Water demands likely to increase in South Saskatchewan River Basin

As farmers adopt high-tech irrigation systems to manage water use for economic, conservation and environmental reasons, University of Saskatchewan (USask) researchers suggest policymakers should enact measures to curb an “agricultural rebound phenomenon” that increases water demand over time.

 

“Due to modern irrigation, many farmers can switch to higher value crops and expand irrigation acreage to increase profits, which can increase agricultural water demand,” said Mohammed Ghoreishi, a PhD candidate at the School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS) and a researcher at USask’s Global Institute for Water Security (GIWS).

 

The USask research paper is based on a study of what’s happening in the Bow River Basin, where the Alberta government is managing the water resource and balancing the needs of groups, from individuals to municipalities to commercial enterprises, through licensed water allocations.

 

With the Saskatchewan government ready to embark on a major agricultural irrigation development, the Alberta experience provides useful lessons, he said.

 

In the Bow River Basin, many farmers who adopted modern irrigation systems and benefited from higher yields, reduced labour, and more precise application of fertilizer and chemicals, are using their surplus water allocations to expand operations and move to higher-value crops.

 

If water conservation is a goal, said Ghoreishi, the lack of restriction on unplanned expansion can be concerning, and the government might need to consider buying back some water rights in such cases.

 

“Imagine that a severe drought happens after many farmers expand their irrigated areas due to a so-called water conservation program. Probable increase in agricultural water demand in Alberta may create a downstream impact,” he said, noting that Saskatchewan could be on the receiving end of this problem as it shares the water flow on the South Saskatchewan River.

 

For research paper, link here: https://bit.ly/2WBJUDC

 

Source:  University of Saskatchewan August 30, 2021 news release

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Monday, August 30, 2021

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