By Cal Braid
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The GM of the Bow River Irrigation District has a lot of territory to oversee. In an October newsletter, Richard Phillips and the BRID promoted the ‘intensification of existing irrigated parcels’ on a first come, first serve basis at $3,000 per acre. In layman’s terms, Phillips lent some insight into how the irrigation acres are managed.
“If a parcel already has irrigation acres on the parcel, but they would like to increase the amount of irrigated area on the parcel, we have some additional acres available for that purpose. The classic example being: somebody who has a standard pivot right now, and they would like to add a corner arm so they need another 20-25 acres. We do have acres available for that. If somebody wants to take a parcel that is currently dryland and convert it into an irrigated parcel, we don’t have any acres allocated for that purpose right now,” he said. “We are almost at our expansion limit which is 295,000 acres, but we have roughly 500 acres that are not yet allocated for other purposes that we’re reserving for that –what we call intensification of existing parcels.”
The intensification is for farmers who are already irrigating, presumably because it’s simpler to tie into existing infrastructure than build it from scratch. The parcels go for $3000 an acre, and other costs accompany it. “There’s a capital asset charge for people to obtain the rights to irrigation, so that’s the irrigation acre,” Phillips said. “That has a charge affixed to it. Most districts including ourselves have expanded over the years. You expand your expansion limit, which is the maximum number of irrigable acres that are allowed, and then sell the rights to obtain those new irrigation acres through the capital assets charge. That can be a significant source of money for the district. It typically does go towards big capital projects. The day-to-day operations in the district are financed primarily by the water rates that we levy on the assessed irrigation acres. So, everybody who has the right to irrigate pays a price per acre every year for every acre that they are entitled to irrigate.”
Phillips said that the District’s rate is not consumption based, but based on the area that a farmer is entitled to irrigate. It’s a flat rate regardless of whether one chooses not to use any water that year, or whether one uses their full allocation. “You pay the same flat rate per acre. Last year our allocation was set at 20 inches per acre. You could use up to 20 inches per acre if you chose to. Last year in an extreme drought we had exactly one irrigator who used the full allocation. Everybody else of our hundreds of irrigators was below. Our allocation is obviously generous because last year was an extreme drought and like I say, only one irrigator used it.”
To keep up to date with what’s going on in the district, visit http://www.brid.ca