About Us


Canadian Water Resources Association (CWRA)

Canadian National Committee on Irrigation and Drainage (CANCID)

International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID)


The Prairies



Irrigation and Drainage in Canada

Saskatchewan Facts

Conference committee



The Canadian Water Resources Association (CWRA) CWRA is a national association of individuals and organizations from the public, private and academic sectors that are committed to raising awareness of the value of water and to promoting responsible and effective water resource management in Canada. CWRA’s membership consists of water users and water resource professionals including managers, administrators, scientists, academics, students and young professionals. CWRA has branch organizations in most Canadian provinces. Members can also participate in the affiliates dealing with education, hydrology or water and agriculture. CWRA organizes conferences, symposiums, workshops and webinars dealing with a wide range of water issues. It publishes numerous papers and reports as well as the Canadian Water Resources Journal and Water News and promotes effective water management through other events and activities.

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The Canadian National Committee on Irrigation and Drainage (CANCID) is a permanent committee of the Canadian Water Resources Association (CWRA) and is Canada’s active member of the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID). CANCID activities aim to stimulate and promote research, development and application of technology among those individuals and organizations in Canada who are interested in irrigation, drainage and flood management in rural and agricultural areas. In addition, CANCID also aims to:

  • Carry out activities relating to irrigation and drainage within Canada, disseminate news and information from CANCID and ICID throughout Canada, and share technical information related to agriculture and water.
  • Represent Canada in the various special projects undertaken by ICID and to promote Canadian participation in the activities of ICID.
  • Liaise with other National Committees of ICID and other associated organizations having areas of related interests.
  • Participate in the activities of CWRA.



The International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) established in 1950, is a leading scientific, technical and not-for-profit Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). Through its network of professionals spread across 80 countries, ICID has facilitated sharing of experiences and transfer of water management technology for more than six decades. ICID promotes policies and programs to enhance sustainable development of irrigated agriculture through a comprehensive water management framework. ICID is a knowledge sharing platform dedicated to issues related to the entire spectrum of agriculture water management practices ranging from rain-fed agriculture to supplemental irrigation, land drainage, deficit irrigation to full irrigation. In addition, drainage of agricultural lands forms the core theme of our activities. Floods and drought – the two extremes of increasingly variable climate as a result of potential climate change – also form the focus of activities


Canada occupies most of the northern half of North America, with coastlines along the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans. It covers 9.98 million square kilometers (2nd largest country in the world) with 675,867 square kilometers of that used in agriculture. While a large country, the population is relatively low at just over 35 million people. Most live in large to medium sized cities; about one third of all Canadians can be found in just three cities: Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Several indigenous peoples, with rich cultures and diverse languages, inhabited what came to be known as Canada for thousands of years before being ‘discovered’ by Western Europeans. The first ‘discoverers’ were Norsemen from Scandinavia around 1000 AD who tried but failed to establish settlements on the east coast. It would be nearly 500 years more before another European explorer would step foot on Canada’s shore. Yet another 360 would pass before Canada the country was born in 1867.

The Prairies

Before settlement could get started, several numbered treaties were negotiated transferring land title from the First Nations to the Government of Canada in exchange for money, goods, reserve land and several enduring rights. The first seven treaties, signed between 1871 and 1877, led the way for agriculture settlement on the Prairies, construction of a railroad linking the east and west coasts, and solidifying Canada’s claim on land north of the Canada-USA border. Immigration to the Prairies started as early the 1860s but didn’t get in full swing until 1896. Prairie ‘homesteaders’ arrived mostly from Europe, either directly to Canada or through the USA. For many, their reasons for immigrating were as it is today: economic opportunities, overcrowding at home, climate, politics and religious freedom. Population growth through immigration was rapid: the area that was to become Saskatchewan (not a province until 1905), started with a population of 91,000 in 1901 which grew to 492,000 in ten years. In this same period, Saskatoon (your host city) grew from 311 to 12,004 residents. Today, Saskatoon is Saskatchewan’s largest city and is home to more than 260,000 people (> one fifth of Saskatchewan’s population).

Fun Fact: Canada has more lakes than the rest of the world’s lakes combined.


