Diverting water from Lake Diefenbaker could help expand Sask. agriculture, Ralph Goodale says

Ralph Goodale says building water diversion conduits in Lake Diefenbaker could help grow Saskatchewan's economy and environment but it comes with a $3 billion price tag.

Conduit infrastructure would cost about $3B

Former federal cabinet minister Ralph Goodale says conduits to divert water from Lake Diefenbaker could have a significant benefit to Saskatchewan's economy and environment. (CBC)

Ralph Goodale, former Regina MP, thinks an old idea could provide a fresh start for Saskatchewan's agricultural industry.

The idea — conduits in Lake Diefenbaker which could divert water in four different directions to other parts of the province — would effectively prevent flood or drought in large portions of the province's grain belt, Goodale said.

"I think the time has come to finish the vision," Goodale told CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition on Thursday. "It would vastly expand our productive capacity in agriculture."

The former federal cabinet minister said the diversions could irrigate about 400,000 acres of farmland — roughly 161,874 hectares — and increase its capacity for production.

"The other thing it does is directly addresses the consequences of climate change on the prairies by giving us the infrastructure capacity to control water flows," he added.

The idea of conduits, though they've never materialized, were motivation behind the constructions of the Gardiner Dam, Lake Diefenbaker and Douglas Provincial Park, Goodale said.

"You expand agriculture, more diversification, more innovation and probably in the process of building and running this project, the experts are saying you would add something like four per cent to Saskatchewan's GDP," he said.

The cost is estimated at $3 billion. Goodale said there would also have to be a thorough examination and review of the environmental impact of such a project. Indigenous communities would also have to be "thoroughly consulted."

60 per cent of Saskatchewan gets its fresh drinking water from Lake Diefenbaker, said Goodale. Despite this, he said more water evaporates than is used by the public.

Watershed associations, livestock producers, grain farmers, irrigation farmers, academics at the universities of Regina and Saskatchewan have all expressed interest in such a project during discussions, he added.

"There are a number of things coming together at this moment in time that I believe will lead you to the conclusion that this idea, which emanated from the 1930s — finally its time has come."

With files from CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition


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