A new program will help B.C.’s agricultural producers improve water management and water supply for crops and livestock, resulting in more agricultural production and strengthened food security.
“Access to water is crucial for food production and ensuring we have sustainable, resilient local food systems,” said Pam Alexis, Minister of Agriculture and Food. “The Agricultural Water Infrastructure program will help B.C.’s agricultural communities adapt to climate-change effects, like the increased threat of drought, and help grow more food by supporting new and improved water storage and water-supply infrastructure.”
The program will support more efficient water management, including the use of leading-edge technology in water-scarce and drought-prone areas, so available water can be maximized for agricultural uses, such as irrigation and livestock watering. Support for additional water infrastructure will also be considered if there is high potential for farmland expansion or if the increase in water supply will lead to more agricultural production.
“Water is essential to agricultural production. However, in recent years, multiple regions of British Columbia have experienced adverse climate events that placed considerable stress on supplies of safe, reliable water for farmers at the most critical time of the growing season,” said Jennifer Woike, president, BC Agriculture Council. “Farmers and ranchers are leaders in the efficient management of water resources, and the Agricultural Water Infrastructure program is an important investment in that leadership role.”
The $20-million Agricultural Water Infrastructure program will be open to B.C. farmers, ranchers and agricultural producers as well as Indigenous communities, Indigenous producers, irrigation and improvement districts, local governments, and agricultural and conservation groups.
The program will be administered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC (IAF).
“IAF has experienced fantastic response to the current food-security programs,” said Jack DeWit, chair, IAF. “Water management and supply is vital on B.C.’s farms. We will effectively deliver these key projects to ensure B.C. farmers and ranchers have the tools they need in a changing environment.”
Kevin Boon, rancher and general manager, BC Cattlemen’s Association –
“B.C. farmers and ranchers understand the necessity of water for food production, and they have invested heavily in the infrastructure required to offer that security to their production systems. This investment by the government to help them grow and improve this infrastructure is greatly needed and will help to both strengthen our food security and to take meaningful steps in managing our water supply, which is an important tool in climate adaptation with benefits to the province far beyond just food production.”
Bob Hrasko, chair, Water Supply Association of BC –
“The Water Supply Association of BC believes the province will benefit greatly from the Agricultural Water Infrastructure program. With the challenges of extreme weather events, the contamination of soils in other countries and an uncertain food supply and future, there are wants and needs by all communities. Agriculture is a critical need at the top of the list. Clean water, clean soils and high-quality food have a positive ripple effect through a community, and this program will help achieve these for future generations.”
Sukhpaul Bal, farmer and president, BC Cherry Association –
“The BC Cherry Association is very pleased to see this investment into irrigation infrastructure. The tree-fruit industry began with the pioneers diverting water from the nearby hills, and we continue to rely on this precious resource. The cherry industry continues to see strong growth, and developing irrigation infrastructure is going to be key to match the needs of expanding acreage.”
- The Agricultural Water Infrastructure program is cost-shared with funding to be used for the following:
- rehabilitation, expansion or new construction of water storage systems for farms (including agricultural dams) – 50% of eligible costs covered for as much as $1 million;
- improvement, expansion or new construction of off-farm conveyance and water-supply systems to farms – 50% of eligible costs covered for as much as $2 million; and
- agricultural water-supply assessments, engineering studies or plans – 75% of eligible costs covered for as much as $100,000.
- As much as $2 million will be transferred to the Beneficial Management Practices program (also administered by IAF), which supports the agricultural sector with new construction, upgrade or expansion of on-farm water storage facilities, such as dams, reservoirs and dugouts, to supply water for livestock and crops as well as new and improved irrigation systems.
For information about the Agricultural Water Infrastructure program and to apply to the program, visit: https://www.iafbc.ca/awi