Premier Scott Moe announced the first steps of a project that will irrigate up to 500,000 acres of land from Lake Diefenbaker, more than doubling the irrigable land in Saskatchewan.
The project is beginning with an immediate $22.5 million investment in preliminary engineering and initial construction. Project construction is expected to occur approximately over the next 10 years in three main phases at a cost estimated at $4 billion.
“The announcement of this generational project will see the vision of Lake Diefenbaker completed over the course of the next decade,” Moe said. “By doubling the amount of irrigable land in our province, this project will be a massive step in completing the goals our government has set out in our 2030 Growth Plan.”
Phase 1 of the project is estimated to cost $500 million and will include the rehabilitation and expansion of the existing Westside irrigation canal system. This work will increase the amount of irrigable land by 80,000 acres in the area. It is considered one of the most shovel ready irrigation projects in the province with 90 per cent of the current canal already in place.
Phases 2 and 3 of the project are estimated to cost up to $3.5 billion.
Phase 2 will see the further expansion and buildout of the Westside Irrigation Project, adding an additional 260,000 acres of irrigable land. Once fully built and developed, the project will eventually see land made available for irrigation near Macrorie, Milden, Zealandia, and as far north as Delisle and Asquith.
Phase 3 will see the buildout of the Qu’Appelle South Irrigation Project, adding an estimated 120,000 acres of irrigable land. Starting at Lake Diefenbaker and going south, the project would run near the communities of Tugaske, Eyebrow, down to Marquis and into Buffalo Pound Lake. It would provide the Moose Jaw-Regina corridor and southern Saskatchewan with a secure source of water for the next century and act as a catalyst for significant industrial expansion in the years to come.
In 2020, $22.5 million is being invested as part of Phase 1 to immediately begin preliminary engineering and initial construction of the Westside Irrigation Project. Preliminary soil quality analysis of the Qu’Appelle South Irrigation Project area will also begin this year.
“Saskatchewan has one of the most unique opportunities across the country,” said Greg Ottenbreit, the minister responsible for the Water Security Agency. “We are well positioned to further develop while providing a secure water supply for generations to come. I am very confident Legislative Secretary Lyle Stewart will move this project forward to ensure certainty for our economy and a secure water supply for decades to come.”
These irrigation projects are building blocks for regional economic development in Saskatchewan. Initial estimates show the investment will result in a $40 to $80 billion increase in the provincial Gross Domestic Product over the next 50 years. The project is estimated to create 2,500 construction jobs a year, over the next ten years.
“Lake Diefenbaker is a major resource for this province, and it is very encouraging to see the government taking this next step,” said Aaron Gray, chair of the Saskatchewan Irrigation Projects Association. “Projects like this put Saskatchewan producers in a very strong position to create a sustainable and secure food supply for Canada.”
Discussions with the federal government are being coordinated by SaskBuilds, in partnership with the Water Security Agency and the Ministry of Agriculture, to leverage all possible federal infrastructure funding opportunities, including through the Canada Infrastructure Bank. Saskatchewan is seeking federal funding now to support planning work and will be seeking significant longer-term funding to support this multi-year, multi-phase construction project.
The province expects to complete further consultations and discussions with stakeholders and First Nations as the project progresses.