The story of irrigation in Canada should be a familiar one to irrigators across the West: The combination of intrepid farmers, fertile prairie soil, and the diversion of limited water supplies led to the growth of farming communities and industries in once-remote areas. Today, despite its limited growing season and frigid winters, southern Alberta has a robust economy centered around irrigation. Food processing plants, equipment dealerships, and mills provide jobs and social stability.
In this issue of Irrigation Leader, we talk to three Canadian irrigation district managers about the role of irrigation in the Canadian economy and the leadership needed to sustain that economy for future generations. Our cover interview is with Terrence Lazarus of the St. Mary River Irrigation District. For Mr. Lazarus, irrigation is essential to the provincial economy. “We have been fortunate to see consistent growth [in southern Alberta]; our farmers grow a diversity of crops and are not solely dependent on a single industry. Agriculture has provided economic stability to the region.”
Elsewhere in this issue, we look beyond our Canadian neighbors to the challenges here at home. We have a series of interviews addressing 2017 water allocations in California’s Central Valley Project (CVP). The abundance and diversity of crops grown in the Central Valley is extraordinary and accounts for one-fourth of America’s food supplies. The CVP, along with the State Water Project, is the lifeblood of the Central Valley, and in a much-needed year of tremendous rainfall and snowpack, some irrigators are not receiving their full allocation. We talk to farmer and irrigator Cannon Michael, Reclamation Mid-Pacific Acting Regional Director Pablo Arroyave, and Association of California Water Agencies Executive Director Tim Quinn to provide insight into allocation process and the need for more water storage in the state.
Irrigation drives economies and sustains communities. Raymond Irrigation District Manager Gordon ZoBell could not state that sentiment any better when he talks about what he is most proud of in his work: “Farmers and the people that we work with. They make up this district and are hardworking, forward-thinking people who understand they are living on the land but are able to contribute to the community and make southern Alberta a wonderful place to raise a family and earn a living.”
Irrigation Leader magazine will host a tour of Alberta irrigation districts this summer. We hope you can join us to learn about irrigation north of the border. If you are interested please call or email me at the contact information below.
Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at Kris.Polly@waterstrategies.com.