Food marketers and consumers increasingly see value in sustainability and environmental stewardship in the agri-food supply chain. Farmers and agri-food processors are also becoming aware of the benefits of water stewardship practices and strategies to improve farm productivity and product marketability. Despite this awareness, global agri-food supply chains are lacking a coordinated and practical way to take advantage of the opportunities of water stewardship.
The Agriculture’s Water Future Project began in late 2015, with the most recent phase wrapping up in March of 2019 (Phase 2: Agricultural Water Futures), with the goal of developing a process to better define and prove the value of water stewardship across the agri-food supply chain in Alberta, which could then be applied globally. The project was funded by Nutrien with matching funds provide by Alberta Innovate’s Water Innovation Program, and executed by WaterSMART Solutions Ltd.
The objectives of the project were to position Alberta’s agri-food sector as a global leader in water stewardship and to increase awareness and encourage investment in water stewardship across the agri-food chain among other users of the watershed.
The project focused on primary production systems in the South Saskatchewan River Basin (SSRB) in southern Alberta. The SSRB was chosen because it is a broadly representative watershed that has agricultural water challenges. Because it is characterized by dryland and irrigated crop production, commodity and specialty crops, limited water availability due to its location in a water scarce region, and good economic growth opportunities, the SSRB is a microcosm of global primary production systems. Therefore, the water stewardship principles presented here should apply anywhere in the world.
Through engagement with stakeholders in the SSRB, the project established a definition and visual aid of water stewardship that can be applied in any basin. It also created a four-step process to facilitate and promote uptake of water stewardship. This process can be applied throughout the agri-food supply chain in any jurisdiction, providing a coordinated and practical way to capitalize on water stewardship opportunities, and address shared challenges in a watershed.
Download: Ag Water Future Report 2019