Original Published on Aug 17, 2022 at 08:38

By Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

St. Mary River Irrigation District and Taber Irrigation District have  completed an amalgamation of the two districts on August 1 following a  Ministerial Order signed by Nate Horner, the Minister of Agriculture,  Forestry and Rural Economic Development. The two districts petitioned  the Minister back in December 2021 after holding a vote in favour of the  merger in the fall of 2021.

 The two districts are located  between Lethbridge and Medicine Hat and are the first districts within  the Irrigation District Act to merge, bringing the total down from 13 to  12. “The reason it made a lot of sense was Taber Irrigation District,  geographically, sat right in the middle of SMRID,” said David Westwood,  general manager for SMRID. “So, it made a lot of sense becoming one  district. We could all become more efficient with this infrastructure.”

  Both districts voted in favour of the merger with SMRID voting 509 to  132 and Taber Irrigation voting 126 to 104. Now with the amalgamation  bringing a new era for the two districts the combined district now has a  total of 500,000 acres under irrigation.

 “SMRID was already the  largest in Alberta, and in Canada. But now we are by far Canada’s  largest irrigation district by a considerable measure now,” said  Westwood.

 With efficiency in mind the districts will work to help  lead irrigation expansion and deliver on supporting communities,  environment, and agriculture in the area. SMRID delivers water from  reservoirs, canals, and pipelines to the many water users who are within  the Highway 3 corridor in Alberta’s rural south.

 “The Taber  Irrigation District and SMRID were on the same page with a lot of  initiatives. These big infrastructure programs that we are undergoing  will ultimately lead to potentially new expansion acres somewhere down  the road. We really thought that when we started to plan expansion as  two separate districts, we were going to have to figure out  geographically where potentially it might go across in which district,  and who would be serving those. Before the amalgamation, we literally  had irrigators who had irrigation acres in one district and across the  road they were being serviced by TID infrastructure,” said Westwood.  “So, we had to provide different infrastructure to get to those parcels  of land, even though they were adjacent to each other. Now it doesn’t  matter where the infrastructure is that’s serving it.”

 With  progress moving efficiency forward the newly-merged districts will  re-launch a new brand and become a new organization that represents the  two districts coming together. “We did a great collaborative effort to  make this happen,” said Westwood.

 The amalgamated district will  be known as the St. Mary River Irrigation District in recognition of the  St. Mary River, which was the shared water source for both previous  districts.

This item reprinted with permission from the Herald, Lethbridge, Alberta