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Manitoba should invest now in sustainable irrigation

The Manitoba Government should invest now in sustainable irrigation
Manitoba should invest now in sustainable irrigation

Guest Columnist: Kevin Klein

Winnipeg, MArch 22, 2024 - Manitoba is a land blessed with fertile soil and vast potential. Yet, amidst this asset lies a critical challenge: water scarcity. As climate change intensifies and weather patterns become increasingly unpredictable, the need for a reliable water supply has never been more urgent in Manitoba and across the Prairies.


In response to this pressing issue, the Saskatchewan government announced this past week that it is set to begin work on a $1.15-billion project to expand irrigation in that province. The Saskatchewan Premier, Scott Moe, told media outlets that this investment would provide water security for a higher value agricultural production and water security for a number of communities.


During my time as the Minister of Environment and Climate, I had the opportunity to listen to many community and industry leaders. One meeting that stands out was with the Keystone Agriculture producer. This group of farmers who help feed the world have been advocating for more water as they are struggling to meet the needs of Manitoba distributors, which results in some buyers bringing in crops from the United States besides reducing their purchases from our Manitoba growers.


The government of Manitoba must invest in building an irrigation service to bring water to parts of the province. Such an initiative is not merely a matter of convenience; it is a vital step towards securing sustainable food and economic prosperity for future generations.


The agricultural industry, the backbone of Manitoba's economy, is at a crossroads. It has the potential to significantly contribute to the GDP and provide employment to thousands of Canadians. However, without adequate water resources, this vital sector is vulnerable to the whims of nature. The installation of irrigation infrastructure would not only mitigate the risks posed by droughts but also unlock the full potential of Manitoba's agricultural lands. By providing a reliable water supply, farmers would be able to increase yields, diversify crops, and enhance the overall productivity of the sector, leading to a significant boost in the economy.


Moreover, investment in irrigation is not just a necessity, but a strategic move for Manitoba to maintain its competitive edge on the national stage. In recent years, neighbouring provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan have made significant strides in expanding their irrigation networks, bolstering their agricultural output and attracting investment. To ensure Manitoba's continued relevance in the agricultural landscape, it is imperative that similar measures are taken to solidify its position as a leader in food production, and not fall behind in the race.


The benefits of irrigation extend beyond the agricultural sector. This infrastructure project would provide a lifeline to communities across Manitoba, particularly those in rural and remote areas, by ensuring water security. Access to clean water is not just essential for farming; it is a fundamental human right. By investing in irrigation, the government would be fulfilling its duty to safeguard the well-being of its citizens and laying the groundwork for sustainable development, thereby demonstrating its commitment to the welfare of its people.


Moreover, the environmental benefits of irrigation cannot be overstated. By optimizing water usage and reducing wastage, this initiative would contribute to conservation efforts and mitigate the impact of climate change. As the world grapples with the consequences of global warming, projects that promote sustainability and resilience are more critical than ever.


The case for Manitoba's investment in irrigation is clear and compelling. This project represents a monumental opportunity for the province by providing water security for a higher-value agricultural production industry, ensuring economic stability, and enhancing the quality of life for its residents. As we look towards the future, let us not squander the chance to build a more prosperous and sustainable Manitoba for generations to come. The time to act is now.


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