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Alberta Ag assesses irrigation expansion potential


April 21, 2021
By Alberta Agriculture and Forestry

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Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, through its Agri-Food Sector Investment and Growth Strategy, the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB), the Special Areas Board (SAB) and the municipal district (MD) of Acadia, have reached a memorandum of understanding to assess the technical and financial feasibility of developing irrigation in east-central Alberta.

For the MD of Acadia and the SAB, this feasibility study is the next step in work that has been underway since the 1980s. Together, they cover over 5-million acres of land between Red Deer and the Saskatchewan border.

“Alberta has a well-earned reputation for high-quality crops and livestock, much of which is grown in east-central Alberta. This feasibility study will help us determine if expanding irrigation is possible, which could lead to even more production in our province,” says Devin Dreeshen, Alberta’s minister of agriculture and forestry.

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“Irrigation would bring major economic benefits to our whole region and to producers in it, and would increase water security while enhancing recreational opportunities,” says Peter Rafa, reeve of the MD of Acadia.

The irrigation industry creates thousands of jobs and contributes billions every year to Alberta’s agri-food gross domestic product.

In October 2020, the Alberta Government, together with the CIB and 8 irrigation districts, announced a historic $815-million investment in irrigation expansion and modernization. This investment will modernize irrigation district infrastructure and increase water storage capacity, creating up to 6,800 direct and indirect permanent jobs and up to 1,280 construction jobs.

Projects focus on increasing water conveyance efficiency and allowing more acres to be irrigated with the same amount of water. Modernizing and building new irrigation infrastructure will:

  • increase irrigated acreage
  • increase primary crop production
  • improve water use efficiency
  • increase water storage capacity
  • enhance water security
  • provide flood protection to support long-term value-added processing activity

The Government of Alberta will contribute $244.5 million and the irrigation districts will contribute $163 million towards this important work.