GFM Network News


Solar panels lose a little bit of efficiency each year but the irrigation district’s arrays come with a guarantee of 80 per cent output in 25 years’ time.

Inspired by farmers, irrigation district aims for ‘net zero’

St. Mary River Irrigation District moves a lot of water and has a big electric bill — but that’s about to change

The St. Mary River Irrigation District is putting the sun to work providing water to its users. Solar arrays at two large pump stations have the district in a position to achieve net zero electrical use — and potentially save hundreds of thousands in electricity costs down the road. The inspiration to look at solar came […] Read more

The Irrigation District Water Quality website has dozens of water quality sampling sites in its database. 
Clicking on one of the dots brings up a photo of that specific site and a link to all the data collected there.

Full disclosure: Years of water quality data now available

An extensive and detailed store of data collected by irrigation districts is now within easy reach

Information is power, and a new website is making more than a decade’s worth of water quality data available to anyone who wants it. The Irrigation District Water Quality website is the creation of the Alberta Irrigation Districts Association, whose members have been participating in a project on water quality since 2006. “The research objective […] Read more


The vast majority of irrigators have adopted precision ag technology and more will follow as costs fall, says University of Lethbridge economist Lorraine Nicol.

Precision agriculture means less is more for irrigators

Technology has boosted yields while cutting both water use and inputs, says University of Lethbridge survey

Very few studies have examined precision agriculture in Canada, but a new one from University of Lethbridge researchers has put some numbers on the benefits. And they’re big — both in terms of reducing inputs and in boosting yields. Last fall, economists Lorraine Nicol and Chris Nicol surveyed irrigators in the Taber Irrigation District and […] Read more

Chris Williams (in blue cap) and Erin Cherlet are part of a team of researchers who have been measuring the impact of wildfires on run-off.

More wildfires and changes in run-off a challenge for irrigation district

A lack of tree cover can boost run-off volumes but they come sooner and with much more sediment

As wildfire experts peer into the future, they see more — and more severe — forest fires because of a changing climate. But some are also looking to the past and measuring the impact that forest fires have on the quantity and quality of run-off — two factors that could have major implications for Alberta’s […] Read more


During the 2013 flood, there were fears the Bassano Dam could have failed. Irrigation districts have been working with government on ways to hold back a flood surge through new upstream reservoirs.

Flood protection offers win-win for irrigators

New reservoir could protect both Calgary from catastrophic flood while increasing supply for irrigation

The 2013 “super flood” that hit southern Alberta was the country’s costliest natural disaster — with the bill for damages and recovery measures topping $6 billion. Now, a new report says there are ways to both prevent a similar disaster and also help mitigate the impact of drought. The Bow River Working Group — composed […] Read more

An array of sensors allow researchers to monitor water movement in different soil types within beds sown to alfalfa.

Bringing crops indoors generating research insights

Indoor beds allow scientists to take ‘a peek underground’ to see how subsurface drip irrigation works

Indoors’ doesn’t usually come to mind when thinking of applied irrigation research, but it has its advantages. “We have to be careful (with field studies) because you might harm somebody’s crop or interfere with whatever the farmer had planned,” said Willemijn Appels, a hydrologist and soil physicist. “You can’t push systems and the crops growing […] Read more


This array on Merlinds Farms is the first large-scale solar system in the province used to power irrigation pivots.

Solar-powered irrigation proving its worth for Alberta operation

Cory and Lindsay Nelson are the first in the province to use solar for large-scale irrigation — and they’re happy they did

Cory and Lindsay Nelson have always embraced innovation and after attending a talk on solar energy put on by a producer group, their interest was piqued. So the brothers approached Enmax and a Lethbridge solar installation company called Solar Optix to look at their electrical bills. The numbers seemed to pan out, and it looked […] Read more

Jan Slaski predicts this will be a record-breaking year for hemp production.

Hemp’s prospects are on the upswing

Growing hemp under irrigation can boost yields by a third or more, and demand appears poised to grow too

You can’t get high with hemp, but your profit margins might get a lift if you choose to add it to your irrigated rotation. And recent changes are making hemp even more attractive in Alberta, including a new hemp-processing facility slated for Nisku and a long-hoped-for easing of regulations by Health Canada. “Up until last […] Read more


Both inspections and monitoring are being stepped up this year in the ongoing war to keep invasive mussels — which may be just 60 kilometres from the border — out of Alberta’s waterways.

The threat of invasive mussels draws ever closer to Alberta

Water officials on high alert after positive samples for larval mussels 
were found in two nearby Montana reservoirs last year

Lakes closed to watercraft; shores fouled with sharp shells and a rotting mollusk smell; millions of tax dollars going to clean up irrigation and hydro-electric infrastructure — that’s the future if quagga or zebra mussels find their way into the province. For decades, Alberta has been protected by a buffer of mussel-free provinces and states […] Read more

Understanding how water moves through soil is one of Willemijn Appels’ 
areas of expertise.

Working with producers top priority for irrigation research chair

Willemijn Appels wants to focus on research projects ‘that will really benefit local producers'

Calling all Alberta irrigators — Lethbridge College’s new irrigation science chair wants to know about your experiences and challenges with agricultural water management. In March, Willemijn Appels took up her new posting, which was created with a $3.1-million gift from the estate of Lloyd and Dorothy Mueller two years ago. “My job over the last […] Read more