On September 1, Herb Cox, the minister responsible for the Water Security Agency, announced new drainage regulations in Saskatchewan. The new regulations are the first phase of an agricultural water management strategy that recognizes the benefits of drainage and the importance of mitigating negative impacts.
“We recognize drainage is an important water management tool for producers and these new regulations will help us streamline the approval process to help producers become compliant while mitigating damage downstream,” Cox said. “These new regulations are part of the development of a risk-based agricultural water management strategy that will improve the overall process, including applications and investigating complaints, and will help prevent future issues.”
The key changes in the new regulations are:
- Ensuring that impacts related to flooding, water quality and habitat loss are addressed as part of the drainage works approval process;
- Allowing landowner agreements as evidence of land control;
- Simplifying and streamlining the application approval process;
- No longer exempting works constructed before 1981 from requiring an approval; and
- Enabling the use of “qualified persons” in the design of higher risk drainage works.
These drainage regulations fulfill a commitment made in the 2014 Speech from the Throne. This is the first significant change to drainage regulations in 35 years.
The new drainage regulations were created after extensive online and industry stakeholder consultations. More than 500 public participants and 15 industry and environmental groups provided input into the creation of the new approach to drainage in Saskatchewan.
The new regulations are the first step in a phased-in approach to bring all drainage in the province into compliance over the next 10 years. These changes facilitate the start of the overall approach to the agricultural water management strategy.
The next phase of the agricultural water management strategy will be the development and refining of policies and program delivery which will be used in a series of pilot projects and then expanded to the rest of the province.
The pilot projects are based in the Souris Basin near Stoughton and the Assiniboine Basin near Canora. Local producers, watershed authorities and representatives in those areas have committed to working with the WSA to implement the new agricultural water management strategy and to help bring existing drainage projects into compliance.
The WSA will continue working with stakeholders on this strategy to develop policies on mitigation, application processes and informational materials.
“Drainage is one of the major issues facing rural Saskatchewan so we are pleased that the government is implementing regulations meant to address deficiencies with the current system,” said Ray Orb, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities. “We have been awaiting this announcement and look forward to working with the government on the implementation of these regulations and further refinement of the agriculture water management strategy as it is phased in over the next few years.”