Irrigation districts provide more than just water for farmers

The St Mary River Irrigation District, also known as the S-M-R-I-D, is Canada’s largest irrigation district and has canals and pipelines between Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, Alberta.

The pipelines and canals ranging some 2,000 kilometres long, deliver water across 390 thousand acres of fertile land.

When you think of an irrigation district, you often think agriculture, but the SMRID doesn’t stop there.  General Manager Terrence Lazarus says it supplies drinking water for most towns, farms, and villages in the district. Recreationally, it provides water for reservoirs that people often use for swimming, boating, fishing, and camping.

“We support communities, we support the environment, and we support the social fabric of southern Alberta. Most people don’t recognize that until you tell them,” Lazarus said.

Lazarus says that water is something that will always be here, but it is easy to have a  surplus or a shortage depending on the year. He says that with the future, comes efficiency.

“It’s a variable finite resource, meaning some years there are droughts, and some years there are floods. Where we are going to go in the future is improvement on efficiency – the amount we withdraw to the amount that is used.”