Water is a complex thing to try to manage – just ask any kid who has designed a sandbox moat or mud-canal system across the yard. Farmers, and their crops, depend on having the right amounts of rain, at the right times; and “right” depends on the farmer, soil type, and specific crop. Managing all of these variables is no small task. Hence the intricate relationship between drainage and irrigation.
This week we have been posting about drainage, but that is only part of the picture. Irrigation is also part of developing an overall water management strategy and plan. On our farm, we have also been busy investigating irrigation options, regulation and permitting procedures.
In Manitoba, the most common type of irrigation is an above ground pivot. However, there are other types of irrigation, such as water cannons and straight-line systems. Regardless of the water delivery mechanism, the whole irrigation strategy depends on finding a stable water source. The government manages the demands on the local water supplies, and places a primary concern on maintaining the water quality and quantity to existing customers. Until recently, no more water rights were available in our area, due to these considerations.
Recently, some projects that had requested water rights were not completed, and so there was an opportunity to access exploration permits. The water stewardship division of the Manitoba government is responsible for issuing exploration permits. These permits specify the terms and conditions under which construction of wells, including both test wells and functional wells, can occur. Once a project is complete, a water rights license specifies the terms for a particular project.
We are still in the early phases of investigating how both tile drainage and irrigation can play a role on our farm. Both require significant preparatory work with regard to planning and permits and they both involve significant infrastructure investments. Our challenge right now is to craft a plan that takes into account the financial, environmental and logistical factors of taking on such projects.