sector adds $3.6 billion in annual GDP to Alberta’s economy every year. Irrigated land in Alberta makes up almost 70 per cent of all the irrigated acres in Canada. The province’s irrigation districts contain more than 42 reservoirs and about 7,600 kilometers of conveyance works, including canals and pipelines, which carry nearly two billion cubic meters of water per year.