Historic expansion for Alberta irrigation

October 09, 2020, Government of Alberta

Alberta’s government, together with the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) and eight irrigation districts, is modernizing irrigation infrastructure to create jobs, expand agriculture production and diversify value-added food processing.

An $815-million investment will modernize irrigation district infrastructure and increase water storage capacity, creating up to 6,800 direct and indirect permanent jobs and up to 1,280 construction jobs.


“This historic investment in irrigation infrastructure will create thousands of jobs and support Alberta’s economic recovery, while strengthening our competitive advantage. Agriculture is the beating heart of Alberta’s economy and as global demand for agri-food products continues to grow, our producers and irrigation districts will be better positioned to meet that demand for generations to come.” – Jason Kenney, Premier


“Today’s irrigation investment announcement shows the immediate and tangible results delivered by the Canada Infrastructure Bank through its new three-year $10 billion Growth Plan to improve lives of Albertans and Canadians. This Thanksgiving, we can be thankful that further improvements to Alberta’s already diverse agri-food sector will boost food production while strengthening Canada’s food security and expanding export opportunities. Through its Investing in Canada Plan, the Government of Canada is helping build sustainable modern public infrastructure, creating jobs, and making Canada more globally competitive.” – Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities


“This visionary investment in agriculture is made possible thanks to the partnership between Alberta’s government, the CIB and irrigation districts. This expansion will see hundreds of kilometres of pipelines built, contribute about $436 million annually to Alberta’s GDP, and create over 8,000 jobs. The more than 200,000 acres of new irrigated farmland created from this expansion is roughly a third of P.E.I.’s total farmland. Alberta started out and always will be an agriculture powerhouse.” – Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry


“This is a major development for Alberta farmers. Through the Canada Infrastructure Bank, and with our provincial counterparts, this investment will leverage private sector partners to significantly increase the acreage of irrigated land in southern Alberta. For farmers of grains, pulses, and other crops, this will not only increase the yields of their crops, but also the long-term sustainability of their operations.” Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding amongst all parties and agreement in principle for the CIB to invest about $407.5 million in this project, to be paid back by the irrigation districts, represents an innovative approach to financing a unique asset class.

Projects focus on increasing water conveyance efficiency and allowing more acres to be irrigated with the same amount of water. Modernizing and building new irrigation infrastructure will:

  • increase irrigated acreage
  • increase primary crop production
  • improve water use efficiency
  • increase water storage capacity
  • enhance water security
  • provide flood protection to support long-term value-added processing activity

The Government of Alberta will contribute $244.5 million and the irrigation districts will contribute $163 million towards this important work.

“The Canada Infrastructure Bank is very pleased about the opportunity to invest $407 million in agricultural infrastructure to grow Alberta’s economy and create jobs. This project is the single largest irrigation expansion in Alberta’s history. Our investment is an example of the CIB’s $10 billion Growth Plan in action. We look forward to developing more projects with the Government of Alberta, to invest in its infrastructure and to strengthen and diversify the province’s economy.” Michael Sabia, chair, Canada Infrastructure Bank


“This is a historic day, for the Western Irrigation District and for irrigated agriculture. A generational investment is being made to ensure productivity and stability of Alberta farms long into the future. With this funding, we will expand irrigation, increase water efficiency and make the service we provide to our water users even more secure.” – Dan Shute, board chair, Western Irrigation District

As highlighted by Alberta’s Recovery Plan, Alberta has a hard-earned reputation for high-quality agricultural products and a growing capacity to help meet the global demand for food. An important part of our economy, the agri-food sector contributes $9.2 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about 77,000 Albertans.

Alberta’s Recovery Plan is a bold, ambitious long-term strategy to build, diversify, and create tens of thousands of jobs now. By building schools, roads and other core infrastructure we are benefiting our communities. By diversifying our economy and attracting investment with Canada’s most competitive tax environment, we are putting Alberta on a path for a generation of growth. Alberta came together to save lives by flattening the curve and now we must do the same to save livelihoods, grow and thrive.

Quick facts

  • Alberta has more than 1.7 million irrigated acres.
  • The irrigation industry generates about $2.4 billion in annual labour income and supports about 56,000 jobs.
  • Irrigation-related agricultural processing generates about $2 billion in total annual sales and accounts for about 18 per cent of total provincial food processing sales.
  • The irrigation industry contributes up to $3.6 billion annually to Alberta’s GDP, which represents about 20 per cent of the agri-food sector GDP on only 4.7 per cent of the province’s cultivated land base.
  • The eight irrigation districts participating in the investment include: Bow River Irrigation District, Eastern Irrigation District, Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District, Raymond Irrigation District, St. Mary River Irrigation District, Taber Irrigation District, United Irrigation District and Western Irrigation District.
  • The CIB is mandated to invest $35 billion in federal funding and attract private sector investment into new revenue-generating infrastructure projects. This is the first project announced under the CIB’s recently announced $10 billion Growth Plan.
  • The CIB recognizes the importance of the duty to consult, and where appropriate, accommodate any potential impacts of the project on Indigenous rights. The parties have included provisions to ensure if a duty to consult and/or accommodate arise, they will be adequately discharged.
  • The CIB is committed to working with federal, provincial and territorial governments and Indigenous communities to ensure the honour of the Crown is upheld on all projects where the CIB contemplates any investment.
  • This project is part of the more than $10 billion infrastructure spending announced as part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan. This spending includes:
    • $6.9 billion Budget 2020 capital spending
    • $980 million accelerated for Capital Maintenance and Renewal
    • $200 million for Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program and water infrastructure projects
    • $600 million in strategic infrastructure projects, $500 million in municipal infrastructure
    • $1.5 billion for Keystone XL
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Alberta's Recovery Plan

Media inquiries

Justin Laurence

Junior Press Secretary, Agriculture and Forestry

Félix Corriveau

Senior Director, Media Relations and Corporate Communications, Canada Infrastructure Bank