Calgary (Rural Roots Canada) – Alberta is in for a difficult growing season as the risk of severe drought increases with each passing day.

The province relies on melting snow and precipitation for much of its water. With a lacklustre winter in the rearview mirror and a dry spring ahead, water management areas have already been impacted by a shortage of water.

“It will be a rough situation this year,” says Dr. Guillaume Lhermie, Director of the Simpson Centre for Food and Agriculture Policy at the University of Calgary. “We already know the forecast is quite depressing.”

Lhermie notes this severe drought is mostly limited to Alberta. Other large production areas like Europe and the United States, which contribute to the local food supply, will not be affected by what’s happening here. That said, the drought can potentially cause some disruption in the global markets.


“It will be more damaging to the producers than the consumers. Livestock and crops need water. And if producers do not anticipate continuous drought this year, it may bear terrible consequences.”

READ MORE: Alberta Assembles a Water Advisory Committee to Prepare for Dry Season

Those consequences include a considerable decrease in yield, particularly with wheat, canola, and barley crops. Also, lack of water for livestock would likely result in government-supervised contingencies being implemented, up to and including diverting well water or storm ponds to ensure livestock has water access.

“That depends on the quantity of rain that will fall in the spring, which is unknown”

Adding to producer headaches: market prices are down considerably, says Lhermie. 

“In the commodity market, the cross-markets for example, the prices are quite low this year compared to previous years. That means this drought could be a double pain for producers because they won’t be able to produce as much and, at the same time, the prices are still low.” 

Don’t expect this year to be a one-off, either. Lhermie says producers need to be prepared for drought now and well into the future. He expects more frequent and severe droughts to become the norm, meaning the province and producers must start thinking about water infrastructure and storage. 

“We need investments to ensure that the water will be there, and will be securely managed in the future.”

In March, the Alberta government announced it would invest $125 million over the next five years for Alberta’s new Drought and Flood Protection Program. The program is designed to help municipalities and Indigenous communities develop long-term infrastructure to improve drought and flood resilience.

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