Alberta’s irrigation network is essential to farmers, ranchers, food processors and communities. Irrigation infrastructure provides water to processors and intensive livestock operations, helping farmers increase yields, grow more diverse crops, improve productivity and crop quality, and put food on tables in Alberta and around the world.

Alberta’s government works closely with the province’s irrigation districts to revitalize, expand and modernize their irrigation infrastructure so they can deliver water to producers efficiently and reliably. Through Budget 2024, Alberta’s government is providing $19 million for the Irrigation Rehabilitation Program, an increase of $5.5 million over last year. This funding will help irrigation districts update their water infrastructure and allow them to do more within their current water allocations.

“Investing in our irrigation infrastructure now will help counter dry conditions, including drought, and increase the resiliency and competitiveness of our agricultural industry. Improving the efficiency of Alberta’s irrigation infrastructure means the province can use the same amount of water to irrigate even more land.”

RJ Sigurdson, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation

“This funding will help modernize and maximize our water supply and make every drop count. By making critical improvements to Alberta’s irrigation infrastructure, we can help ensure more water is available for farmers in southern Alberta while also reducing the impacts of drought.”

Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas

The cost-shared Irrigation Rehabilitation Program helps irrigation districts modernize their infrastructure to deliver water more efficiently and effectively, so farmers can do more with the water they have. Irrigation supports about 1.5 million acres of crop production, including producers who manage more than 290,000 acres of specialty crops. Within Alberta’s 11 irrigation districts, irrigated acres produce 28 per cent of the provincial agricultural gross domestic product.

“Alberta’s agriculture industry is world-renowned, and our irrigation network is a key contributor to that success. By investing in our irrigation infrastructure, the Government of Alberta is ensuring our agriculture industry remains strong and sustainable, now and into the future.”

Joseph Schow, MLA for Cardston-Siksika

“Reliable water-delivery infrastructure is the key to our region’s prosperity. Rehabilitation of irrigation district infrastructure has been a primary factor in more than doubling the irrigated area since the early 1970s, without increasing water use. Continued rehabilitation supported by Alberta’s government will sustain this remarkable progress.”

Richard Phillips, vice-chair, Alberta Irrigation Districts Association

Funding is used by irrigation districts to plan, design and deliver projects to modernize infrastructure, such as converting canals to pipelines, which reduces water lost through seepage and evaporation. In 2022, about 9.2 kilometres of open canals were converted to pipeline under the program.

Quick facts

  • The Irrigation Rehabilitation Program was established in 1969 and is cost-shared between the Alberta government (75 per cent) and irrigation districts (25 per cent).
  • About 21 per cent of irrigated areas in the irrigation districts were used for specialty crops such as sugar beets, alfalfa, hemp, dry beans, dry peas and potatoes.
  • Alberta’s irrigated land in the irrigation districts (1.5 million acres) represents more than 70 per cent of all irrigated acres in Canada.
  • Irrigation districts own and operate more than 7,700 kilometres of canals and pipelines.  
  • There are 11 irrigation districts in Alberta:
    • Bow River Irrigation District
    • Eastern Irrigation District
    • Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District
    • Magrath Irrigation District
    • Mountain View Irrigation District
    • Raymond Irrigation District
    • Ross Creek Irrigation District
    • St. Mary River Irrigation District
    • Southwest Irrigation District
    • United Irrigation District
    • Western Irrigation District

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