Office Hours: 8:00am - 12:00pm & 1:00pm-4:30pm Monday through Friday

Frequently Asked Questions

Here you will find answers to questions we get the most.

General Questions

The start of irrigation is based on demand and weather. Since 1974 the average start up date has been May 8 with an average shut off date of October 11. The earliest start has been April 21 (1992) and the latest June 5 (1975). The earliest shut off date has been October 3 (1994) and the latest October 21 (1974). With dry, warm conditions expect an earlier start up and later start up with wet, cool conditions.

Current Board of Directors Policy #328: April 20th is designated "as the earliest date for the diversion of water from Little Bow Reservoir, conditional to the existence of dry conditions and weather that is conducive to canal operations."

Be aware that it takes time to charge the system (flush the canal, charge pipelines, etc.) after diversion has begun. It typically takes a few days before water is ready for irrigating.

In addition to irrigation acres, the District has various other water users who the District delivers water to. The 2020 limit for water use by irrigators is set at 20 acre inches per irrigation acre, which is simply stated as 20 inches per acre.

Any parcels irrigated by the flood method are allowed up to 25% more, but the irrigator must pay a surcharge for this additional amount.

All other water users are limited by the amount stated in their particular conveyance agreement with the BRID.

The District has seen an increase in the use of canal banks and roadways by the general public, oil/gas traffic and adjoining landowners, which has resulted in an increase to maintenance costs.

Although this use is not prohibited, non-BRID use is limited to light vehicles and only when the canal bank and/or roadway is dry. Any damage or rutting of the canal banks or roadways will result in the offender being charged for the repair.

Any additional costs in maintenance to the BRID are a direct cost to all irrigators of the District through annual water rates. The BRID has a responsibility to collect the cost of repairing damages from the offenders.

The BRID does not restrict hunting on the canals and reservoirs but all hunters are asked to respect the rights of adjoining landowners and to limit this activity if the adjoining landowner does object.

Access is limited to light vehicle travel and only when areas are dry. Damages will be the responsibility of those causing the damage.

Hunting on BRID lease land is allowed subject to consent from the occupant or leaseholder. Hunters are asked to only travel on well established roads or trails, and to only travel on those if they are dry.

The BRID collects this information for Alberta Agriculture. Alberta Agriculture and Forestry uses information about irrigated crops and systems in several ways:

  1. Supporting information for irrigation expansion
  2. When an irrigation district considers increasing its expansion limit so that it can serve more acres, it must determine the change in risk of a water shortage with the proposed expansion. Having up to date information about on-farm systems, and an accurate representation of the crops that are grown in a district ensure the potential water demands for an expansion scenario are reasonably estimated. Each type of crop has its own specific water use, and each type of on-farm system has its own specific water loss or inefficiency. The water that is needed to be delivered to each field, by knowing the crop and the system, can then be calculated. The irrigation infrastructure network – canals, pipelines, and turnouts, is considered in the calculation, with each field’s information also represented. This allows for an accurate picture of how the district functions.

    If the potential water demand is over estimated, a district may choose not to expand because the risk seems too high.

    If the potential water demand is under estimated, a district may expand but then all irrigators are at risk of a water shortage because the actual demand with expansion cannot be fully met.

    Having accurate information on how irrigation occurs, and the crops grown, is needed not just from the district that is considering expansion, but from the other districts in that river basin.

    As an example, when BRID held its last expansion plebiscite, the water shortage risk information was based on the water demands in the BRID, and also the WID and EID which all draw from the Bow River.

  3. Summarizing irrigation information for policy and programs
  4. Every year the summarized information for all districts is provided in the Annual Irrigation Information booklet, which is publically available online. This information is beneficial to the department of Agriculture and Forestry in understanding the productivity of irrigated agriculture in Alberta. By knowing what crops are grown, the department can determine the economic benefits that irrigation provides the province. This is useful in informing policies and programs that the government may want to implement in support of irrigated agriculture, and can be informative for potential public or private investment in irrigated agriculture.

    For example, the Canadian Agricultural Partnership Irrigation Efficiency Program provides grants for producers to upgrade their on-farm systems.

