Gardeners, ranchers face shortage of spring showers
Dry conditions in Alberta have gardeners hauling out the sprinklers and ranchers worried about their herds.
Most of central and southern Alberta received below normal snowfall amounts this past winter, followed by an unusually dry spring.
Soil moisture specialist Ralph Wright said dry conditions like this, which threaten the feed supply, usually happen only once in a generation.
"We are not getting the precipitation in the amounts we would like to see to generate healthy crops," he said.
Empty rain barrels in Calgary
June is normally the wettest month of the year in Calgary, but unless more rain falls in the next two weeks, it will go down as one of the driest on record.
Environment Canada's Bill McMurtry said the city has received only 16 millimetres of rain this month, compared with the 80 millimetres it usually receives. And he forecasts more dry weather, at least until the end of June.
Calgary resident Lindsay Luhnau, who collects rain in barrels to water her garden, has noticed the difference.
"It should have filled about 60 times already this year," she said. "But when you look inside, it's dry."
City spokesman Stuart Peters said gardeners in Calgary should not over-water.
"We're asking all residents to simply make sure that when they are watering outside to get their gardens going that they are doing so wisely and being conservative in what they use," he said.
Over the past eight months, Calgary and vicinity saw above-normal snowfall throughout the winter.
Farmers, ranchers concerned
Ranchers in central Alberta say they haven't had a measurable amount of rain since the snow melted, and without rain, they can't put their cattle out to pasture to feed.
"We are doing a lot of praying," said Leduc area rancher Lil Hickman, who is feeding her herd hay she had been saving for next winter.
Hickman said she has two options if her region doesn't get a good drenching: "To sell them at rock bottom prices or try and find feed somewhere.… There is no point laying out more for the feed than what the cows are worth."
The dry conditions remind Hickman of 2002, when Alberta had its worst drought in 125 years. Feed had to be shipped in from Ontario.
The situation is not quite as grim in southern Alberta. Brian Otto, a grain farmer south of Lethbridge, said without more rain his crop will be below average as it nears harvest.
"The winter wheat is heading out, barley is heading out. So we are at a crucial stage. We are going to need some moisture to finish that stage and finish the crop off."