Alberta irrigation water quality information now available online

The new online tool allows individuals to access irrigation water quality data across Alberta.
Potatoes in Canada
March 20, 2019 | Lethbridge, Atla.
By Potatoes in Canada
The Alberta Irrigation Districts Association (AIDA) announced the release of the Irrigation District Water Quality data tool which provides online access to water quality information collected within Alberta irrigation infrastructure. The information accessed shows that the quality of Alberta’s irrigation water is generally excellent.

The potato-growing areas in Alberta include the irrigated areas from the Lethbridge, Taber, Vauxhall, and Bassano-Brooks areas.

Nearly 8,000 kilometres of canals and pipelines, 57 storage reservoirs and 4,800 kilometres of drainage infrastructure make up Alberta’s irrigation infrastructure. This infrastructure not only supplies water to more than 1.4 million acres of irrigated farmland but also supports rural municipalities, domestic water users, wildlife habitat, wetlands and recreational activities.

Since 2006, the ongoing Irrigation District Water Quality (IDWQ) project has assessed general water quality and evaluated changes in the quality of water as it travels through irrigation infrastructure. The project is currently funded by the AIDA.

The quality of irrigation water at over 100 sites was assessed against guidelines for irrigation using a water quality index and analyzed for trends over time. Data from the study indicates that the quality of Alberta’s irrigation water is generally excellent.

In the past, water quality information evaluated for the project has been available to irrigation districts, agricultural producers, commodity organizations, agri-food processors, government agencies and others by request. Users can now access sampling site locations, site photos, download water quality information and view annual water quality index scores for each site by visiting the Irrigation District Water Quality data tool online.

Agricultural producers, in particular, are increasingly requested by food processors and the public to demonstrate the quality of irrigation water used for food production.

“Monitoring and reporting irrigation water quality shows our due diligence in food safety that extends to everything that goes into our plant. It is very helpful to be able to access the tool for documentation and come audit time I will be bringing the site up to show our CanadaGAP auditor for verification, ” said Norm Wynne with Gouw Quality Onions, a vegetable processing plant, in Taber, Atla.

Over the years, irrigation districts have monitored the information from the study to identify water quality concerns within their infrastructure. The data tool will allow them to continue monitoring areas within their infrastructure for water quality concerns.

The knowledge will allow for future development and implementation best management practices (BMPs), in collaboration with other stakeholders, to maintain water quality.

Chris Gallagher, manager of the Taber Irrigation District (TID) explains, “The IDWQ project helped us identify contaminant sources to design and prioritize solutions such as constructed wetlands, bioreactors and reservoir riparian enhancements.” Gallagher said the tool also allows TID to evaluate the effectiveness of their practices in order to maintain or improve water quality. “With this publicly available, our water users will also be able to connect their land stewardship decisions to the quality of water we all receive.”

The new online IDWQ data tool will provide convenient access for individuals and organizations with an interest in irrigation water quality and can be accessed online at www.idwq.ca.

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