Irrigation: Watering the Prairie for Food
Transforming the Prairie:
Dry Grasslands to Watered Prairie
When European settlers first came to the prairie country of the Bow River basin, they found First Nations peoples living in a vast grassland with few lakes and streams. Early in the last century, irrigation districts were established to move Bow River water out onto the prairie. Through a system of canals and storage reservoirs, water was supplied to farmers. Over time, communities and industries also grew on the prairie, and the irrigation system supplied water for their needs.
How Irrigation Works
Irrigation starts in May and continues until October. Irrigation water is diverted from the river into a system of canals and reservoirs. These provide important wetland habitat for waterfowl and fish. Improved irrigation techniques have greatly reduced the water required to grow crops, allowing more crop production while using the same amount of water.