If passed, Bill 54, the Irrigation Districts Amendment Act, will allow irrigation districts to borrow funds for large-scale expansions of their irrigation works, increase confidence for financial lenders, and lead to more consistent, secure access to funding for irrigation districts.

Last fall, Alberta’s government announced an $815-million investment in irrigation modernization and expansion in partnership with eight irrigation districts and the Canadian Infrastructure Bank (CIB).

“It’s an exciting time to be in Alberta’s agriculture industry. Our farmers and ranchers are growing safe, high-quality food, not just for Alberta families but for families all around the world. Bill 54 will help finalize the $815-million investment to modernize irrigation. This legislation will pave the way for even more agriculture investments across the province, increasing our competitiveness and driving Alberta’s economic recovery.”

Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry

The proposed bill also makes small amendments to strengthen board governance by allowing irrigation districts the option to create bylaws to limit the number of consecutive terms a board member can serve.

“Alberta’s irrigation districts are economic drivers that work hard to support farmers that put food on all of our tables. Modernizing the Irrigation Districts Act would ensure that irrigation districts have the tools needed to support future expansions while also strengthening board governance.”

Jason Hale, chairman, Eastern Irrigation District

Alberta’s government is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by protecting livelihoods with Alberta’s Recovery Plan, 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 benefiting 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.

Quick facts

  • Alberta has more than 1.7 million irrigated acres.
  • The irrigation industry generates about $2.4 billion in annual labour income and supports about 56,000 jobs.
  • Irrigation-related agricultural processing generates about $2 billion in total annual sales and accounts for about 18 per cent of total provincial food processing sales.
  • The irrigation industry contributes up to $3.6 billion annually to Alberta’s gross domestic product.
  • Alberta’s government, alongside the CIB and eight irrigation districts, is investing $815 million to modernize irrigation infrastructure and increase provincial water storage capacity.
    • $520 million to develop two new and two expanding off-stream reservoirs
    • $295 million for 56 modernization/rehabilitation projects
  • Projects are being funded through a cost-share agreement between Alberta’s government, the CIB and eight irrigation districts.
    • 20 per cent investment by a consortium of the eight irrigation districts
    • 30 per cent grant from the Government of Alberta
    • 50 per cent to be financed by the CIB, and repaid by the irrigation districts
  • The eight irrigation districts participating in the investment include: Bow River Irrigation District, Eastern Irrigation District, Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District, Raymond Irrigation District, St. Mary River Irrigation District, Taber Irrigation District, United Irrigation District and Western Irrigation District.
  • The proposed legislation clarifies that enhancements to irrigation works are not a commercial activity, providing clarity about what provisions of the act apply when securing financing.
  • Irrigated acres are expected to increase by more than 200,000 acres without increasing their current water allocations.