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Just Add Water The Irrigation Development Process

By Cara Drury, PAg, Irrigation Extension Specialist, Outlook

June 2022

Whether the interest stems from recovering after a year of drought, or a desire to diversify your commodities and include higher valued crops, you may be considering adding irrigation to your operation. The irrigation development process can seem daunting and time consuming, but it can be broken down into individual steps. There are also Ministry of Agriculture Crops and Irrigation staff with expertise who will help you navigate the development process.

Irrigation Pivot
Irrigation Centre Pivot

Regardless of whether you will be engaging in ministry path finding, or going on your own, the development process can be broken down into eight steps:

  1. Determine if the proposed project is in an Irrigation District
    Saskatchewan has 21 irrigation districts. District irrigation and non-district irrigation require different application forms for the development process. Application forms and more details can be found on the ministry website.

  2. Determine specific land concerns
    After the application has been received, a high-level site assessment will be completed to determine if the proposed land has any environmental concerns or if irrigation will be occurring on Crown Land. This step may involve the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands Branch, or Ministry of Environment depending on the project location.

  3. Irrigation opportunity assessment
    Project feasibility will be assessed at this point. Water suitability will be determined and if the water source is found to be unsuitable, the project will not proceed. If required, a site visit will take place with a GPS survey of the project location. Once all the information is gathered a sketch plan and cost estimate will be provided to you.

    If you want to move forward with your irrigation development, you will be requested to sign a letter of acknowledgement. Once signed, the Ministry of Agriculture will engage the other appropriate ministries and agencies in partnership with you.

  4. Pre-development process
    The sketch plan and project design will now be coordinated with any land specific concerns that were identified in Step two. The Ministry of Agriculture will contact the required ministries and agencies to determine a decision on the project feasibility. The timeline of this determination is dependent on the specific findings and may result in the project not being able to proceed or needing to be modified.

  5. Irrigation certification
    An Irrigation Certificate is a requirement of The Irrigation Act, 2019, for all projects allocated more than 12,300 cubic meters (10 acre feet) of water. Without an Irrigation Certificate, you cannot enter into a water service agreement with an irrigation district, nor get a Water Rights License from Water Security Agency (WSA).

    Soil sampling and a land assessment must be completed to be issued an Irrigation Certificate. For more information, please see the Irrigation Certification Manual.

  6. Non-district irrigator approval
    If the project is not within an irrigation district, you must submit an application, along with the appropriate fees to the Water Security Agency for a Water Rights License and an Approval to Construct and Operate Works.

    This step does not apply if your project is within an irrigation district. District irrigation applications determine the feasibility of a water service agreement in Step one.

  7. Construction
    For non-district irrigation, the WSA will provide an Approval to Construct and Operate Works document. Once this is in place and any other required approvals or permissions have been given, construction can proceed.

    In an irrigation district, the district will provide approval for construction.

    If requested, the Ministry of Agriculture will stake a pivot point and complete additional field survey work for equipment installation. The Ministry of Agriculture will also provide confirmation of the preliminary design.

  8. Survey and Inspection
    Once constructed, the Ministry of Agriculture will conduct an as constructed survey and inspection. An as constructed plan will be prepared and submitted to the WSA for non-district irrigators and to the irrigation district for district irrigators.

    Non-district irrigators can then be issued a Water Rights Licence and an Approval to Construct Operate Works document. District irrigators will not have a Water Rights Licence, they will be required to enter into a Water Services Agreement with the irrigation district providing services.

    The development of an irrigation project can take anywhere from between four to 24 months to complete. Regardless of project complexity, Crops and Irrigation staff available to help and guide you through the irrigation development process. For more information or to contact Ministry of Agriculture Crops and Irrigation staff, please see our website.

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