By Cole Parkinson
While it certainly still feels like winter outside as more snow has continued to fall well into March, that doesn’t mean the irrigation season is far behind.
The Bow River Irrigation District (BRID) are heading into this spring with more than adequate storage levels as farmers start to ramp into gear.
“Bottom line is this past winter, McGregor was at normal winter levels. Travers and Little Bow Reservoir, which are really combined into one reservoir now, were about 15 inches higher than normal winter levels,” explained Richard Phillips, manager for BRID. “That gives us more water in storage and the total water in storage at the end of last season, and that doesn’t really change over the winter, was 333,000-acre-feet of water. Of course, they are lower in the winter than they are allowed to go in the summer with spring runoff and so on. They were quite full last winter compared to last winter. That leaves us in good shape this year because that is more water than we would use in a normal year. We’ve got all of next year’s water already sitting in the reservoirs.”
Last year’s winter storage levels coming into spring were under 230,000 acres so it is a welcomed addition of water for the district as the upcoming ag season approaches.
Another source contributing to the additional acres for BRID comes from a great snowpack continuing from late 2019 into 2020.
“We expect the Bow River will be good like it usually is and based on the excellent snowpack, we expect lots of water in the river for the early part of the season,” continued Phillips.
While both 2018 and 2019 being extremely dry years, Phillips is more than confident BRID will have adequate levels to fulfil farmer’s needs, if indeed 2020 continues to see less precipitation.
“We’re looking at a year with no concern with water supply.”
While the 2020 Alberta budget has seen irrigation funding cut to around half of what is typically expected, BRID is still in good shape on the financial side.
With the 2018 expansion of around 30,000 additional acres, the revenue from that project has been a real benefit for the district as they continue with several projects, including a pipeline near Vauxhall.
“It’s from primarily selling the right to irrigate from expansion which has resulted in a healthy reserve for us. We have that money to carry on with for these projects despite the government funding. So we’re in a pretty good position,” stated Phillips.
As most of those acres coming online in the 2020 season, Phillips is excited to see a continued increase within BRID.
“We are still in the midst of seeing the district grow because of that,” he said. “There will be more production in the area and more irrigation happening so we are more excited about that.”