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Buying and selling water is a reality in Alberta — sometimes for big money

Buying and selling water is a reality in Alberta — sometimes for big money

Benchmark prices have been set in the water market, but it remains broadly opaque

Rising demand, dwindling supply: southern Alberta’s water dilemma

As water scarcity intensifies, farmers, cities and businesses in southern Alberta are under pressure to find sustainable water solutions.

Just south of the town of Taber, Alta., known for its potatoes, corn, and rich soil, the crew at North Paddock Farms finish their lunch, slide on their gloves, and get to work.

Russet Burbank seed potatoes drop onto a sizing belt, where they’re sorted and cut. Nearby, massive storage bins are full to the brim of potatoes, due for the nearby McCain Foods and Lamb Weston plants.

The work is underway on April 24 despite the stress that looms over the entire operation this year. This farm, which grows potatoes, canola, Timothy hay, wheat, flax, fava beans and garlic using irrigation, is part of the St. Mary River Irrigation District (SMRID), the biggest of its kind in Canada.

In April, the district said farmers would get eight inches of water — half the allocation they get in a good year — with a dry winter affecting snowpack and reservoir storage.

That’s not enough for Alison Davie, one of the owners of the farm operation. She says they need at least 18 inches to grow their potato crop.

A woman wearing a sweater stands in front of farm equipment.
Alison Davie grew up on North Paddock Farm, located near Taber, Alta., and is a lifelong lover of farm life. Davie and her husband Michael took over operation of the farm from her parents 10 years ago. But they’ve never faced down drought conditions like those facing southern Alberta this year. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

For that reason, North Paddock Farms is looking to buy more water.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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