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Irrigation project proposal now in Sask. government’s court

Ron Walter writes about a proposed irrigation project
Bizworld by Ron Walter

The irrigation conference session hadn’t started. One of the suppliers at the table was talking to a Riverhurst irrigator about his products.

Noticing my notebook and camera the supplier asked: “Are you a reporter?”

“Yes,” I identified myself as with Moose Jaw Express.

“You interested in irrigation?” he followed up.

“Yes,” I replied. “I grew up in southern Alberta just a few miles from the irrigation. They wanted to put us in the irrigation district but we stopped them.”

“So you have a negative view of irrigation?” he questioned.

“No, I don’t. Those were the days when irrigation meant wearing rubber boots and digging little channels with a spade from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Guys were lucky if they could farm a half section.”

Modern technology, the irrigation pivot, covers almost a quarter section with water, making the process much easier.

He nodded knowingly and the conversation shifted.

I explained a visit last year into southern Alberta irrigation country and how irrigation had helped small communities grow and develop from the first potato processing plant Yours Truly wrote about in 1965.

The conference heard that seven-year-old proposals for the Qu’Appelle Conveyance line aren’t just collecting dust on a shelf.

Western Economic Diversification is working on the provincial government to develop the project, which entails an open water supply channel from the Qu’Appelle Dam on Lake Diefenbaker to Buffalo Pound Lake, supplying industrial and consumer water needs for southern Saskatchewan and irrigating between 100,000 and 150,000 acres from Tugaske to Marquis.     

The $1 billion plus investment holds back the province, which would like private investors to join the venture.

That investment could have come from the $1.8 billion overbuilt overpasses just completed for the Global Transportation Hub. Oh, well, it’s just taxpayers’ money.

The Parsons study detailing the project impact over 40 years, found it would add $130 billion to Saskatchewan’s gross domestic product and create 468,000 jobs during that time.

The return on investment for the federal and provincial governments over 40 years is around $18 billion each in taxes — certainly much better than the return from one of those $300 million overpasses the province built.

The 2012 study notes that with cheap debt financing and contributions from the federal government, Saskatchewan’s share could be limited to $300 million — or cost of one of those overpasses.

The Qu’Appelle Conveyance and irrigation project will be developed for a generation with tremendous impact.

Given the federal government’s desire to appease angry Westerners, now is the time to seek federal funds for the project.

Ron Walter can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

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