About 747,625 ha of Canadian farmland were irrigated in 1986. Statistics Canada reports the total by region as follows: Atlantic provinces, 2038 ha; Qué, 15,284 ha; Ont, 52,535 ha; Prairie provinces, 559,954 ha (of which 466,291 ha were in Alta); BC, 117,811 ha. The most intensive irrigation development has taken place in southern Alberta. In 1970, the Alberta government, together with 13 irrigation districts, launched a major cost-shared irrigation rehabilitation program. During the period 1970-86, the province invested some $525 million for capital works rehabilitation and the districts expended $97 million, including their share for operation and maintenance. Rehabilitation of capital works has continued since 1970 to date on the 86:14 formula basis, which economic studies have determined as the ratio of "societal" accrued benefits and direct benefits to irrigation farmers.
Other provinces have established different policies and cost-sharing agreements with the federal government for new developments, notably Saskatchewan, which announced a $100-million irrigation development agreement in 1986. Lack of sufficient rainfall is most limiting to crop production and agricultural diversification throughout the southern prairies. Within this region the soils and growing season are conducive to irrigation development on upwards of 2 to 3 million ha. However, future irrigation expansion is significantly curtailed by limited availability and location of major water sources, the high cost of capital works development, ie, storage dams, diversions and distribution networks, and by global market competition in agricultural commodities.
In Alberta, for example, while only 4% of arable land is irrigated, the production from this acreage accounts for approximately 18% of the province's gross annual agricultural production (approximately $850 million annually). Some 5800 irrigation farms are sustained in a region which otherwise could support perhaps fewer than 1000 dryland wheat and range cattle operations. Irrigation development and related services and processing industries account for the employment of some 35,000 people in Alberta, and sustain one of the most productive and diversified agricultural regions of Canada.
Author EGON RAPP
Links to Other Sites
The Nature of Water
This website offers an overview of Canada's water resource management programs. Topics covered include: water quantity, use and quality; governance of water in Canada; and building and sharing knowledge for better water management. From Environment Canada.
Eat Your History
A series of stories about the amazing histories of local food delicacies. From The Tyee website.
Eastern Irrigation District
Eastern Irrigation District is concerned with the construction, operation, and maintenance of local irrigation works. Includes historical information about the Brooks Aqueduct, a National Historic Site.
Crop Diversification Centre South
This agricultural program is concerned with the development and growth of crop diversification in the southeastern region of Alberta.
Industrial Development of Lethbridge: A Geographer's Interpretation
An account of the industrial development in the City of Lethbridge from a geographical and historical perspective. A paper by Ian MacLachlan, The University of Lethbridge. Click on the link at the bottom of the page for the PDF version of this document.
Glossary: Water Resources
An extensive glossary of terms related to the use and management of water resources. Check the rest of the site for additional information. From the North American Lake Management Society.
Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute
Check out this website for information and reports about current issues impacting on the productivity and competitiveness of Canada's agri-food sector.