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Water Stewardship workshop A christian farmers federation project

CHRISTIAN FARMERS Federation Of Ontario

Report Authors Suzanne Armstrong Marie Versteeg Brooke Wareing Editor Marie Versteeg Production Design Manager Frances Pitkin

In 2017, CFFO hosted a workshop that brought together provincial stakeholders in water stewardship, including farmers, municipalities, conservation authorities, environmental NGOs, government representatives, and academia. Presentations focused on water policy and technology. The workshop offered a space for stakeholders to share ideas, foster communication networks, and explore opportunities for Ontario through agricultural water stewardship. The CFFO believes that water stewardship is a key issue for the future of agriculture in Ontario. If you would like to know more about CFFO’s work in water stewardship, please visit us at

reports Technology Subsurface Drip Irrigation Results on Corn........................................................................................................ 6-7 Peter White, University of Guelph A report on field studies for sub-surface drip irrigation (SDI) conducted in southwestern Ontario, with a review of the technical requirements and cost-benefits analyses. Moisture Sensors and Data Loggers..................................................................................................................... 8-9 Peter White, University of Guelph White offers a review of numerous tools used to track soil moisture, including the time domain reflectometer, the tensiometer, and the capacitance sensor. Water Saving Project with Vegetable Growers...................................................................................................... 10-11 Bruce Kelly, Farm & Food Care Through the Water Smart Farms Project, a carrot washing station in Holland Marsh and a Bradford greenhouse retrofitted their operations, diverting thousands of gallons of water from being wasted. Watering Systems in Areas of Restricted Access.................................................................................................. 12-13 Doug Plaunt, Kelln Solar For farmers close to municipal water sources, access to water for cattle is simple. But farmers further afield have to get creative. Plaunt reviews watering system options for cattle kept outdoors year-round.

Policy and research Where Does Agriculture Fit Water in the Water Governance Landscape?........................................................... 14-15 Dr. Rob de LoÍ, University of Waterloo The water governance landscape has changed dramatically in recent years and farmers have major roles and responsibilities. Ontario Climate and Agriculture Assessment Framework..................................................................................... 16-19 Al Douglas, Ontario Centre for Climate Impacts and Adaptation Resources Based on climate change modelling through to the 2050s, Douglas reports on water management needs and development opportunities for two Ontario commodities and regions: forage in the northern Clay Belt and corn in Chatham-Kent. Groundwater Monitoring and Management........................................................................................................... 20-21 Ryan Post, Nottawasaga Conservation Authority Post reports on three recent groundwater monitoring programs in the Nottawasaga watershed. Data collection from these projects is useful for developing low level response, water taking permits, development reviews, and BMP assessment. Australia’s Water Taking Allocation Process.......................................................................................................... 22-23 Brent Taylor, Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Taylor presents his research into water allocation planning during a drought crisis in South Australia. He describes markers for successful collaboration. Evolution of Water Policy in a Dry Land: A Trip through the Murray-Darling Basin............................................... 24-26 Brenda Dyack, Agri-Food Economic Systems Dyack describes the market-based water allocation system in Australia and examines the complicated work of assessing the economic impacts at play when environmental and agricultural water needs hang in the balance.

videos of workshop presentations can be found at

subsurface drip irrigation results on corn Peter white, university of guelph

Peter White offered an overview of subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) system use in Ontario, still relatively new technology for the province. Hard hose traveller irrigation systems employ pumps to spray water and sometimes nutrients onto the soil surface. Moisture must trickle down to the roots of the plant. While effective, this method of moisture delivery means that sometimes the water cannot be delivered in exact amounts or to specific locations. Moisture is also often lost to evaporation. In contrast to the hard hose traveller system, SDI offers a more efficient option. Drip tape, a thin plastic tube installed underground, delivers water and nutrients to specific locations underneath the soil. It is typically installed in rows 44 inches apart, at a depth of about 14 inches, near the roots of the plants. This system is similar in cost to the traditional hard hose system, but SDI uses less energy to function because it doesn’t require high pumping pressures. Subsurface drip irrigation can also be more controlled, since SDI users can irrigate at any time, delivering moisture directly to plant roots more efficiently and consistently. Incorporating nutrient delivery consistently throughout the growing season can also add up to higher yields. White shared the results of his research on irrigation and corn production in La Salette, Ontario. Plots on the same farm were either irrigated using SDI or left unirrigated. Productivity on both plots was tracked over four years, from 2012 to 2016, and the results indicated that the irrigated plots consistently had a much higher yield.


