A new Manitoba provincial strategy treats water like a precious, scarce commodity. During a recent dry cycle, Manitoba’s water resources indeed came under heavy stress, illustrating the risk to the province’s agriculture sector. That is why the province rolled out its new water strategy on November 8, replacing a strategy written in 2003. The strategy’s action plan will be developed this winter, the province said in a news release.
Pamela Kolochuk, CEO of Peak of the Market: “We cannot grow any more acres of (vegetables) in southern Manitoba because we do not have access to enough water.” Kolochuk took part in consultations, headed by EMILI (Enterprise Machine Intelligence and Learning Initiative). In a submission to EMILI, Kolochuk said irrigation will become “the biggest use of water in Manitoba going forward.”
Large-scale processors like McCain and Simplot will need irrigated land, which produces far more potatoes than unirrigated fields, she said. Washing potatoes and vegetables also takes a lot of water.
The industry relies on irrigation more than it did 20 years ago, when the old water strategy was written, Kolochuk stated. In some areas, including Portage and Winkler, farms can’t drill wells but they can pump water from rivers within the limits of a water license, Kolochuk said. Some farms aren’t close enough to rivers, so they’ve built reservoirs to capture runoff for irrigation. This takes up valuable land.