Researchers focus on new water challenges

Canada’s farmers have a love-hate relationship with water.

They pray for it when there’s not enough and they curse it when there’s too much.

But regardless of whether it’s too scarce or too abundant, every farmer knows he can’t live without it.

That’s one of the reasons why the University of Saskatchewan — located in the heart of Canada’s driest province — has taken a lead role in studying the future of Canada’s fresh-water resources.

Global Water Futures is a seven-year research program established by the Global Institute for Water Security at the U of S.

The program, established in 2016, has 33 approved research projects, including 21 new projects that were announced this month.

The cost to complete approved GWF projects is estimated at $170 million, with funding provided through a Canada First Research Excellence Fund grant.

“With the hydrology of Canada and all cold regions changing dramatically due to climate change… (GWF) projects will help us understand, diagnose and predict change, and develop new tools … to support water-related decision making,” said John Pomeroy, director of GWF and professor of hydrology at the U of S.

“The outcomes of this … new science will include a better understanding of snow and rain storms, floods and droughts, as well as how to better measure and manage the quality of source waters.”

According to Pomeroy, Canada’s water resources and weather patterns are changing. With those changes come new challenges and opportunities.

Research is key to managing through turbulent times to improve our understanding of future water security issues, such as the depletion of Canada’s alpine glaciers, the thaw of northern permafrost, and fluctuating water levels in the country’s lakes and river systems.

Climate change, combined with new land management techniques, has already resulted in more droughts and floods, Pomeroy added.

“We have entered the great thaw due to rapid climate change, and with economic growth and changing ways in which we use the land, we now have more damaging droughts, fires, floods, algal blooms, and water quality advisories than in the past …,” he said.

There are also emerging opportunities for food and energy production through enlightened water management, he added.

All told, GWF projects conducted over the next three years are expected to provide training and employment for 450 researchers and scientists based at 15 universities across the country.

A list of recently approved GWF projects can be viewed on-line at www.globalwaterfutures.ca.

Contact brian.cross@producer.com

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  • ed

    If you are going to drain all the water off every quarter section when in wetter periods of time and flood all the river basin cities doing so, you will definately be preying for water in the dryer periods of time. So you get a little more crop in the wet periods, and nearly no crop in the dryer periods. If farmers were paid for their commodities instead when they do produce them and fined heavily for any kind of drainage that increases the volume of water off their quarter sections no matter what the heavens deliver, you would not be having these conversations and there would be no need for these academic studies that if misinterpreted will tell you everything but what was just stated above. The farmers would have more money to spend in town, the tax payers would part with far less dollars thru tax payer subsidized Crop Insurance and AgriStability pay outs, the cities on the flood plains would not be flooding out every 5 years. As well the general health of the riparian habitat areas and ecologies would not be constantly under attack and being destroyed at light speed. Dot to dot people. Everyone wins except the buy low, sell high commodity brokers/deadly chemistry sales type operations. Ahh…can’t have that, so lets take another look at it with another Blue Ribbon fact finding commission followed by a very in-depth, comprehensive and several three inch thick documents. After all the last three discussion papers have got a pretty thick layer of dust on them by now. This is like a “Time Warp Continuum” off of an episode of Star Trex. Wow……That is like Deep Space! Very Deep Space!

    • Jim Martindale

      After an examination of percip records in Northern North Dakota, it is obvious that the total annual rainfall is no more than 10% above the historic norm. That is just enough to support a 55-60 bushel wheat yield if all of the precipitation was successfully stored in the field. I disagree with the assumption that we are experiencing significant climate change. The total annual precipitation bare this out.

      So what is the big problem with the amount of water being received anyway? The problem is that the soils are increasingly anaerobic creating massive fluxes of pathogens creating plant disease issues. The anaerobic conditions result from the precipitation events during the growing season delivering more water per event.

      That is a problem because the soil is unable to percolate the water into the subsoil rapidly enough to return oxygen to the A horizon. In the absence of gas exchange the gram negative bacteria and pathogenic fungi proliferate. This is a diseased soil which leads inexorably to disease ridden plants. There isn’t a fungicide with a label for control of Fusarium Gramanearum, creator of vomitoxin (DON) so the economic impact of the soils’ inability to transport water to subsoil and the water table is the real issue.

      The second aspect of this “developing situation” is the creation of sloughs which are costly in multiple ways which doesn’t need more discussion here. Eliminating them with tiling and creating more off-site flooding issues is akin to pouring salt in an open wound.

      Why not address the root of the problem by examining the reason the water won’t percolate in our fields. The root systems being produced by crops grown on these troubled soils are excellent indicators of a structural problem which has developed in our soils that is impacting the depth of the roots and the ability of water to percolate well.

      This structural issue will not be addressed with a disc blade being run at high speed across our landscape at depths which are too shallow to impact the structural problem. We don’t want to plow or deep disc and see the resulting soil loss resulting from wind erosion.

      We are successfully addressing these issues in SK, near Regina, with a NZ originated tillage technology called CurseBuster. Readers can learn more about it at http://www.soilcursebuster.com. Root system development returns to normal, water percolates through the A horizon rapidly, sloughs fail to refill (thereby failing to flush more sodium into them) because the water no longer runs down slopes into the low areas. In fact we have seen sodium accumulations in and around sloughs disappear in two years simply because the precipitation is leaching the sodium instead of adding to it from soils at higher elevation within the confines of the field.

      The solution is departure from the failed myth of no-till farming unless we have drunk so much Kool-aide that we can call cattails a cover crop now.

      • ed

        Yes, that is exactly it and it will kill the planet.

  • Monkeeworks

    No, it won’t kill the planet. The earth will survive for eternity unless it is smashed to smithereens by some huge comet. I think you mean to say, “it will kill all humans”.
    The earth has changed, through climate change, from a molten mass of goo to a paradise suited to most humans. Without climate change humans would never have developed.

    • ed

      Wonder what species will be next.

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