After a crop failure due to the 2012 drought, 2013 saw yields of 260 bushels per acre for the irrigated plots compared to 165 bushels per acre for the non-irrigated crops. 2014 and 2015 saw similar results with irrigated plots yielding an average of 250 bushels for the irrigated parcels and 150 bushels for the non-irrigated parcels. In

2016, due to low levels of rainfall, the SDI site produced almost 170 bushels per acre, compared with only 50 bushels per acre for the non-irrigated site. While installation of SDI is intensive, White suggested that the system could be a smart investment for farmers who do not always have adequate or predictable rainfall. Overall, SDI systems lead to increased marketable bushels and improved grain quality for livestock. Moreover, after that initial work of installation, SDI offers a simplified, long-term irrigation system.

Peter White is an Irrigation Technician with the University of Guelph, Simcoe Station. With growing concerns over water security, University of Guelph professor Rene Van Acker, research associate John O’Sullivan, and lab technician Peter White are studying the use of underground irrigation on corn crops to maximize yield and minimize water use. Subsurface drip irrigation is an innovative irrigation system that allows for controlled moisture release into the soil. The technology is new to Ontario and holds great promise.

Productivity on both plots was tracked over four years, from 2012 to 2016, and the results indicated that the irrigated plots consistently had a much higher yield.

moisture sensors and data loggers Peter white, university of guelph

Moisture sensors are used in agricultural fields to measure the amount of moisture present in the soil, which gives landowners information about soil health and quality. The soil moisture sensor market is set to increase by 25% in 2018, indicating that this is a growing field. There are a variety of moisture sensors, each with their own benefits and challenges. Peter White presented information on a number of different sensors, only some of which are described here. The Neutron Probe is a commonly used tool in soil testing. The probe delivers neutrons into the soil and measures the speed at which data returns to the probe. This test indicates how much hydrogen and moisture are in the soil. This system is not commonly used, since it is costly and requires a government license. The Stevens HydraProbe measures moisture, salinity, and temperature. This sensor can be left in the ground and is easily relocated. It measures electromagnetic signals in volts and is highly accurate. The Frequency Domain Reflectometer (FDR) measures the travel time of an electromagnetic pulse and needs to be calibrated. This kind of sensor is used by the University of Guelph to track long-term trends, which can be recorded in a data logger. The Capacitance Sensor can be as long as 150m and has a sensor every 10cm. As with all sensors, it is important that these probes are placed in undisturbed soil to get the most accurate reading. The biggest challenge of this instrument is that it can be complicated to get proper undisturbed soil contact next to each sensor.


The Tensiometer gives the user an idea of exactly how hard it is to pull water out of the soil. The challenge with this sensor is that, again, you have to make sure that the

tip has good soil/moisture contact. When working properly, this instrument can be very accurate.

Peter White is an Irrigation Technician with the University of Guelph, Simcoe Station.

Soil moisture sensors provide long-term data trends in the soil—useful information for decision making on irrigation. Sensors come in a variety of different formats, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Depending on what kind of information needs to be obtained, landowners can choose a sensor that suits their needs. There are a variety of factors that can impact the accuracy of soil moisture readings. These must be taken into consideration when using soil moisture sensors and dataloggers. Overall, moisture sensors are an important part of understanding soil health and can show long-term data trends, giving valuable information to producers. White recommends that anyone interested in learning more about moisture sensors Google “Irrigation OMAFRA� for more information.

There are a variety of moisture sensors, each with their own benefits and challenges.

water saving project with vegetable growers bruce kelly, farm & food care ontario

Bruce Kelly presented the results of select water conservation projects undertaken through the Water Smart Farming Project, funded by OMAFRA. Farm & Food Care partnered with Enviro-Stewards, a certified B Corporation of engineers dedicated to helping clients increase profitability while also improving environmental sustainability. The primary goal of the Water Smart Farming Project was to conduct water use assessments in agricultural and processing operations to help them conserve water and use it efficiently. Kelly and his team began water use assessments by with meeting with participants, asking questions about water use within the operation, and often installing monitoring tools in order to gather data. They then shared recommendations for reducing and reusing water in the system. They visited participating farms or processing sites a number of times to ensure changes were implemented and to measure success. Kelly reported that they often found that preliminary changes or improvements were already being incorporated after their initial visit. By installing simple water gauging tools and conducting onsite water use assessments, participants were able to divert thousands of gallons of water from being wasted, thanks in large part to simply measuring water flows to individual machines and turning down the flow, in addition to more complex water recycling equipment. A simple sight gauge called a rotameter, which allows you to see at-a-glance how much water is flowing through a pipe to any machine, proved a great tool. This allowed machine operators to dial down the flow to what was required to achieve acceptable washing and not use more than was required. Kelly offered a closer look at some projects that saw positive results.


