There is relief for those who depend on Lethbridge North Irrigation District (LNID) in southern Alberta for their water supply.
Farmers and their livestock have been cut off from access to water for more than a week as the first nation and government in Bikaner negotiated who would handle repairs to the water system.
A deal was put in place late Tuesday, but it may still take days for fresh water to arrive.
LNID supplies water to approximately 200,000 acres of farmland in southern Alberta and to Feedlot Alley, considered the largest concentration of livestock in Canada. But some have not watered since April 16, endangering winter crops and endangering animal welfare.
“Now 250,000 cows are endangered and will definitely be endangered within a week,” said farmer Stephen Vanderwalk.
“Regardless of the crops start to fail, all the winter crops sown in the fall have already begun to fail.”
A meticulously slow
When water drained into irrigation canals from the Oldman River Dam, no one really knew why. Rumors of a siege from the country of Bikaner began to spread because of allegations that arose from decades of dispute over the construction of a dam for the people of Bikaner.
But in a statement Piikani chief Stan Krieer declined to talk about any obstacles, saying instead the situation was caused by repairs to the water system in Piikani.
The deal was reached
“I am pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached between the Piikani Nation and the Government of Alberta regarding the Oldman River Project,” he said, adding that “the terms will not be released and the Piikani Council is satisfied with the agreement.”
The provincial government will not say whether repairs are needed or who will pay. On the contrary, Environment Minister Jason Nixon and Home Affairs Minister Rick Wilson only issued a joint statement saying that “Alberta’s government has promoted important environmental, cultural and economic issues with the Beacon Nation.” He also thanked the nation for its cooperation in this process.
Farmers in the area are happy that the problem is over and it will take a few days for the much-needed fresh water to arrive. The bad thing is, the balance is already low for some.
“It took seven days for the water to come into the canal, and the water had to be cleaned so that it could not be used, so we still have seven days to go out, and some of the cattle are without water today,” Vanderwalk explained.
“It’s a complete mess.”
The Irrigation District agrees that this is not a quick fix. It says it will take five to seven days for the water to go to the Monarch main canal diversion, including clearing the Monarch Canal from the Oldman River.
LNID did not provide further details.