‘Great things’ expected from Sask. water funding hike

Governments have boosted funding for the popular farm and ranch water infrastructure program in Sask-atchewan by 30 percent for the next five years.

The federal and provincial agriculture ministers announced the details of the $65 million program in Regina May 3.

David Marit, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, said rural residents would be pleased with the program.

“When you see community wells being developed the way we have and you see private wells and some pipelines and some dugouts, long-term water infrastructure … I believe the first year of this program there was over $25 million invested. That tells you there was a need for it,” he said.

Three community wells were dug in his own municipality of Willow Bunch, and two ranchers added pipelines to those wells to provide quality water for their cattle.

“We had guys that did pipelines for a mile to get water to pastures that were critical for their livelihood,” he said. “They had grass but they didn’t have water.”

Almost 5,500 projects, nearly all of them on farms, have been undertaken since 2008 with the help of $49 million in government funding.

Agriculture minister Lyle Stewart said 81 of the projects were community wells.

“With the additional funding, I think we can expect great things,” he said.

“I’m particularly proud of this program because you can drive around Saskatchewan and see the contributions this program has made to sustainable water.”

Federal minister Gerry Ritz said Ottawa is happy to partner in a program that takes pressure off critical riparian areas by providing safe water for cattle.

“We see the value of making a good program even better,” he told reporters.

There are four components to the program that offer various cost-shared funding depending on the project.

For example, on-farm wells, dugouts, pipelines, connections to rural water utilities, relocating livestock watering systems for environmental purposes and protecting well heads are eligible for 50 percent of allowable costs to a maximum of $60,000.

Well decommissioning is funded at 90 percent and doesn’t count toward the cap.

A new program aspect is the ability for intensive livestock and horticulture operations, value-added agricultural businesses and non-district irrigators to participate.

In the first four years of the program, 12,000 irrigated acres were added within provincial irrigation districts.

Saskatchewan Irrigation Projects Association president Roger Pederson said he can see 20,000 or 30,000 more acres over the next five years.

Stewart said irrigation can add value of $500 per acre per year to crop land.

“That’s a conservative number,” said Pederson. “I think some of the crops that we’re going to be getting into in the future, that number could be a few hundred dollars an acre more, potentially.”

Program details are available at www.agriculture.gov.sk.ca/GF2-FRWIP.

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