Gateway Gazette

New Model for Predicting Water Demand and Expansion of Irrigation Highlight New Alberta Land Institute Report

EDMONTON, AB: A new report released by the Alberta Land Institute highlights the economic benefits of expanding Alberta’s irrigation system and improved forecasting of agricultural and irrigation needs.

The report Systems modelling for sustainable land and water policy in Alberta’s irrigation sector, was prepared by Dr. Evan Davies at the University of Alberta.

The new systems model to study sustainable land and water policy in Alberta’s irrigation sector, called CropSD, is one of the most detailed model of its kind for river basins in Canada. CropSD simulates crop biomass and yield for six crop types, calculates irrigation demand for each crop based on on-farm irrigation technologies, gross irrigation water demands based on the conveyance network, and reservoir releases to satisfy irrigation demands.

Dr. Davies said with irrigation in Alberta generating nearly $3.2 billion to the national GDP in 2011, these type of cutting-edge modelling systems are critical to policymakers’ ability to manage Alberta’s water for municipal and agricultural activities.

“With simulations running to 2040, our systems model serves as a decision-support tool at a high level of detail for municipalities, irrigation districts, government ministries and other groups,” Davies said. “Specifically, for the City of Calgary, it generates medium to long-term end-used-based water demand projections, and can be used to inform infrastructure and conservation planning.

“For irrigation districts, it simulates water efficiency, crop mix and infrastructure options, and projects crop production under various plausible future conditions. For provincial ministries, Alberta’s Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACS) and other groups a fully realized model would provide detailed, long-term projections of watershed conditions; show possible consequences of water resources management options; and quantify trade-offs among water uses and their associated policies.”

There remains still work to do to couple the various models together between municipal, agricultural and crop mix components.

The study also found that the expansion of current public investment from both the provincial government (75 per cent) and irrigation districts (25 per cent) would be highly beneficial for producers, with a net-profit value of $78 million or $1,324 per hectare at the baseline discount rate of 10 per cent.

If stable water markets are the policy objective, then a water sharing regime would be best regardless of the adequacy of the water supply. Such a flexible system will increase the welfare of licenced crop producers, livestock producers, the irrigation district and its members.

Based out of the University of Alberta, Alberta Land Institute exists to connect research and policy for better land management.

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  • Martin , November 27, 2017 @ 6:48 pm

    I’m all for allocating more water to irrigation, but – Let’s just be sure we charge them what it’s worth. Irrigation water use is now heavily subsidized by the Alberta taxpayer, and much to the detriment of farmers in central and northern Alberta.

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