    Potential value added processors are able to understand what types of crops are grown and can be grown in the irrigated region of Alberta.

    Note: Alberta Agriculture and Forestry does not share individual data for fields. The department only provides the ‘rolled up’ or summarized information by irrigation district, as per the Irrigation Information book.

    A link to the document can be found here:

    Alberta Irrigation Information

  5. Informing decision makers on economic value of irrigation in Alberta
  6. A comprehensive report released by the Alberta Irrigation Districts Association in 2015 detailed the economic benefits of irrigation to the irrigated regions, the province, and the country. The base information for the calculations and conclusions in the report were derived from the summarized cropping and system information. This report is a valuable reference document for the department and for decision makers.

    A link to the document can be found here:

    Economic Value of Irrigation in Alberta

Questions about Magnacide H

The District uses an aquatic herbicide called "Magnacide H" to control aquatic weeds and algae in most cases. Magnacide H is licensed in Canada for use in irrigation canals. It is applied in Alberta under permits from Alberta Environment, by District staff that are specially trained and licensed by Alberta Environment.

Magnacide H has been used throughout the world since 1959 and has been in use in the District since 1969. It's active ingredient is acrolein which is a naturally occurring compound. Magnacide H is injected under water for a period of 90 minutes. This forms a 90 minute "wave" of treated water which moves downstream much like a piston in a cylinder. The Magnacide H "wave" contacts the weeds, killing the submerged leaves and stems. Because Magnacide H degrades fairly quickly in water (8 to 25 hours) its strength will only remain high enough to control weeds in about four miles of canal. Some canals may have to be treated more than once in a season due to regrowth.

Water treated with Magnacide H is safe for crop irrigation and will not produce crop contamination with respect to human consumption. Magnacide H affects only aquatic vegetation which grows beneath the surface of the water. Plants which emerge from the surface (such as cattails and bulrushes), and plants growing on the canal banks (such as trees, brush, broadleaf plants and grasses) are not affected by Magnacide H.

Tests indicate that there are no short or long term harmful effects to animals resulting from exposure to water treated with Magnacide H. Animals often refuse to drink treated water because it is unpalatable. Magnacide H is not permitted to enter ponds used to water livestock.

When used correctly, Magnacide H will not be hazardous to people using the canal. Because Magnacide H is injected underwater from equipment that is sealed from the air, applicators and others on the canal bank do not come into contact with harmful quantities. District staff ensure that Magnacide H treated water does not enter drinking water supplies. As a precaution, swimming should not be allowed downstream when Magnacide applications are taking place.

Questions about Irrigation Acres

The current limit for the size of the BRID is 295,000 irrigation acres which is referred to as "the expansion limit". The BRID is currently undergoing an expansion of 35,000 acres to bring us to our 295,000 acre limit.

Yes, irrigation acres may be transferred or sold from one parcel to another and/or from one irrigator to another. All BRID policies regarding the transfer of irrigation acres would have to be satisfied, but this provides the only opportunity for irrigators to purchase additional acres if not available from the District. With Board approval, unused irrigation acres may be used to develop dryland parcels.

Renting of irrigation acres is officially called "Alternate Parcel Irrigation Agreements" and if an irrigator wishes to irrigate more acres on a parcel than the assessment, or wishes to irrigate a dryland parcel or a portion of a dryland parcel, they can apply to enter into an Alternate Parcel Irrigation Agreement. This agreement allows the use of idle irrigation acres from one parcel on another parcel, on a yearly basis. The parcels do not have to be owned by the same person or persons. In addition, if an irrigator is irrigating a parcel in excess of the assessment, an Alternate Parcel Irrigation Agreement is one method of irrigating the additional acres which also provides additional water.

The BRID maintains lists of irrigators that have irrigation acres to rent or to sell, and of irrigators that are interested in purchasing or renting irrigation acres. This list is on the Public Notice webpage.

The Board of Directors have placed an over irrigation penalty of $109.00 per acre plus the annual water rate on parcels being over irrigated.

