The Saskatchewan government is investing $5 million in agricultural water management.
Premier Scott Moe announced on March 13 the Saskatchewan Conservation and Development Association (SCDA) will receive the funds to help develop conservation and development area authorities (C and D).
“I think it’s fair for all of us to say that we all have more work to do when it comes to the conversation about effective, responsible water management in the province,” Moe said in his address to the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities convention in Saskatoon.
He said there are already 96 C and Ds in the province, but more are needed.
“We need hundreds of C and Ds if we’re to provide effective water management and flood mitigation — hundreds, not 96. So it’s time for us in this room and it’s time for us across this province to start putting one foot in front of the other when it comes to efficient water management planning,” Moe said.
The province announced an agricultural water management strategy in September 2015. New regulations require all drainage projects to be approved. Since the regulations were implemented, 809 quarter sections have been brought into compliance.
More than 20 organized drainage projects involving more than 200,000 acres and hundreds of landowners are currently in the works.
Cliff Lowenberger, president of the SCDA, said the agency is the legislative body that works with producers to register drainage works to make it a responsible and managed system.
The Water Security Agency is the regulatory body that oversees drainage, but the SCDA is the parent body to C and Ds.
“C and D, some people say that’s all about culverts and drainage, well that’s just not true. We are about controlled managed systems where downstream impacts are reduced, salinization is reduced and wildlife is protected,” Lowenberger said.
He said the SCDA has struggled with funding.
“We were collecting from our membership .07 cents an acre, which doesn’t go very far. You could probably use that just with the grease you need to use,” Lowenberger said.
Then the agency had a forum in Humboldt where its 96 members agreed to increase funding to 3.5 cents per acre.
“That’s huge, really. So we have our membership that is supporting us,” Lowenberger said.
The $5 million of provincial funding, Lowenberger said, is like a breath of fresh air that will go a long way.
“With this opportunity we can look at engineering. We can look at support people, we can look at lidar (a surveying method), there is a whole raft of things that need to come into play to do this the right way, to do this responsibly,” Lowenberger said.
In a news release, the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan supported the funding announcement.
“We believe that the SCDA has the skill set and credibility with producers to improve water management on the rural landscape,” the release stated.
Moe said the province must act because downstream flood mitigation and the province’s agri-food production are too important.
“Engage on this issue in a very serious way, and engage with the SCDA,” Moe said.
“In government we will do more to direct the water security agency to do more as well.
“We need to streamline our approval process so we can get work done at the actual speed of business. We all have a part to play in this.”