Joseph Mckee has worked on the family farm since he was a teenager, and has witnessed a lot s a farmer — but there is something he hasn’t seen: a drought like this.
“Well it has been a very dry year, one of our farms driest in our 100-year history” he explained.
“We just do our best to scrimp and save and not have any big expenditures and hope for the best.”
The hoping comes as one of the things farmers with for in the fall hasn’t materialized.
“The really nice snowfalls are in September or October, when the ground is still warm and it melts, it snows and it melts in really nice.”
According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada agri-climate Specialist Trevor Hadwen, low water levels are causing long-term concerns.
“The Old Man reservoir and the St. Mary’s reservoir — two of the largest irrigation reservoirs in the province — are at extremely low capacity right now. As they were closed early this year amid level concerns.”
Alberta Grains interim director Dave Bishop explains even with current production methods, water is still required.
“You can only go so far — it still takes water to produce a plant. Even though you do all the best practices to conserve the water, whether it’s how you farm land or with your use of irrigation.”
The lack of moisture is being felt by the agricultural community as a whole. Mckee recalls last year’s struggle recovering from the 2021 drought.
“That makes it pretty tough, when you’re trying to manage your cashflow and you get less than a third of your crop, in some cases, it can be really challenging.”
Winter runoff is now the focus for the water that is required to sustain producers in the region.
“Runoff in the spring is a major factor in refilling Prairie water supplies,” explained Hadwen.
The issue that has the potential to have real impact for the coming 2024 growing season.
“There’s the risk going into next year on irrigation, that we’re going to be restricted or have no water, if we don’t have much of a snow pack.” Said Bishop
“That’s our concern for next year.”
Through it all, Mckee remains hopeful. “I’m pretty optimistic for the most part, I mean you have to be, the weather, it’s out of your control, you have to hope for the best.”
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