Improving irrigation in southern Alberta

L to R: David Westwood of St. Mary River Irrigation District, Minister Hunter, Minister Dreeshen and Minister Panda announce funding for irrigation infrastructure improvements.

The grant is part of Alberta’s $10-million Irrigation Rehabilitation Program. This funding will ensure Alberta’s irrigation districts continue to improve water infrastructure that provides water for irrigation and agricultural operations, municipal use, recreation, wildlife and habitat enhancement.

“Crumbling infrastructure on the St. Mary River network highlights the importance of on-going maintenance and rehabilitation. Alberta’s government will continue to invest in irrigation to attract value-added food processors that will create full-time jobs and expand our economy.”

Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry

Rehabilitation projects supported by these grants include lining unlined canals, converting canals to pipelines and more. Projects like these increase the water conveyance network’s efficiency, allowing more acres to be irrigated with the existing water allocation.

“Irrigation is essential to the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Albertans and the Alberta government is committed to support this important industry. This grant to St. Mary River Irrigation District will help ensure southern Albertans continue to have reliable domestic water, aquatic habitats and recreational areas.”

Grant Hunter, Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction

“We appreciate the funding we’re receiving through the Irrigation Rehabilitation Program. St. Mary River Irrigation District supports a rich and varied abundance of crops, providing southern Alberta with a steady and vibrant economy even during these difficult times. This grant supports our ongoing work to deliver water more efficiently to our communities and proudly serve the farms, businesses and people in southern Alberta.”

George Lohues, board chair, St. Mary River Irrigation District

Started in 1969, the Irrigation Rehabilitation Program is a long-standing grant program that provides cost-shared funds to irrigation districts to rehabilitate irrigation infrastructure. Government of Alberta investments through the program are matched by districts at a ratio of 75 per cent government to 25 per cent district. St. Mary River Irrigation District is receiving $2,651,848 from the program.

Alberta’s Recovery Plan is a bold, ambitious long-term strategy to build, diversify, and create tens of thousands of jobs now. By building schools, roads and other core infrastructure we are benefitting our communities. By diversifying our economy and attracting investment with Canada’s most competitive tax environment, we are putting Alberta on a path for a generation of growth. Alberta came together to save lives by flattening the curve and now we must do the same to save livelihoods, and to grow and thrive.

Quick facts

  • Every year, Alberta’s irrigation industry supports about 56,000 full-time jobs and contributes about $2.4 billion in labour income.
    • The irrigation sector also provides $3.6 billion in GDP annually to Alberta’s economy every year
  • Alberta’s irrigated land makes up almost 70 per cent of all irrigated acres in Canada.
  • Within Alberta's irrigation districts, there are more than 42 reservoirs and about 7,600 kilometres of conveyance works, including canals and pipelines, which carry almost two billion cubic metres of water per year.
  • As part of Budget 2020-21, the Government of Alberta will grant a total of $10 million to the province’s irrigation districts through the Irrigation Rehabilitation Program.