Water Savings in Vegetable Processing Vegetable washing stations that process the same amount of vegetables can vary in their water usage by more than 50%. Kelly shared results for two carrot washing facilities that underwent water use assessments through the Water Smart Farming Project. Thanks to a series of small adjustments, including installing a rotameter and putting a timer on the soak tank drain, the first processing facility was able to reduce its water use by 67%, all while using the same machinery and employing the same number of personnel. At another carrot washing facility, the team were able to reduce water use by 65% through simple changes like blocking select spray nozzles and reducing water flow rates. Aside from saving water, electricity bills were dramatically lowered as well.

Bruce Kelly is Program Manager at Farm & Food Care Ontario (FFCO). FFCO has been contracted by OMAFRA to conduct a number of water use assessments to help growers better understand how and where they use water. By having better information, growers are often able to reduce their water use, cut costs, and generally find lower cost treatment systems. The goals of the project are water use optimization by considering risk (amount), economics, plant water requirements, and timing of use. The project also seeks to examine how to optimize irrigation water use by considering risk (amount), economics, and field water distribution patterns.

Water Savings in Greenhouse Operations Greenhouses also hold many opportunities for water saving and innovation as well. For example, after seeing the results of a water use assessment, the owners of Bradford Greenhouses in Bradford, Ontario, retrofitted their business with water recycling technology to capture water flowing off shipping carts, installing a system that separates roof water from greenhouse water. They also developed a variety of irrigation sensor improvements to ensure minimal water wastage on areas where there are not pots or trays. More information and videos about the Water Smart Farming Project can be found on Farm & Food Care Ontario’s website:

Vegetable washing stations that process the same amount of vegetables can vary in their water usage by more than 50%.

Watering systems in areas of Restricted access Doug Plaunter kelln solar

Doug Plaunt discussed the challenges of watering cattle in diverse environments. During all seasons, cattle who are kept outdoors need to access to fresh, clean water. This presents challenges for farmers, especially in areas where water may be frozen for a long period of time. There are many different methods and watering systems that can be used to ensure that cattle have consistent access to water. If there is a municipal water source within a kilometer of the farm, it is not necessary to access alternate watering systems. In this case, it’s more sensible to run a line from the municipal water source for use in cattle watering. In areas where municipal water is not available, however, farmers have to get creative when it comes to providing water sources. During the summer months when freezing is not an issue, trenches can be dug into a ground water source to provide a water trough. Pumping systems can also be fashioned to transport water from a freshwater bog or stream on the farm to the pasture. During the winter months, watering becomes a more complex task, as water needs to be heated to keep its temperature above freezing. This can be accomplished through ground heating systems or heated water troughs.


Plaunt reported that some farmers choose to have wells installed in their pastures, while others set up barrels that are filled daily. Often these barrels will have a nose pump: cattle push a lever with their snouts, which allows them to access water from the barrel. This method is on the more controversial side of watering techniques as there is debate as to whether less aggressive cows in the herd get all the water they need. Plaunt suggested that the size of the herd needs to be considered. Herds with more than 30 head need to herd drink, so singular nose pump systems are not ideal.

Access to clean fresh water at all times is an extremely important factor in growing healthy, strong cattle. There are many techniques that can be used to deliver water to cattle in their pasture. It is important to remember not to over-complicate watering systems. Access can often be delivered simply with a pump, a well, or manually filled barrels. It is always important to consider herd size and temperament to ensure that every animal has enough access to water.

Doug Plaunt is the owner of Plaunts Farm Service, Ltd., and a representative for Kelln Solar. He sells and services solar powered water pumps to farmers grazing livestock across eastern Canada.

farmers often have to be creative when it comes to providing water sources.

