Agriculture Needs Water

Erika Fossen and I have blogged several times about irrigation and we like to refer to it as irritation. Yes, it is a pain in the butt to move irrigation everyday to make sure we get over our entire field with water, however right now I would do anything to have that problem.
Last Friday we got hand delivered a letter saying that there were water restriction starting that night at midnight. We are restricted to water from 6pm to 6am, which was fine we were sort of prepared for this because we had such a mild winter and there was no snowpack in the mountains and the river has been extremely low all year coupled with extreme heat. We have been watering about 30% less than usual just to try and conserve water. However, that wasn’t all they told me… Here’s the kicker they said we are restricted until August 11 and then after that it is a full shut off. That means in an area that is considered semi desert and even though we have a water license we are not going to be allowed to pump until September 30, which is when our water license says we need to be done pumping for the year anyways. This was absolutely devastating news. Without water all our crops will die and we will not have enough feed to feed our cows during the winter months. My husband brother and I decided we should start cutting what is ready of our second cut of growth on our fields, so we could get it off and get the water back on while we still had the ability to water. So that is how we spent our long weekend working until about midnight each night trying to get as much feed off the fields and then move irrigation so when 6pm rolled around we could start the pumps and have water.
I am so frustrated with this government decision because it severely affect our ranch especially when there was no consultation with the people who have water licenses to the river, which should mean we have rights to the water. In addition, I believer that they should have complied with The First in Time First in Right policy which means those with the oldest water license have the most rights, so should be able to pump the longest. I also feel there should be some preference for those who are actually making a living from agriculture and not just hobby farmers that have 20 acres and sell a bit of hay on the side to supplement their alternate income. This is our income if we don’t have enough feed that severely affects our business.
Moreover, hay is super expensive this year, so having to buy hay will be a huge cost. I asked the person who delivered the letter if there would be compensation for loss of forage and he said he didn’t know.
A main reason for the shut off they say is for the fish, which I completely understand we are not out to hurt another commodity, however it feels like there is no common sense being applied in this decision. This year the river has been so low and warm since June it seems like damage to the fish probably is already done and in addition in the past 20 years the amount of fish that come up to river has diminished greatly. I was speaking to somebody who works for the fisheries and yesterday they counted fish in the river and in a 8 km span they counted 4 fish!!! FOUR FISH!!! Is that really enough to justify completely devastating our crops? We are reasonable people who care about the environment. We have been voluntarily pumping 30% less water all year because we could tell the water was low, but not to be able to compromise is frustrating. We think a great compromise would be allowing us to keep pumping, but only at night. Another frustrating piece of the puzzle is that the same weekend August long weekend Merritt was host to a music festival, Rockin River Music Festival and the same river that we have water rights to flows through the festival ground and a main attraction during the day is for the thousands of attendees to pull up their lawn chairs in the river. Please explain to me how this doesn’t affect the fish, the amount of people trampling fish, fish eggs, leaving garbage and I’m sure bodily excretion. Moreover, the same river that flows through our ranch flows through our range and hundreds of quaders tear up the grasslands and that go through the river all summer long. How are the quads not affecting the fish and fish eggs when they drive through the river? My dad had a meeting with the man who delivered us the letter and asked him these questions and he didn’t have an answer just that he was the messenger and gave the impression he really didn’t care. That is so frustrating he probably went on to have a great relaxing long weekend after he delivered us the bombshell of a letter. I really feel there needs to be a shift in society to put value back on agriculture. We are the people producing YOUR food. Isn’t that important? More so than recreation and music festivals? Before it gets to you in pretty cellophane packages at the grocery store it goes through a process and we are a very important part of that process. Some consultation and negotiations would have been very appreciated especially when the city of Merritt who is down stream from us has no restrictions and the golf course is still being watered, car washes being used, cement plants functioning all of which use vast amounts of water. Are these things what we value more than food?

Here are our fields looking green and bountiful because of irrigation. We are very scared what they are going to look like without our ability to water them.

Here are our fields looking green and bountiful because of irrigation. We are very scared what they are going to look like without our ability to water them.

Recreation quads going through the river on our range.

Recreation quads going through the river on our range.

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2 thoughts on “Agriculture Needs Water

  1. Lavinia Ross says:

    A resource once plentiful now growing scarce will ultimately affect how all of us will use water. The viewpoints on the subject are many. High Country News has an interesting collection of articles on water usage in the West.

  2. Megan Menhinick says:

    Very well said. It is scary sometimes how much people today put wants over needs. Society will sacrifice more for technology or fun than it will for food. We’ve been spoiled for so many years with plentiful food that we don’t know the real value of it. There really does need to be a change in that way of thinking. Something like this should be written to the bigger newspapers such as the Province.
    On another note, green hayfields are also a lesser risk for fire than dry ones are. For a province that has to spend so much money fighting fire on a dry year like this, I would think that having irrigated fields would be beneficial.
    Our hayfield is so incredibly important to our ranch that I can imagine how devastating it would be to watch it go dry. Hope the rest of the year goes well.

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