Irrigation contributes $5.4 billion to provincial GDP annually and the Economic Value of Alberta’s Irrigation Districts study commissioned by the Alberta Irrigation Districts Association and completed by Acera Consult Inc. re-examined the benefits of irrigation within Alberta’s 13 irrigation districts.
The study shows irrigation’s annual contribution to provincial GDP has increased over previous information published in 2015.
The new study shows that for the period from 2011 to 2018, irrigation, within irrigation districts annually generated $5.4 billion to provincial GDP, $3.2 billion in labour income and supported about 46,000 full-time equivalent positions.
The study considered the economic contribution of irrigated crop and livestock production, irrigation-related food processing, the impact of irrigation infrastructure on government revenue along with the contribution of non-irrigation benefits including hydropower generation and drought mitigation.
The study found irrigated lands within irrigation districts represent only 4.4 per cent of Alberta’s cultivated land base, but generate 27 per cent of the province’s total primary agricultural sales and contribute 28 per cent of Alberta’s total agri-food GDP.
The importance of irrigated agriculture is observed during extended periods of low precipitation as has been experienced through much of the province this season.
High-quality and dependable crop and livestock product are consistently produced throughout irrigation districts in part due to infrastructure upgrades and technological advancements.
“Ongoing infrastructure rehabilitation along with on-farm efficiency improvements and crop diversification have been key to growing the irrigation sector to support economic, societal and environmental priorities. Districts, irrigators, and the provincial government have been collaborating for many years to ensure investments in the system support the entire irrigated region,” said Alex Ostrop, chair Alberta Irrigation Districts Association.
“Alberta’s government secured a historic total investment of $933 million in irrigation infrastructure funding because we are committed to driving economic growth and job creation in rural communities. This study commissioned by the Alberta Irrigation Districts Association proves that our irrigation investments will create thousands of jobs and support GDP growth for years to come,” added Nate Horner, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Rural Economic Development.
The study also examined the impact of irrigation infrastructure funding on government revenues.
The study found that every $1.00 invested by the Government of Alberta on irrigation district related activities returned $3.56 in added revenue to the Government of Alberta.