Where Does Agriculture Fit in the Water Governance Landscape? Dr. Rob de Loë, University of Waterloo

As an expert in water policy and governance, Rob de Loë brought two key messages to stakeholders at the CFFO Water Stewardship Workshop. First, the water governance landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, and producers have major roles and responsibilities. Second, the changes we have seen in water governance in recent years may be dwarfed by the changes yet to come. Farmers and others who care about water stewardship will be challenged to keep up. Historically, there have been many methods of water governance: top-down government management; government management with significant input from key stakeholders; collectively made decisions; and market models of managing water, such as in Chile, Australia, and parts of Alberta. For many decades, water governance in Ontario was primarily run under a top-down government model. Today, however, we see many local decision-making bodies that didn’t exist 20-30 years ago. These include source water protection committees, low water response teams, and water users cooperatives. Collaborative governance is becoming far more common. de Loë argued, however, that we often come to collaboration after all other methods have failed. Water problems are often complex and too big for one organization, even as big as government, to manage alone. The way to really make progress is to sit around a table and find common ground. Local knowledge from different water users, including farmers, is vital to solving many water issues.


The Benefits of Agricultural Involvement In Ontario, significant parts of our watersheds are under agricultural production. Farmers need to get involved, both because they are water users and because of the potential impact they can have on water quality. All of

this makes them key players in any collaborative water governance process. de Loë cited interviews, conducted in 2015, of Canadian farmers who had participated in collaborative water governance projects, like source water protection. These farmers listed many benefits resulting from their participation:

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• • •

They believed in the broader social benefits of working to protect water quality and quantity. They were able to offer local and technical knowledge about these water resources, which was vital for ensuring good decision-making. They found opportunities to educate non-farmers about the realities of farming. They viewed the collaborative process as a useful way to find out about issues early on. They had an opportunity to get ahead of the game and address the problem, hopefully also as a way to prevent top-down legislation. They found collaborative work was an important forum to make sure farmers’ needs were being heard by other stakeholders, such as government, industry, and urban residents.

It was important to these farmers that the agriculture sector be seen as a team player in the process. de Loë encouraged CFFO and other farm organizations to build capacity among their membership so that more farmers are well prepared to serve on collaborative water committees. The Future of Water Governance Until now, water governance has been based in some key assumptions. The first is that water stewardship is important to people and the environment. Those involved in water issues today find common values and are able to work together to solve problems.

Canada, but also internationally, regarding water governance. Over recent years, a number of new players have joined the table:

1. 2.

3. 4.


International companies that depend on water are interested in water access. Information technology companies recognize that water-related data management and measurement can be both profitable and influential. Banks are paying more attention to water-related risks to their investments. Insurance companies are experiencing significant impacts from water-related disasters of all kinds and are working to influence the policy landscape. Investors are looking for water-related opportunities or working to mitigate water-related risks.

While de Loë is not ringing the alarm bell, he acknowledges that these players may come with different ideas and interests from those who have traditionally been at the table. On the plus side, they bring new ideas and new resources (including money) to the water sector. Then again, their interests may be far removed from those of local stakeholders. Agriculture’s Role de Loë encouraged the agricultural sector to think carefully about how to best ensure it continues to have a voice in water decision-making in the upcoming decades. Building capacity within the agricultural sector for farmers to serve in collaborative water governance bodies is vital going forward. Everyone who cares about water stewardship will need to work hard to meet the challenge.

Rob de Loë is a Professor in the School of Environment,

The other key assumption is that those who care about water today are the ones who will be making decisions about water in the future. This, de Loë argued, may not be the case—unless we work to make sure community stakeholders remain part of the decision-making process.

Resources, and Sustainability at the University of Waterloo.

de Loë pointed to trends he has seen not only within

achieve desired water governance outcomes.

