Wednesday, 03 April 2013 14:47

Alberta irrigation industry is improving efficiency

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Ron McMullin, executive director of Alberta Irrigation Projects shared some interesting facts with attendees at the AGM for the South East Alberta Watershed Alliance, March 19. Here he explains a graph showing how flooding events can affect riparian health. Ron McMullin, executive director of Alberta Irrigation Projects shared some interesting facts with attendees at the AGM for the South East Alberta Watershed Alliance, March 19. Here he explains a graph showing how flooding events can affect riparian health. Photo by Rose Sanchez

Alberta’s irrigation industry is making strides to conserve water and improve efficiency.


Ron McMullin, executive director of the Alberta Irrigation Projects Association (AIPA), shared what is happening in the irrigation industry with people attending the annual general meeting of the South East Alberta Watershed Alliance, March 19.
The industry has set up a plan to help improve efficiency and conserve water. It has various targets set out including increasing efficiency by 15 per cent; that 70 per cent of irrigated lands will be under best management practices; diversions will be kept below 2005 references; and a 15 per cent increase in productivity.
So far the industry is doing well to meet its targets. McMullin said a clear decline can be seen in diversion rates and water has been made available for use by others through amending and transferring licenses. Efficiency has increased by 22 per cent, more than the 15 per cent target, and productivity has increased by 16 per cent.
“We’ve come a long way and we are on track to meet our goals,” he added.
About nine billion cubic metres of water flows into the South Saskatchewan River system every year and 3.451 billion cubic metres is allocated to irrigation.
There are 13 irrigation districts in the province varying in size from 410,000 acres in the St. Mary’s River Irrigation District to the 1,100 acres handled by the Ross Creek Irrigation District.
Irrigation water helps grow a variety of food crops as well as seed crops and livestock feeds, said McMullin. He added there is more canola produced in Canada now than wheat.
“Because of irrigation, we have the opportunity to grow a great diversity of crops.”
McMullin said half the mint flavouring produced for North American use is provided by mint farms in the Burdett area.
As a result of the irrigation industry there are jobs created, recreational facilities such as golf courses can be watered and individuals can enjoy camping and fishing. Irrigation is also closely connected to the livestock industry.
“One benefit you don’t see very often is we are providing habitat for waterfowl and wetlands.”
McMullin also spoke about the Alberta Water Council (AWC), which he sits on as the AIPA representative. That council includes 24 members set up to be an advisory body to provide advice to the Alberta government about water policy issues.
The three key projects the council is working on surround conservation, efficiency and productivity. The Water for Life strategy set out a goal of increasing efficiency of water use in the province by 30 per cent from 2005 to 2015, explains McMullin.
AWC sub-committees research how to deal with various issues and then report their findings back to the council.
That information can then be used by government to help make decisions surrounding water.
Some of the work being done surrounds non-point source pollution and developing a framework for management of riparian areas in the province as well as aquatic invasive species management.
In the spring of 2014, a symposium will focus on the re-use of water and how to use gray water.

Read 8888 times Last modified on Wednesday, 03 April 2013 15:04
Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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