Snow­pack lev­els, pre­cip­i­ta­tion below nor­mal SMRID is ready though

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Farm News - BY JAMIE RIEGER — [email protected]­t.com

Some of the typ­i­cally wettest months of the year are still to come, but what if Fe­bru­ary, March, and April are as dry as the past few months have been?

Ter­rence Lazarus, gen­eral man­ager for St. Mary’s River Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­trict, said that while the fields and pas­tures around South­ern Al­berta are look­ing pretty dry, there is some snow­pack in the moun­tains, al­beit the lev­els are lower than nor­mal.

“The snow­pack map is show­ing on the low end of nor­mal, but there is snow. This is go­ing to be a make-or-break year be­cause the stor­age is al­ready low, but it’s too early to know. We could get a cou­ple of good pe­ri­ods of pre­cip­i­ta­tion in March and April to bring it up to nor­mal,” said Lazarus.

Al­berta has ex­pe­ri­enced back-to-back drought years in the past and SMRID and all mem­bers of the Al­berta Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­trict As­so­ci­a­tion (AIDA) have pro­to­cols in place should an­other dry year oc­cur.

Im­pos­ing wa­ter al­lo­ca­tions to its li­censees is one of the first av­enues taken when wa­ter be­comes an is­sue.

Also, on Nov. 5 of last year, SMRID, along with other mem­bers of the AIDA re-signed the Hu­man Use of Wa­ter and Live­stock Dec­la­ra­tion (orig­i­nally signed in 2010), a doc­u­ment that pri­or­i­tizes wa­ter us­age in the event of a drought sit­u­a­tion.

“The dec­la­ra­tion was a re-sign­ing that rec­og­nizes hu­mans and live­stock al­ways come first. There’s al­ways talk about the ir­ri­ga­tion districts hav­ing all this wa­ter, but hu­mans and live­stock come first,” he said.

The dec­la­ra­tion states that “wa­ter for ba­sic needs of hu­mans, as de­fined by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion for ‘op­ti­mal ac­cess ser­vice level’, and for live­stock sus­te­nance will take pri­or­ity over any wa­ter use for ir­ri­ga­tion, and that mem­ber districts will par­tic­i­pate in wa­ter shar­ing with other li­cence hold­ers in good faith so that suf­fi­cient wa­ter can be dis­trib­uted for ba­sic hu­man use and for sus­te­nance for live­stock.”

While the Wa­ter Act in­di­cates that districts with the more li­cences will have greater pri­or­ity, un­der drought con­di­tions that wa­ter must be shared.

“We’re work­ing very hard with other ir­ri­ga­tion districts to share wa­ter. The more li­censes, the more pri­or­ity. That is in the Wa­ter Act, but by wa­ter shar­ing, we all will feel the pain,” said Lazarus.

Tech­nol­ogy for ir­ri­ga­tion equip­ment has im­proved greatly over the years, with wa­ter con­ser­va­tion al­ways be­ing a con­cern.

“There are fan­tas­tic piv­ots that are very ef­fi­cient,” he said. “Ev­ery­body is do­ing their bit.”

File photo

Wa­ter may not be flow­ing as much in ir­ri­ga­tion pipes with the lower snow pack lev­els.

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