Rob’s current major project Rethinking Water Governance: Towards a New Agenda for Research and Practice is

challenging our traditional water-centric approaches. The premise behind this project is that the water community has been slow to recognize that actors, institutions, and drivers external to the water sector can determine the ability to

ontario climate and Agriculture assessment framework Al Douglas, ontario centre for climate impacts and adaptation resources


Climate Projection Ontario policy has typically focussed on mitigation—what we can do to reduce our emissions and slow down climate change. There has been less focus on adaptation—what can we do to prepare right now as climate continues to change, and what we will need to do in the future. A major concern for Ontario agriculture has been risk management. Some aspects of future climate are easier to project than others. For instance, they know there will be warmer winters, more heat waves, and a longer frost-free season, but it is more challenging to project what impact climate change will have on increasing ice storms or wind extremes. Ontario needs to look at the risks and make sure we have resilient systems to protect people, property, economies and other assets into the future in a context of climate change. We want to be well positioned to take advantage of whatever opportunities come as a result of climate change. The Ontario Centre for Climate Impacts and Adaptation Resources (OCCIAR), of which Al Douglas is the director, focuses on climate change adaptation, developing adaptation plans based on environmental risk and vulnerability assessments. Through funding from OMAFRA, the Centre has developed a regional tool that can assess both risks and opportunities for agriculture as a result of future climate change: the Ontario Climate and Agriculture Assessment Framework (OCAAF). Ontario Climate and Agriculture Assessment Framework The main goal of the OCAAF is to inform government policy, program and management choices based on sound scientific information. This is both to enable an appropriate adaptive approach and to make sure we are paying attention to the best available information on what to expect from climate change in Ontario.

Douglas’s team at OCCIAR combined information from several sources to develop this new tool:

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Specific farming data from OMAFRA. The Land Suitability Rating System (LSRS), an existing tool that includes consideration of landscape, soil, and climate variables. The Climate Change Hazards Information Portal (CCHIP), developed by Risk Sciences International (RSI), which projects changes including change in growing degree days in the farming regions of Canada and how they are expected to change into the future.

In order to understand climate change risks, it’s important to conduct risk assessments for specific commodities and in specific regions because impacts vary across the province. For this project, OCCIAR examined climate impacts on timothy production in the clay belt in Northern Ontario and corn production in the Chatham-Kent region of Southern Ontario out to 2050. Timothy Production in the Clay Belt The Centre looked at historic relationships between climate and timothy production, then incorporated projections of climate change to understand impacts and changes in yield. Climate change is usually measured in 20-30 year periods, called normals periods, to establish a baseline for comparison to future climate pattern projections. In the clay belt region, two recent normals periods, from 1951-1980 and 1981-2010, show an increase in average annual temperature of about 1-2˚C and an increase in annual average rainfall. Looking ahead to the 2050s, projections suggest that the annual temperature will increase a further 2-3˚C and that it will continue to get wetter. To determine the impact of climate factors on timothy production, OCCIAR used previous research on timothy production related to growing degree days and considered important limiting factors for timothy growth, such as fall hardening (cold days in fall that harden plants for winter can benefit production) and winter thaw days (above freezing in winter can cause damage). The calculations suggest that by 2050 the growing

season will increase by about 50 days and the LSRS score will move from a Class 5 (very severe limitation) to a Class 3 (moderate limitation). This will likely mean that on average, two—and possibly even three—cuttings of timothy/forages per season will be possible in this region—an overall estimated yield increase of 30%. Corn Production in Southern Ontario OCCIAR also studied the impacts of climate change on corn production in Chatham-Kent, the southern tip of the province. In their calculations, they primarily considered crop heat units, potential evaporation, growing season length, and excess spring/fall moisture. They also incorporated five extreme event indices that are limiting for corn, such as early flooding or drought at certain growth stages, based on previous research. Calculations suggest that average temperature in the Chatham-Kent region will increase by 3˚C and annual precipitation will increase by about 6% by the 2050s. However, when accounting for seasonal differences, OCCIAR anticipates that summer months will experience increased drought conditions because the impact of evaporation will undo any extra precipitation. The growing season will likely increase by 30 days. The projected increase in temperature also means that what is currently considered Class 1 on the LSRS score will become Class 2, with some limitations due to the increased heat and resulting dryness in summer. However, based on the increase in heat units alone, OCCIAR anticipates a 41% increase in corn yield. Adaptation Having established the scientific picture of expected changes, the project team then developed 15 adaptation recommendations for timothy production and 12 adaptation recommendations for corn production in the regions studied. These include recommendations around soil health, water management, and increased research and knowledge exchange. The recommendations are valuable both to policy makers and to farmers and farm organizations to encourage discussion of what changes need to be implemented in order to sustain or maintain current levels of production in the context of changing climate.