There are situations where irrigators are over irrigating on one of their parcels while under irrigating on another parcel with their net irrigation being under or within their assessed irrigation acre total. This is no longer going to be acceptable and irrigators in this situation will be required to transfer irrigation acres or face over irrigation penalties on the over irrigated parcel.

"Water licences and irrigation acres are two distinct different identities and are not interchangeable."

Water Licences: Water licences are issued to users by Alberta Environment through provisions in the Alberta Water Act. A water licence for irrigation purposes will allow a user to irrigate a specific parcel of land withdrawing water from a specific public water source. People irrigating off of a river or stream would have their own water licence. Provisions in the Water Act allows for the transfer or assignment of water licences from one party to another party and must go through an application and approval process with Alberta Environment. Water licences in Alberta are administered exclusively by Alberta Environment. The Bow River Irrigation District has water licences that allow the BRID to withdraw a specific amount of water and to use that water for purposes as specified in the actual licence. The current licences state the purposes to be irrigation and domestic use.

Irrigation Acres: With the water licences that the BRID holds, it can divert water from the Bow River and use that water for irrigation purposes. Individual parcels of land within the BRID are allowed to be irrigated on a specified number of acres which are referred to as "irrigation acres". This is governed under provisions in the Irrigation Districts Act of Alberta which is administered through Alberta Agriculture and Rural Devlopment. Water rights is an old term for irrigation acres. If someone uses the term water rights, they are meaning irrigation acres. Irrigation acres are a capital asset to a parcel and unless specific arrangements are made other wise, they are normally bought and sold with the parcel they are attached to. Irrigation acres are allowed to be transferred or assigned (alternate parcel agreement) to other properties but must be within the boundaries of the BRID through an application and approval process established by the BRID. Irrigation acres in the Bow River Irrigation District are administered exclusively by the BRID.

1) Irrigation Acres: Irrigation Acres are permanently attached to a parcel of land. Each parcel of land with irrigation acres has a specified number of irrigation acres upon which the landowner is entitled to apply water to. Though each parcel of land with Irrigation Acres will have a notation on the back of the title noting the property to be included in the irrigation district, such notation does not ensure irrigation acres are present as parcels of land can be included in the irrigation district without irrigation acres. Irrigation Acres are subject to Rate Enforcement procedures in the event annual water charges are in arrears. Irrigation Acres are purchased from the district at a set capital asset charge based on a per acre charge. This is a one time purchase by the landowner; the 2009 capital asset charge for new Irrigation Acres was $300 per acre. Irrigation Acres, in accordance with Section 16 of the Irrigation Districts Act, can be transferred or sold to another landowner's parcel of land in the BRID subject to BRID approval, based on a number of criteria the district has set, and subject to all mortgages shown on the certificate of title for the parcel selling the Irrigation Acres, consenting to the transfer.

2) Terminable Agreements: Terminable Agreements are agreements between the BRID and a landowner or a renter which allows the landowner or renter to irrigate a specified amount of acres on a parcel of land. Terminable agreements are terminable at the option of either party, on the giving of notice before March 1st in a calendar year. Terminable Agreements are subject to Rate Enforcement procedures in the event annual water charges are in arrears. Terminable agreements in arrears of water payment are cancelled as of March 1st in any calendar year. Where agreements are cancelled, the applicant must reapply to the Board of Directors of the Bow River Irrigation District and the agreement may or may not be renewed. Terminable Agreements are with an applicant and not transferable with a land parcel; any purchaser buying land upon which a Terminable Agreement is present must make application to the Board of Directors of the Bow River Irrigation District for a new agreement which may or may not be approved.

3) Annual Agreements: Annual Agreements are between the BRID and a landowner or a renter which allows them to irrigate a specified amount of acres on a parcel of land and which expires at the end of each calendar year.

Annual Agreements are with an applicant and are not transferable with a land parcel; any purchaser buying land upon which an Annual Agreement is present must make application to the Board of Directors of the Bow River Irrigation District for a new agreement which may or may not be renewed. Annual Agreements are not subject to Rate Enforcement procedures.