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

Research lead Willemijn Appels and Nathan Linder gather data from a local farmer’s canola field irrigated by subsurface drip irrigation.

Fighting gravity for better underground irrigation

Subsurface drip irrigation can pay off with the right practices and a little patience, says researcher

At first glance, subsurface drip irrigation seems like an obvious winner as it gets water directly to the roots and there’s less evaporation. But that’s not the whole story. Subsurface drip irrigation is a literal fight against gravity — you’re trying to make water go from side to side when it’s inclined to go down […] Read more


Irrigation, like this system near Taber, is a common sight in parts of southern Alberta. But there are predictions there will be an expansion of irrigated acres in central and northern areas of the province.

Interest in irrigation in Alberta heads north

While the lion’s share of irrigation is in the south, some expect a major expansion as far north as the Peace

From the highway, the sign seems out of place. “Now open, Southern Irrigation,” it declares. Down Lethbridge way, it might not be unusual to see a yard full of irrigation pipes and reels of tubing. But Red Deer isn’t exactly the epicentre of irrigation in the province. But that may slowly be starting to change, […] Read more

Senior research scientist Nick Savidov and aquaponics technician Penny Takahashi work in the college’s existing Aquaculture Centre of Excellence greenhouse.

Grants boost greenhouse research at Lethbridge College

A pair of federal grants will allow Lethbridge College to create a new commercial-scale greenhouse and also to purchase equipment for research work in precision irrigation and in antibiotic identification from native plants. The college is getting $1 million towards its Centre for Sustainable Food Production that will be used for the greenhouse that will […] 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


Grants available for irrigation upgrades

Grants to reduce water use or energy use can be as much as $15,000 for each irrigated parcel

Applications are now being accepted for the Irrigation Efficiency program under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. The program offers grants for new low-pressure centre pivots or upgrades to existing pivots (such as sprinkler and nozzle packages, control panels, and variable-rate irrigation) as well as drip irrigation. Any active producer who owns an irrigated agricultural operation in […] Read more

Irrigation generates $3.2 billion for the Alberta economy and has expansion potential, says a report from the  Alberta Land Institute.

Report looks at the benefits of irrigation expansion

Study says irrigating dryland would produce big economic benefits but would need government support

A recent report from the Alberta Land Institute highlights the economic benefits of expanding Alberta’s irrigation system and offers improved forecasting of agricultural and irrigation needs. The report, entitled Systems modelling for sustainable land and water policy in Alberta’s irrigation sector, was prepared by Evan Davies, an associate professor in civil and environmental engineering at the University […] 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