The vast prairie grasslands were ideally suited to agriculture, initially used for growing cereals and for ranching. Today, cereal production and ranching are still important agriculture sectors in Saskatchewan. However, oilseeds and pulses are now also significant contributors to the farm economy. There are nearly 37,000 farms on 65 million hectares with approximately 60% of the farms in grain and oilseed production under dryland production. About 20% raise livestock. A significant number of farms produce pulses and forages. 100,000 ha is under irrigation and is used to produce a range of pulse, forage, fruit, vegetable and other horticulture crops. Other agriculture sectors include poultry (egg and meat), specialty livestock, mustard and hay. With the development of lower heat unit requiring cultivars, a few producers are investigating corn and soybean production. The farm economy in Saskatchewan is significant, generating over $1.7 billion net on-farm income. The value of Saskatchewan agriculture and food exports is approximately $14 billion. The top five export crops include canola seed ($2.5 billion), wheat [excluding durum] ($2.2 billion), durum wheat ($1.9 billion), lentils ($1.4 billion) and dry peas ($1.2 billion).

Fun Fact: At 2.7 million cattle, there are more than twice as many cattle as there are people in Saskatchewan.


Saskatoon is not just surrounded by farmland – it is also a centre of agriculture innovation and discovery. The University of Saskatchewan houses the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, Crop Development Centre, Global Institute for Food Security, Global Institute for Water Security, National Resources Canada, POS Biosciences, Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) and Agriculture and Agri-Food’s Science and Technology Branch. Also found on Campus is the Canadian Light Source, a world class synchrotron with a vision to deliver “innovative solutions as a leading centre for research excellence in health, agriculture, environment, and advanced materials.” Just north of the university campus is Innovation Place, a research park focused on assisting new technologies and promoting agriculture research. Both small local and large international agriculture research companies have offices, labs and greenhouse space; in addition, several key commodity associations like SaskCanola are located there. And immediately outside the city, large multinational agriculture companies like Bayer CropScience, Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto have crop breeding and research farms. The Canada-Saskatchewan Irrigation Diversification Centre is located just south of Saskatoon, in Outlook, Saskatchewan. It is a federal/provincial/industry/university partnership dedicated to sustainable irrigated production practice.

Irrigation and Drainage in Canada
 Irrigation in Canada
Canada is extraordinarily rich in water resources. Approximately 20% of the global surface fresh water supply is in Canada, equating to more water per capita than in any other large country. Of Canada’s 33.5 million hectares of arable land, about 1.0 million hectares are irrigated. The arid and semi-arid regions of Canada’s western provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan), which receive less than 350 mm of annual precipitation, account for 85% of Canada’s irrigated area. The majority of water is used to irrigate field crops (cereals, oilseeds, pulses, specialty, potatoes) and forages with a small area used for vegetable, fruit, sod, spice and other minor crop production. Sprinklers are the most used irrigation system, followed by micro irrigation and surface irrigation. In Alberta, for example, 73% of the irrigated area uses low pressure centre pivot systems with the remainder accounted for by wheel move sprinklers (11%), high pressure centre pivots (8%), surface irrigation (8%) and micro and drip systems (<1%). In British Columbia, on-farm and off-farm surface water supplies are used equally for irrigation, along with some groundwater supply. In Saskatchewan and Alberta, the majority of the water supply is surface water supplied. In Manitoba, the presence of large, high yield aquifers allows about 60% of the irrigated area to use groundwater, with the balance drawn from on-farm surface water sources. In Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic Provices, irrigation water sources are primarily on-farm surface water with some groundwater use.
Drainage in Canada
 About 8 million hectares of land in Canada is drained with most of it surface drained. In Ontario and Quebec (annual precipitation > 900 mm) more than 2.5 million hectares are subsurface drained. These subsurface drained soils typically have low hydraulic conductivity, have low topographic relief, and receive high amounts of precipitation in the fall and during spring snowmelt when crops are not growing. Subsurface drainage consists mainly of corrugated plastic pips systems installed to an average depth of 1.2 metres.

  • Located in Western Canada
  • Total Area: 651,035 km2
  • Farmland Area: 249,691 km2 (24,968,140 hectares)
  • Total Population: 1,142,570 (est. 2016)
  • Saskatoon Population: 265,300 (est. 2016)
  • Climate: semi-arid/humid continental
  • Growing Degree Days above 5°C (May – October): 1318 – 1717 [Saskatoon: 1560]
  • Annual Precipitation (agricultural extent): 325-449mm [Saskatoon: 340mm]
  • Total Sunshine Hours per Year (Saskatoon): 2,267.8
  • Temperature: - January average high/low (Saskatoon): -8.8/-18.9°C- August average high/low (Saskatoon): 25.2/11.1°C - Record Low (Saskatoon): -50.0°C (1893) - Record High (Saskatoon): 41.5°C (1988)






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