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Irrigation Development Process

Saskatchewan's climate makes it appealing for irrigation development, as moisture is the main limitation to agriculture in most areas of the province. Those areas with semi-arid climates are restricted in the types of crops that can be grown and the number of livestock that can be supported per unit of land. Irrigation has been used as a tool to diversify the rural economy and to stabilize crop production.

The following steps and fee schedule can assist you with irrigation development.


To qualify for technical assistance, your proposed project should be at least four hectares (10 acres) in area with sufficient water for a minimum 30-centimeter (12-inch) annual allocation based on availability seven years in 10 for intensive projects, and a 20-centimeter (8-inch) annual allocation based on availability five years in 10 for non-intensive projects as determined by a water supply study undertaken by the Water Security Agency.

Effluent irrigation projects have different requirements. Contact the Ministry of Agriculture, Crops and Irrigation Branch, by phone at 306-867-5500 for details on effluent irrigation.


1. Step 1: Proposal

Contact the ministry to discuss the proposal and the irrigation development proposed project and the irrigation development process. Ministry services will be provided upon receipt of a Request for Technical Assistance (RFTA) and the appropriate fees.

For district irrigation proposals, the RFTA must be approved by the Irrigation District and then forwarded to the ministry.


2. Step 2: Water Supply Assessment

The available water supply for non-district irrigation projects must be determined prior to proceeding. The ministry will contact the Water Security Agency to request a water availability study and basin acceptance on behalf of the client.

  1. Surface Water
    The Water Security Agency will determine the amount of surface water that is available for allocation to the proposed project.
  2. Groundwater
    The Water Security Agency will provide comments on water availability based on existing aquifer information. You will be responsible for the cost of undertaking a hydrogeology study, if necessary, to determine whether or not sufficient groundwater is available for the project. The Water Security Agency can assist in developing terms of reference for the study.

3. Step 3: Inspection, Surveying and Feasibility

The ministry will:

  • Perform an on-site inspection and GPS survey;
  • Meet with you to discuss the irrigation development process and any special development concerns; and
  • Assess project feasibility. If a project appears feasible, a sketch plan and cost estimate for various alternatives will be prepared.

4. Step 4: Irrigation Certificate

An Irrigation Certificate is a requirement of The Irrigation Act, 1996, for all projects allocated more than 12,300 cubic metres (10 acre feet) of water. To ensure environmental and economic sustainability, all proponents, regardless of project size and water source, are encouraged to have their soil and water assessed.

An Irrigation Certificate will be issued for each irrigation project that meets soil and water compatibility standards and for which the applicable fees have been paid. Irrigators cannot receive irrigation services from an irrigation district without an Irrigation Certificate.

Non-district irrigators will not receive an Approval to Construct Works from the Water Security Agency without an Irrigation Certificate.

Client cost for soil/water investigation: is $2,100 per land parcel (GST included).

If soils and water are compatible, the ministry will issue an Irrigation Certificate.


5. Step 5: Irrigation Plan

The ministry will prepare a preliminary plan showing the general layout and recommended irrigation equipment for the proposed development.

For non-district irrigation projects, the plan will be forwarded to the Water Security Agency and to any other regulatory agency. For district irrigators, the plan will be forwarded to the appropriate irrigation district.


6. Step 6: Non-district Irrigator Approval

Non-district irrigators must submit an application along with the appropriate fees to the Water Security Agency for an Approval to Construct Works.

For non-district projects, when all other regulatory issues have been met, the Water Security Agency will issue an Approval to Construct Works.


7. Step 7: Construction

Upon receipt of an Approval to Construct Works, construction can proceed. The Ministry will stake the pivot point upon request of the client. Additional field surveying for equipment installation or confirmation of the preliminary design can be provided by the Ministry upon request.


8. Step 8: Survey and Inspection

Upon confirmation that the project is constructed, the ministry will conduct an as constructed survey and inspection. An as constructed plan will be prepared and submitted to Water Security Agency so that a Water Rights Licence and an Approval to Operate Works for the use of surface or ground water can be issued.

District irrigators will be required to enter into a Water Services Agreement with the irrigation district providing services.


9. Agencies involved with Irrigation Development and Funding Options

Ministry of Agriculture, Crops and Irrigation Branch – The lead agency for irrigation development in Saskatchewan. You start here and are guided through the process, including:

  • Discussion;
  • Application;
  • Site inspection and feasibility;
  • Sketch plans;
  • Cost estimates;
  • Preliminary plan;
  • Staking of pivot points and mainline routes; and
  • As-constructed survey and plans.  

Ministry of Agriculture Lands Branch – This branch provides regulatory oversight of lands, land control on government-leased lands and approval of pumpsite locations.

Ministry of Environment – This ministry provides environmental regulatory oversight, including critical wildlife habitat, approval of pumpsite locations and industrial effluent irrigation projects.

Federal Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans – Provides approval for intake fish screens and obstructions in navigable waters.

SaskWater – SaskWater is responsible for water supply through the Saskatoon South East Water Supply (SSEWS) Canal, from Broderick Reservoir to Zelma Reservoir. Irrigators require a water service agreement with SaskWater to access the water from the canal or the reservoirs.

Water Security Agency – This agency is the provincial water regulatory agency that issues all approvals in the province for the utilization of water. They determine the water availability and the volume of water to be allocated for every water project. They issue Approval to Construct Works, issue Approval to Operate Works and licence surface water irrigation projects, drainage projects, municipal effluent projects and ground water projects, and issue Shoreline Alteration Permits. No projects will proceed without their approvals.

Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure – This ministry is responsible for approving irrigation mainlines crossing highways and land control.

Rural Municipalities – RMs are responsible for approving mainlines crossing roads and ditches.

Rail Road Companies (Canadian Pacific Railway Canadian National Railway) – These companies are responsible for approving infrastructure crossing railroads.

Irrigation Districts – The districts are responsible for providing approvals for clients' applications, as well as for operating and maintaining the irrigation district works. Irrigators must sign a water service agreement with the district providing the service.

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