WIT Press

Sustainable Irrigation: Alberta Perspectives


Free (open access)





Page Range

17 - 28




344 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


H. Bjornlund, & W. Xu


Sustainable irrigation Alberta perspectives H. Bjornlund1,2 & W. Xu1 1University of Lethbridge, Canada 2University of South Australia, Australia Abstract The problem of water scarcity is emerging in Southern Alberta, and the environment starts to feel its impact. Among 33 main stem river reaches in the South Saskatchewan River Basin (SSRB), 22 of them are rated as ‘moderately impacted’, five as heavily impacted, and three as degraded due to the current level of water extraction. At the same time, the region experiences significant population and economic growth. Community values and attitudes toward the environment are also changing, with increased demand for leaving more water in the rivers for improved ecosystem health and recreational benefits. In response to these transformations, the SSRB was closed in 2005 and no new applications for water licenses will be accepted. As a result, policy pressures are mounting on using existing licenses more efficiently. There is an urgent need to find ways of sharing the water already allocated and to leave more water in the rivers to meet water conservation objectives. Because it currently controls 70–80% of all allocated water within the SSRB, irrigation clearly needs to play a critical role in meeting Alberta’s future water allocation objectives. For irrigation to remain sustainable it needs to be more efficient and productive with its water use and to find ways of sharing its water with the rest of the community. Otherwise, political pressure will mount for non-voluntary sharing arrangements, which could result in an unsustainable irrigation industry. Recent attempts to share irrigation water in Alberta have been subject to persistent opposition. This paper will discuss the recent development in Alberta and will explore the reasons for the opposition both from irrigators and non-irrigators. The paper is based on seven major surveys conducted during the 2006–12 period. Keywords: sustainable irrigation water sharing, Alberta, Canada.


sustainable irrigation water sharing, Alberta, Canada.