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Saskatchewan's Leap into Sustainable Agriculture with Multi-Billion Dollar Irrigation


Michael Chen

March 15, 2024 - 11:12 am


Saskatchewan Embarks on Multi-Billion Dollar Irrigation Expansion

In an effort to harness untapped agricultural potential, the Saskatchewan government is embarking on an ambitious $1.15-billion irrigation project. Premier Scott Moe has declared this venture a key step towards achieving a longstanding aspiration of the province—the maximization of Lake Diefenbaker's capacity to bolster food and economic security for future generations.

A Vision in the Making: Lake Diefenbaker's Transformation

Moe announced Thursday that the province is now engaged in the preliminary stages, spearheading design work and consultations with stakeholders for the Lake Diefenbaker expansion project. Anticipation is high, with construction slated to commence the following year.

The endeavor holds the promise of increasing the lake’s irrigation capacity, thus enabling an additional 364 square kilometers for cultivation. Premier Moe expresses optimism, citing the leap forward as the manifestation of "the most sustainable food and economic security project in Canada," one that is projected to spawn substantial benefits that span multiple generations.

The provincial leader took to the media, reiterating that the financial responsibilities of the project will be a shared burden. The costs will be jointly shouldered by the provincial government and the agricultural producers who opt into the program. Producers coming on board will encounter a pre-established formula, enabling them to partake in the program and contribute towards the shared costs.

Harnessing a Historic Resource: The Role of Lake Diefenbaker

A historical piece of infrastructure, Lake Diefenbaker was established jointly by the provincial and federal governments in 1967. The creation of this water reservoir was intended to serve multiple purposes: providing water for human consumption, industry, power generation, flood mitigation, and irrigation.

Despite the original intentions behind the creation of Lake Diefenbaker, Moe believes the lake’s potential has not been fully tapped. He persistently calls for federal support to fund the expansion, emphasizing the original vision and the benefits that could be reaped. Moe is adamant about moving forward, regardless of potential federal partnership, stating, “We cannot wait for the federal government. We’re going to move forward on our own.”

Phased Development & Economic Prospects

This expansion project marks the first in a series of steps designed to make more effective use of the resources of Lake Diefenbaker. It was in 2020 when Premier Moe unveiled plans for the extensive project, initially projected to cost approximately $4 billion. Citing inevitable increases in costs, Moe conveyed that the project will advance incrementally: “It’ll literally be acre by acre.”

Beyond the direct impact on agriculture, the project encompasses significant environmental and indigenous considerations. The province is conducting thorough environmental assessments and is actively engaging with Indigenous groups regarding the project’s potential impact.

There have been expressions of concern from some First Nations and environmental groups, particularly regarding the potential adverse effects on wildlife should water be redirected from critical areas.

Climate Change and Water Security

The backdrop to this initiative is the projected shifts in Saskatchewan's climate patterns. Climate scientists predict that summers in the region are likely to become hotter and drier as the climate crisis escalates, making water an even more scarce and valuable resource.

Premier Moe underscored the project’s broader implications, stating that it will ultimately secure water for high-value agricultural production, as well as ensure water security for several communities that could be at risk due to the change in climate.

Looking Ahead: Economic and Agricultural Growth

Aaron Gray, the chairman of the Saskatchewan Irrigation Projects Association, echoed Premier Moe's sentiments on the project’s future impact. Gray envisioned a scenario where the irrigation expansion could pivot farmers towards the production of crops with higher economic value.

He conveyed his conviction that irrigators in the province have the tenacity and dedication to bolster global food supplies and generate tremendous socioeconomic benefits for the people of Saskatchewan.

It is clear from the enthusiasm of both governmental and agricultural leaders that the Lake Diefenbaker irrigation project is more than an infrastructural overhaul; it is seen as a gateway to stability and prosperity within Saskatchewan and beyond. The project aligns with the global need for sustainable food production systems capable of responding to the demographic and environmental challenges of the 21st century.


This significant development in Canadian provincial agriculture was reported by The Canadian Press and first released on March 14, 2024.

Conclusion: The Path Forward

Saskatchewan's foray into one of the most significant irrigation projects in Canadian history holds the potential to reshape the province's economic landscape. It endeavors not merely to expand irrigation but to rekindle a dream — a vision of harnessing Lake Diefenbaker to its fullest, a dream that has been dormant for more than half a century.

The investments and efforts poured into the Lake Diefenbaker project illustrate a firm resolve. It is a resolve to not only confront the impending challenges posed by climate change but also to seize the opportunities that come with change. By reaffirming the value of water as a key resource and leveraging it for agricultural advancement, Saskatchewan is setting the stage for a future where water security and food sovereignty go hand in hand.

As the province of Saskatchewan undertakes this historic expansion, eyes will undoubtedly be on the unfolding benefits — benefits that extend well beyond the perimeters of the newly irrigated land. The horizons include heightened economic activity, job creation, and a bolstered position for Saskatchewan as a global leader in sustainable agriculture.

It is not just an expansion of irrigation but an expansion of possibilities, promising to nourish not just the fields but the very fabric of society for generations to come.