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A drought-filled future?

The Story

The 20th century was actually one of the wettest in Prairie history, according to a new University of California study. Researchers found that the area was naturally very dry prior to the 1900s, and that the 20th century was an anomaly. Saskatchewan scientist Peter Leavitt says this could mean a lot more drought in the future: "We have no way of being adapted for that or prepared for that, and I think that's the concern that we're getting from this study." 

Medium: Television
Program: Canada Now
Broadcast Date: July 21, 2003
Guest(s): Doug Ball, Peter Leavitt, Laurie Tollefson
Reporter: Chris Epp
Duration: 1:58

Did You know?

• The UCLA study took core samples from old-growth trees and used those to determine past water flow. Researchers found that:
• between the years 900 and 1300, the North Saskatchewan River flows were an average of 15 per cent less than the 20th-century average.
• between 1702 and 1725, river flows on the South Saskatchewan River were 20 per cent below the 20th-century average.
• between 1841 and 1859, river flows on the Saskatchewan River were more than 22 per cent below the 20th-century average.

• Dr. Peter Leavitt is a professor at the University of Regina. His findings have been similar to the UCLA study. In 2002 he said he foresees a future dry spell that could last 25 years, causing Canada's agriculture industry to lose at least $50 billion.

• In a 2002 Discovery Channel Canada online article, Leavitt said Canada must start preparing for these protracted states of drought: "We should start adapting to drought on a regular basis. They (droughts) are not something you react to. They're something you prepare for. right now, we've moved away from a preparedness mindset and we're sort of in a reactionary mindset."

• As this clip points out, one way farmers can prepare for future droughts is to invest in drip irrigation, a method for directly watering crops rather than flooding the soil. The advantage is that there's very little water wastage.

• According to Ken Panchuk, a soil specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, future prolonged droughts will likely open the door for biotechnology specialists to develop more drought-resistant crops.



Devastating Dry Spells: Drought on the Prairies more