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Wednesday, 09 November 2011 08:41

Too much rain initially dampened AIPA’s year

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By Jamie Woodford
Irrigation districts in southern Alberta wrapped up last month with “a pretty good year,” but things were looking pretty bleak in the beginning as rains continued through the spring.

“In mid-June we weren’t quite sure what was going to happen because some of the precipitation was about 250 millimetres in some areas over the growing season,” said Alberta Irrigation Projects Association (AIPA) executive director Ron McMullin.

“In terms of water supply, we came into the season, of course with an abundance of water, so much that some areas had clotting and whatnot and of course that was a challenge. Then the water demands weren’t very high for quite a while because ... (of) the good soil moisture conditions then crops could progress for quite a while until irrigation began in earnest.”

Despite decreased water deliveries during the spring, the demand for water bounced back near the end of the season.

“It was quite a warm summer season from much of July and August and the end of September, and so we accumulated the heat units back up to a near normal level, in fact, the crops came on really quick as a result of that,” McMullin said.

He said there was quite a diversity of yields this year depending on how and when a farmer used irrigation, but in most cases yields were above average.

“You can wind up having some very high yields because somebody got the fields seeded at a good time, and it germinated well, and it got all this water and then they applied just the right amount of irrigation towards the end,” he said.

“But in some cases there were lower yields than expected and that’s because we had a lot of heat and if somebody didn’t get the water on it at the right time, then some crops were affected by that heat.

“It’d be nice if we got ideal rain conditions, but that just doesn’t happen and hence that’s why irrigation is such a help to the farmers, probably one of the best crop insurances we have is being able to supply water when crops need it.”

Heading into winter, the reservoirs are already in good shape.

“My understanding is the St. Mary/ Waterton reservoirs are in the neighbourhood of 62, 64 per cent full, but then downstream of that we’re looking in the 80 per cent or so full capacity where water has been moved downstream,” he said. “It looks fairly good going into the next year as well in terms of water supply, hopefully there will be some spring runoff and top up the reservoirs that are on the top end of the system.”

AIPA represents irrigation on a number of provincial committees such as the Alberta Water Council, as well as various sub-committees.

The organization will be hold its annual conference in Lethbridge Nov. 28-30, followed by its annual general meeting. For more information visit,

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