OCCIAR also produced three policy briefs aimed at provincial government policy makers in multiple ministries, based on strengthening agricultural extension, managing water, and transforming farming systems. The results of the study are all available on the Centre’s website: Beyond these two initial projects, Risk Sciences International is working with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to improve the LSRS system for the future. There is also interest in expanding the OCAAF to other regions, as well as to other commodities and production systems in Ontario and Canada.

Al Douglas is the Director of the Ontario Centre for Climate Impacts and Adaptation Resources (OCCIAR), which undertook research for the Ontario Climate and Agriculture Assessment Framework, a decision-making framework designed to be used at a regional level to assess baseline and future agroclimatic risks and opportunities. It builds upon the existing Land Suitability Rating System developed by Agriculture and Agrifood Canada. The goal is to inform policy, program, and management choices of key stakeholders in Ontario’s agri-food sector so as to maintain or enhance agricultural productivity under a changing climate, to help prepare for the impacts of climate change, and to develop adaptation options.


Through funding from OMAFRA, Occacr has developed a regional tool that can assess both risks and opportunities for agriculture as a result of future climate change: The Ontario Climate and Agriculture Assessment Framework.

Groundwater Monitoring and Management Ryan Post, Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority


Hydrogeologist Ryan Post offered an overview of select Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) groundwater monitoring initiatives and special projects. NVCA Groundwater Monitoring Initiatives Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Network (PGMN) As part of a province-wide monitoring program, the NVCA monitors groundwater levels and quality at 19 monitoring wells. Water level information is collected continuously throughout the year, augmented by field visits from April to November and water quality testing each fall. Three of the wells back onto agricultural land but are not near water-taking sites. The objective of the PGMN program is to collect information on baseline water level and quality conditions in key aquifers in Ontario. Simcoe Groundwater Monitoring Network The Ontario Geological Survey (OGS) is undertaking two significant geological modelling projects in the NVCA, characterizing the geology in this high growth area. As part of this project, the OGS has completed extensive drilling to map the geological and associated groundwater resources in the region. The NVCA has benefitted extensively through this project by monitoring 29 wells completed through these projects, enabling further data collection and infilling of the NVCA PGMN network. This data is useful for developing low water response, water-taking permits, development reviews, watershed management, etc.

Special Groundwater Monitoring Projects Innisfil Creek Drought Management Pilot Project The Innisfil Creek subwatershed has identified historical low water concerns. The subwatershed is the site of intensive agriculture and surface water abstracted irrigation, as well as significant development. Funded by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), a groundwater-surface water model was developed which used groundwater monitoring information to aid in the modelled low water conditions projected to the 2041-2070 period. It also examined environmental flows and economic and environmental impact related to the change of water sources from surface water to groundwater.

Ryan Post is the Senior Hydrogeologist with the Nottawasaga Conservation Authority. Groundwater monitoring allows for changes to be tracked in groundwater quality and quantity over time and identify potential contaminant sources and effective remediation strategies. The data collected from these monitoring wells and elsewhere across the province enables an accurate assessment of current groundwater conditions. It provides for an early warning system for changes in water levels (caused by climatic conditions or in response to human activities such as water takings). The data also provides for an early warning system for changes in water quality from natural or manmade causes.

Ontario Farm Groundwater Quality Survey Project In the early 1990s, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and the University of Guelph completed an extensive study on water quality in the rural landscape. The project drew data from 1,292 domestic wells and 144 multi-level wells. These wells were sampled for nitrate, pesticides, total coliform, E.coli, and petroleum products. Since the completion of the original project, the multi-level wells have not been revisited. Ten of these multi-level wells are located within the NVCA jurisdiction. As a pilot project, the NVCA partnered with Environment Canada to try to relocate and sample these wells for the purpose of data gathering. Several of the ten multi level wells were located, predominately in cash crop settings, and were able to be sampled. Unfortunately, there was insufficient data to determine any significant changes in shallow groundwater quality, but that doesn’t rule out groundwater impacts resulting from BMPs, such as no/minimum tilling.

“Water resources management is evolving, with an increased need for regional scientific understanding that can be readily incorporated into the planning or decision-making process.� Ryan Post, NVCA: Water stewardship Workshop, 2017

water allocation in south australia Dr. Brent Taylor, Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change

In Australia, states are responsible for water planning that ensures sustainable water allocation, establishes water-trading rules, and secures water for environmental needs. In South Australia, individualized water allocation plans are prepared for all “prescribed� water resources; however, state legislation prescribes certain components:

1. 2. 3.


