The Saskatchewan government has announced a $1 million investment in water demonstration projects to help strengthen the agricultural sector.
It will the largest irrigation project in Saskatchewan’s history and one of the largest in North America.
Water Security Agency Minister Greg Ottenbriet said the agency will be partnering with 10 stakeholder organizations on 11 agricultural water management demonstration projects.
That will allow the agricultural and environmental communities test innovative solutions and inform best practices to help farmers and ranchers manage water on their land, and reduce downstream flooding impacts, the minister said.
“Agricultural water management is extremely important to our economy and the environment, but every region of our province is different,” Ottenbreit said.
“We need to listen and learn from and work with farmers and ranchers on the landscape. These projects will allow stakeholders, WSA, and local leaders to better understand how we can solve complex water management issues.”
Ottenbriet added that the $1-million commitment builds off of a government investment in the Saskatchewan Conservation and Development Association (SCDA) announced last year to help farmers lead and develop local agricultural water management projects.
“The $4-billion irrigation project we announced on July 2, 2019, expanding north and south of Lake Diefenbaker, will add up the 500,000 new irrigable land acres for farmers in the province.,” Ottenbreit said.
“These demonstration projects will add more strength and increase our extremely diverse agricultural industry.”
The participating organizations receiving funding are SCDA, Glacier FarmMedia Discovery Farm (Langham), Saskatchewan Association of Watersheds, Saskatchewan Irrigation Projects Association, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association, Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association, Saskatchewan Research Council, Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute, and Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association.
“Water management is important to all of rural Saskatchewan as our economy and viability of rural communities depend on it,” said Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities president Ray Orb.
“We are pleased to see this investment as Water Security Agency works with local leaders on options and examples of how projects can be supported by all stakeholders.”
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Some of the demonstration projects will test how farmers and ranchers can irrigate with water drained from agricultural fields. Other projects will strategically retain wetlands to reduce the downstream impacts of flooding on infrastructure, water quality and habitat.
Others, meanwhile, will look at applying fertilizer in different ways in order to minimize nutrient runoff.
Glacier FarmMedia Discovery Farm (Langham), northwest of Saskatoon, will host one of the projects.
It will be the site of a multi-year study that will involve design, regulatory approval and construction of a drainage system on approximately 40 acres of land,- which it expects to complete next year.
After construction, a field study will evaluate several management practices meant to reduce nutrient runoff.
“The goal is to design a drainage plan that meets regulatory requirements and optimizes land productivity while preserving the environment,” Blake Weiseth, applied research lead at Discovery Farm, said.
“This demonstration will help producers reclaim marginally productive low-lying areas while incorporating key nutrient management features associated with wetlands.”
The Water Security Agency said conclusion from the 11 water demonstration projects will be ready by 2024.