WIT Press

Improving Water Use Efficiency In Southern Alberta Irrigated Agriculture: Choice Of Criterion


Free (open access)

Paper DOI






Page Range

203 - 213




489 kb


K. K. Klein, S. N. Kulshreshtha, M. K. Ali & R. Bewer


Irrigation accounts for the largest consumption of water in many areas of the world, including Alberta. As water supplies dwindle under the threat of climate change, several environmental lobby groups have argued that less water should be available for irrigation with the hope that more water would then be available for environmental objectives. The agricultural industry may be able to counteract these criticisms if its water use efficiency could be increased and substantiated. This requires selection of an appropriate criterion to use for measuring improvement in water use efficiency (WUE). In this study, two aspects of WUE are examined: Technical and Economic. Estimation is based on data for two river sub-basins where irrigation is practised in Alberta, using data over a five-year period, 2004-2008. The Oldman river sub-basin covers a larger area, and the amount of water diverted reflects it. Water use technical efficiency for this sub-basin was also higher than that for the Bow river sub-basin. Similar results were obtained for water use economic efficiency. On average, in the Oldman river sub-basin, one dam3 (1000 cubic meters) of irrigation water generates 4.4 tonnes of production, as against only 2.7 tonnes for the Bow river sub-basin. In terms of economic efficiency, water applied contributes on average, $171 per dam3 for the Oldman versus only $115 for the Bow river sub-basin. Final assessment of these measures suggests that the physical efficiency measures suffer from the limitation of ignoring the human aspect of efficiency improvement. Thus, improving the technical efficiency may not necessarily lead to improvement in human well-being, which is one of the major objectives of


water use efficiency, irrigation, Alberta, techical efficiency, economic efficiency