Environmental water provisions for the area. Sustainable yield and allocation limits, based on water availability. Rules around water allocation, water trading systems, and water-affecting activities, such as building wells and dams. Rules for monitoring requirements.

Collaborative Water Planning and Joint Fact-Finding Natural Resource Management Boards in South Australia are responsible for developing water allocation plans for the prescribed water resources within their jurisdiction. Some mandatory public consultation during plan development is prescribed by state legislation; however, most Boards also strike advisory committees of local water users and other stakeholders. Collaboration throughout the plan development process can aid successful implementation of water allocation plans. Through joint fact-finding, a successful collaborative process between plan developers and local stakeholders consolidates local and scientific understandings of the water allocation issues and builds social capital (i.e., trust) among those involved in using and managing water within a community.


South Australian Case Studies Brent Taylor conducted case studies of four areas undertaking collaborative water allocation planning near Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. He found that a successful collaborative process, with respect to joint

fact-finding, will produce the following outcomes: • Shared understanding among participants of the issues, information, and scientific findings that went into the development of the plan. • Awareness of uncertainty in the available knowledge about the water resource. • Acceptance of the data, information, and knowledge that was used to develop the plan. • Enhanced social capital, including trust among participants and an improved understanding of each other’s perspectives.

records, observations, experiences) with scientific knowledge. • Engage in “authentic dialogue,” providing real opportunities for stakeholders to discuss and question scientific findings. • Commit enough time and resources to do it all well.

Lessons for Ontario Drought is a relative concept. It can be defined as “a departure from the long-term average hydrological conditions that a region has grown used to.” With variable weather patterns and population growth, it’s important to ask if Ontario’s water-quantity management system is adequate to deal with future pressures.

Taylor spent part of that time on research for his PhD, studying

Brent Taylor is a Senior Policy Analyst in the Land and Water Policy Branch of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. During his two-year visit in South Australia, South Australia’s water allocation planning process and, in particular, how famers’ (and others’) local knowledge was considered and integrated into water planning and policy making.

Many people that Taylor interviewed in Australia, including farmers and scientists, reported that they wished they had started water allocation planning sooner, so that they could have avoided a situation in some areas where water was over-allocated and people were being asked to decrease their water usage. When using a collaborative approach to environmental planning, generally it’s important to pay close attention to how knowledge is produced and used in the process. Compliance with the policies in a plan depends, in large part, on landholders and other resources users understanding and accepting the knowledge that was used to develop the plan. Taylor offered several recommendations for successful collaboration: • Make sure that scientists are “at the table” in the process and can communicate effectively with non-technical participants (e.g., by avoiding technical jargon). • Use facilitators who can mediate and help translate between technical and non-technical participants. • Incorporate “boundary experiences,” such as field trips to affected areas, so technical and non-technical participants can discuss what they see on the ground. • Incorporate local knowledge (e.g., landholder

With variable weather patterns and population growth, it’s important to ask if Ontario’s water-quantity management system is adequate to deal with future pressures.

Evolution of Water Policy in a Dry Land: A Trip through the MurrayDarling Basin Dr. Brenda Dyack, Agri-Food Economic Systems


Brenda Dyack shared her experience as a water advisor to the Australian Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet during the 2006 Millennial Drought, in the Murray Darling Water Basin. She used this story to reflect on what we could do to improve on agri-environmental policy in Ontario. The Murray-Darling Basin Water Crisis Irrigated agriculture is by far the major water user in the Murray-Darling Basin, a large area in southeastern Australia known as Australia’s irrigated food bowl. Every year, after the snow melts and is captured by the dams, federal and state authorities calculate water availability (how much water is in the dams) and the consequent amount available to share out among water entitlement holders as allocations. Before 2006, water in the region was allocated with the expectation that some water would always remain in the dam for future years; unfortunately, water-taking exceeded replenishment because of over-allocation during a decade of unusually low rainfall. In 2006, the dams were, in effect, dry. The common water resource had been mismanaged by the various groups competing for their shares. As a solution, the federal government was permitted by the states and territories to take over water allocation, replacing the previous interjurisdictional collaborative sharing of the water. All hoped that a single regulator could better allocate water optimally over space and time for the good of all. Measuring the Value of a Crisis During the crisis, the question became one of social optimization. Due to the scarcity constraint, decisions needed to be made about allocating scarce water not only among individual irrigators but also between the environment and irrigated agriculture. Maintaining previous rates of irrigated water use would have had huge consequences for the enviroment, already strained from a decade of giving irrigators relatively more water while the enviroment was left to

