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Canadian Agriculture and Water

Author(s): Coping with enivronmental pressures and climate change
IWRA World Water Congress 2008 Montpellier France
1. Water availability, use and management
Author(s): Darrell R. Corkal
Philip E. Adkins
Darrell R. Corkal, Senior Water Quality Engineer Philip E. Adkins, Assistant to Director, Agriculture Water Directorate Both authors are employed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration

Keyword(s): water, agriculture, environment, BMPs, water management, drought, climate change, Canada

AbstractCanada is a unique country with a large land base and plentiful water resources. In spite of these factors, Canada is experiencing water shortages and issues related to water quality. The majority of Canada’s population resides in the south, while most of Canada’s water supplies flow northward. Increasing competition is occurring for available water resources. Agriculture is a dominant economic player in most southern regions across the country, and is clearly affected by climate and available water resources. Droughts are of particular concern to dryland and irrigated agricultural production in semi-arid regions. The myth of abundance of Canada’s water supplies is being replaced by a realization that existing water supplies are not limitless, especially where high water demands occur. Existing water availability is expected to be impacted even more so by climate change. Over the past 25 years, water management in Canada has evolved from a water supply development focus to a sustainable development focus. Integrated water resource management approaches are now being applied in the management of water, land and agricultural resources. The federal Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada established an Agricultural Policy Framework in 2003 in which the environment was identified as one of five key pillars. Agri- environmental programming has been driven from the need to protect air, water, land and biodiversity in Canada. This paper provides an overview of the evolution of federal-provincial agri-environmental programming and associated linkages with water. Agri-environmental programming has proven to be popular with the sector and the Canadian public. Much of the environmental programming undertaken by federal and provincial agricultural departments across Canada has been driven from the perspective of adopting agricultural beneficial management practices (BMPs) to conserve water supplies and safeguard source water quality in the environment, and to better adapt to climatic effects on natural resources. The agricultural sector has contributed significant time and resources to adopting BMPs that protect water resources and the environment. Programs where the agricultural sector and producers learn how to develop their own environmental farm plans have proven to be useful to individual farms and farm groups, making the sector an active participant in integrated water resource management within local watersheds. Continued research in needed to better understand the environmental and watershed effects of agricultural BMP adoption, and the associated costs. On-going dialogue is needed between the agricultural sector and the Canadian public to better understand and value the societal benefits of agricultural beneficial management practices.
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