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Irrigation district merger developing synergies for SMRID

Posted on March 16, 2023 by Vauxhall Advance

By Trevor Busch

Vauxhall Advance

The St. Mary River Irrigation District (SMRID) recently absorbed the former Taber Irrigation District following the approval of a merger by their respective boards and memberships.

Since August 2022, the new district – merged under the moniker SMRID – has been mapping out synergies that have been created by the union.

“Things are functioning very well, we’re very happy with how the two districts have come together,” said David Westwood, general manager with the SMRID. “Obviously, we’ve maintained our presence in Taber, nothing’s changed from that perspective, we still have ability for users to come into the office located in Taber. And obviously, we’ve got operations and maintenance and everything running out of that district to service irrigators that were formerly in the TID. So that’s really been no change. We’ve seen some good integration of policies, we’ve worked our way through that, that fall. And now we’re actually hitting our stride of the organization finally being able to work a little bit more cohesively.”

Operations initially remained largely status quo, but that has begun to change as the amalgamated district finds more efficiencies.

“When we first did the amalgamation, it was in the middle of water season. So we pretty much left what we now deemed to be the Central Division to continue operating as they always have been,” said Westwood. “And now we’re starting to be able to pull things together. But we’re seeing a lot of good synergy as was planned with the ability to share labour resources, equipment, resources, physical locations, in relation to what the various shops bring, because they all have unique infrastructure and ability to work on certain kinds of projects. So that’s already really coming to fruition, and we’re really happy with that.”

The combined district was 504,200 acres, which saw a further expansion approved recently by water users. 

“That’s what our licence was, over the max amount of irrigation acres we can have under our rights – our expansion limit – as per the Irrigation Districts Act, and then we had a very successful plebiscite that we had good information, attendance and information sessions throughout southern Alberta in November. And then the members went to the polls, and they thought it quite emphatically – actually 91 per cent in favour of the members who did vote to increase our expansion limit by an additional 80,000 acres. So now our new expansion limit can be 584,200 acres.”

Westwood is enthusiastic about the opportunities that may be opened up for the amalgamated district in the future.

“Just really happy. You know, a lot of the planning that went into the amalgamation we’re really starting to see take hold. We recognize that we are a much stronger and better district than either the two predecessor districts prior to amalgamation and we’re really excited that we’re gonna head into our first water season as the newly-amalgamated irrigation district.”

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