Investing in irrigation, farmers and jobs

Investing in irrigation, farmers and jobs

November 12, 2021

Disponible en français

Alberta’s government is partnering with the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) and 10 irrigation districts to invest a total of nearly $933 million in irrigation infrastructure to expand production, create jobs and spur the province’s economic recovery. 

Building on last fall’s historic $815-million investment, the organizations are investing another $117.7 million to modernize irrigation infrastructure and increase water storage in southern Alberta.

The largest of its kind in Alberta’s history, this enhanced investment has the potential to create 7,300 permanent jobs and 1,400 construction jobs and contribute up to $477 million to the province’s GDP every year. 

Irrigation infrastructure is a critical component of Alberta’s Recovery Plan. By investing $117.7 million in irrigation projects, Alberta’s government, the CIB and involved irrigation districts are laying the foundation for thousands of good-paying private sector jobs that will produce spinoff benefits for Alberta.

“Irrigation is a transformative part of Alberta’s history, and we’re proudly building on that legacy by investing even more in the province’s farmers and food processors. This historic investment will create good jobs and grow even more agricultural possibilities.” 

Jason Kenney, Premier

“The CIB is pleased to have increased our investment in the irrigation districts project to $466 million. Modern infrastructure is critical to the farmers working Alberta’s agricultural sector, improves water resource management and supports the province’s economy.”

Ehren Cory, CEO, Canada Infrastructure Bank

“This is a momentous point in history for Alberta’s agriculture industry, with nearly a billion dollars invested in our farmers, processors and the communities they support. This investment will allow them to make even more high-quality, safe food to help feed the world.” 

Nate Horner, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development

“We would like to thank the Government of Alberta and the CIB for the additional investment into the Irrigating Alberta infrastructure initiative. This is truly a transformational investment for the Alberta irrigation sector and agriculture industry.”

David Westwood, manager, St. Mary River Irrigation District

Historic investment in irrigation and agri-food

As part of the Alberta government’s Investment and Growth Strategy, Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development developed targets to build on the agri-food sector’s existing strengths and capitalize on opportunities for growth:

  • Expand irrigation infrastructure to grow primary agricultural production and support a diversified value-added processing industry.
  • Attract more than $1.4 billion in new investment and create 2,000 new jobs by 2023-2024.
  • Grow primary and value-added agricultural exports to a projected $16 billion by 2023, a 37 per cent growth relative to 2019.

Initially announced last October as part of the strategy, the investment now increased to $932.7 million, will update irrigation district infrastructure and increase water storage capacity. 

The expanded investment of nearly a billion dollars has the potential to: 

  • Expand irrigation by up to 230,000 acres, almost 15 per cent more than the current 1.44 million irrigated acres in the affected irrigation districts.
  • Contribute up to $477 million every year to Alberta’s GDP.
  • Create up to 7,300 permanent jobs and 1,400 construction jobs. 

In August 2021, the CIB, Alberta’s government and 10 irrigation districts achieved financial close for the expanded irrigation project, with the CIB financing $466.4 million. 

Alberta’s government will contribute $279.8 million and the irrigation districts will initially contribute $186.5 million toward this important work.

Quick facts 

  • The irrigation districts participating in the investment are: 
    • Bow River Irrigation District
    • Eastern Irrigation District
    • Leavitt Irrigation District
    • Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District
    • Raymond Irrigation District
    • Ross Creek Irrigation District
    • St. Mary River Irrigation District
    • Taber Irrigation District
    • United Irrigation District
    • Western Irrigation District
  • Alberta has more than 1.7 million irrigated acres.
  • The irrigation industry generates about $2.4 billion in annual labour income and supports about 56,000 jobs. 
  • Irrigation-related agricultural processing generates about $2 billion in total annual sales and accounts for about 18 per cent of total provincial food processing sales. 
  • The irrigation industry contributes up to $3.6 billion annually to Alberta’s GDP, which represents about 20 per cent of the agri-food sector GDP on only 4.7 per cent of the province’s cultivated land base.