GFM Network News


These three pictures from last summer tell a mighty tale of what irrigation can do: On the left, Jason Hale’s granddaughter Blayk stands in a forage corn crop on his Bassano-area farm on June 21; the middle photo was taken July 7; and the one on the right was taken July 21. “It’s amazing how fast this corn grows in two weeks,” Hale tweeted when posting the July 21 photo.

Irrigation mega-project takes next big step

Farmers in southeast back plan for huge expansion of Snake Lake Reservoir

Reading Time: 4 minutes Farmers in southeast Alberta have given a big thumbs up to a major chunk of a historic $815-million expansion of the province’s irrigation system. Three-quarters of the 648 producers in the Eastern Irrigation District who voted in a plebiscite last month cast ballots in favour of an irrigation allotment increase that allows a $170-million expansion […] Read more

Pictured is the Snake Lake Reservoir, about 20 kilometres southeast of Bassano, as it is today. The area outlined in red shows an expansion which will add 53,000 acre-feet to the reservoir.

No extra water required in irrigation acreage expansion, says report

Move to underground pipe and low-pressure pivots means more crop per drop

Reading Time: 2 minutes The Eastern Irrigation District’s decision to expand its irrigation acres brings up a couple of questions. Perhaps the biggest is: Where is the extra water coming from? The answer: There’s no extra water required. According to a feasibility study conducted by the province, the 34,000-acre expansion will not require any additional draw from river sources. […] Read more


Subsurface fertigation saves water and can boost yields, but with most of the research from the U.S., it’s hard to say if the systems are worth the expense in Alberta, says Lethbridge College researcher Rezvan Karimi Dehkordi.

New research digs into value of subsurface fertigation

Delivering water and nutrients straight to root zones is nice in theory, but the payoff isn’t known

Reading Time: 2 minutes Subsurface drip irrigation is gaining popularity in Alberta, and is now in use on 1,090 hectares. But while it’s more water efficient compared to surface irrigation, there are few scientific studies on subsurface fertigation (SDF) specific to Alberta crops and soil conditions. “Most of the data we have is from the U.S. on crops like […] Read more

Variable-rate irrigation holds great promise but applying the technology is complicated, says Willemijn Appels, Lethbridge College’s Mueller Applied Research Chair in Irrigation Science. Appels (second from right) is pictured with students and researchers at one of five farms where her study on variable-rate irrigation is taking place.

Precision irrigation has great potential, but it’s tricky

Understanding how moisture moves through parts of the field is one of the goals of the four-year study

Reading Time: 4 minutes Water has always been at a premium in the Irrigation Belt of southern Alberta. “Our water system is closed,” said Willemijn Appels, an irrigation scientist with Lethbridge College. “There is no more extra water that can be withdrawn for agriculture. Our water licences are already allocated. “We need to use water more wisely and make […] Read more


Replacing canals with underground pipes will cut water loss from evaporation and leakage — enough to irrigate an additional 200,000 acres in southern Alberta.

More crop per drop — irrigation gets ‘historic’ cash injection

New $815-million project will irrigate another 200,000 acres without any additional water allocation

Reading Time: 3 minutes There are a lot of big numbers behind a “historic” expansion of southern Alberta’s irrigation system, but also the smallest possible one — zero. That’s the amount of extra water that will, or rather won’t, be needed to add more than 200,000 irrigated acres that will be created by a $815-million project, officials say. “With […] Read more

(Video screengrab from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry via YouTube)

Federal fund, Alberta government back irrigation upgrades

Infrastructure Bank lends cash for system improvements

Eight irrigation districts in Alberta are set to tap into the Canada Infrastructure Bank’s new $1.5 billion pool of funding earmarked for irrigation, to receive loans worth about $407.5 million. The Alberta and federal governments on Friday announced a total investment of $815 million — including repayable CIB funds, provincial support and irrigation district contributions […] Read more


File photo of Diefenbaker Lake in southern Saskatchewan. (IanChrisGraham/iStock/Getty Images)

Federal irrigation pledge seen flowing mainly to Prairies

Infrastructure plan also includes promised broadband support

Prairie provinces will receive the bulk of Ottawa’s $1.5 billion commitment to support irrigation projects, according to federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday launched a three-year, $10 billion infrastructure plan aimed at five different sectors, including agriculture. The $1.5 billion is expected to result in 700,000 acres of irrigated land. […] Read more

The Coen family has strategically placed ditches that were excavated to create swales for capturing snowmelt, that either slowly soaks into the land or is captured in a series of small dams.

Innovative farmers ‘harvest’ water to boost production

Coen Farm created shallow ditches called swales to capture millions of gallons of snowmelt each spring

Reading Time: 3 minutes This winter, you might want to harvest something a little different on your farm — water. “Our farm harvests 40 years of water in two weeks just from snowmelt,” said Takota Coen, who farms near Ferintosh with his parents. “We live in one of the only places in the world where you can actually increase […] Read more


St. Mary River Irrigation District’s chair says investing in irrigation infrastructure produces a good return for the provincial economy.

Irrigation districts say they’re grateful for provincial funding

This year's allocation is smaller, but there's recognition that 'tax dollars are very hard to come by now'

This year’s allocation is smaller but there’s recognition that ‘tax dollars are very hard to come by now’

Reading Time: 2 minutes It was cheque-cashing time for Alberta’s irrigation districts earlier this month as the provincial government announced $10 million in allocations through the Irrigation Rehabilitation Program (IRP) for the 2020-21 budget year. In place for over 50 years, the IRP is a 75-25 cost-share program between the province and Alberta’s irrigation districts. As its name suggests, […] Read more

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

Reading Time: 4 minutes 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