wait for future, more plentiful times. Dyack was called on to advise on how much water should be purchased in order to reserve it for the environment. Fortunately, there was previous research available about how much water was estimated to be needed to sustain the environment. The estimate at the time was that it would cost three billion dollars to purchase that much water for the system. The federal government chose to create an environmental water bank by purchasing water from willing water entitlement holders. They estimated that shifting about 26% of the irrigation water out of agriculture would cause a loss of 13% in the value of irrigated agriculture, after all adjustments were made. The policy would also provide security of supply to the irrigators who did not sell their water and continued to irrigate. The ones who chose to keep irrigating were the more profitable ones, so there were more general resource efficiency gains as well. No one thought that using water in low valued agriculture was better than supporting certain environmental goals. The loss to agricultural production is relatively easy to estimate because water translates quite simply into produce value. Dyack notes that it’s much harder to estimate the extent of the benefits of retaining water for environmental use. But people wanted, and still do want, reassurance that the benefits to the environment will be at least as great as the losses to agriculture. The decision was made, even without the supporting environmental values research, to pay a total of $10 billion of taxpayer funds to divert water for the environment. The payment for improved environmental conditions was justified to support the benefits to all Australians now and into the future, but it came at the expense of others who would suffer from less agricultural activity in the present. Less successful farmers could sell water and benefit that way, but communities that depend on farming feared a loss in economic opportunity and dislocation.

At the local level, reduced irrigation activity was very difficult for communities in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Dyack reported that the biggest problem throughout the decision-making process was the knowledge gaps. How big did the environmental water bank really need to be? What is the true value of the trade-off between caring for the environment and reduced irrigation? How do you measure the value of saving gum trees and the complex ecosystem? Was $10 billion enough to spend, or should it be more, or less? What would be achieved, and would the benefits justify the costs? These questions can’t be answered without research. But if the research isn’t done before a crisis hits, decisions will be made despite the knowledge gaps. This is not optimal for sustainability of either agriculture or the environment. Lessons for Ontario A crisis provides opportunity, but many mistakes may be made when policy makers do not have adequate information about costs and benefits. If we can do the research that we know will be needed, and if that research can support sensible policy before a crisis hits, then we can transition more smoothly to a more sustainable future. Farmers have the opportunity as well to lead policy development ahead of time, so we can make much better decisions in Ontario. Asking farmers to lead policy development is a better practice than scrambling during a crisis and having to live with the policies, regulations, taxes, subsidies and other policy instruments that are handed down by policy makers who may not understand the consequences on farms. If farmers believe they know what information gaps need to be filled, they can demand this research be done and actively pursue research themselves.

Dyack offered six suggestions for future water allocation in Ontario: 1. We need to learn from history and from other jurisdictions. 2. We need binding legislation that gives society an acceptable balance of social, economic, and environmental benefits. 3. We need information and research to support well-informed decisions and policy. 4. We must know how to value alternative uses, such as environmental needs and agricultural needs. 5. We need supporting institutions and policy instruments that are appropriate for Ontario (water markets are appropriate in Australia). 6. We need to monitor scarce resources. 7. Farmers would be wise to lead policy on these matters. Final Thoughts on Water Policy The Australia Water Act (2007) required that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan “promote the use and management of the Basin water resources in a way that optimizes economic, social and environmental outcomes” [italics added]. At first, Dyack was concerned that the use of the word “optimizes” would be too open to interpretation; however, in retrospect, this language actually forced groups—economists, biologists, hydrologists, environmentalists, etc.—to talk to one another, work together, and come to an agreement about how best to manage the sharing of water between agriculture and the environment. Once they bring all their best analysis together as an interdisciplinary group and haggle about the pros and cons, costs and benefits, then they can properly advise policy makers. In contrast, Ontario’s Water Act (2007) is not demanding enough on the experts or the policy makers. The Act states that “the purpose of this Act is to provide for the


conservation, protection and management of Ontario’s waters and for their efficient and sustainable use, in order to promote Ontario’s long-term environmental, social, and economic well-being” [italics added]. Based on her experience in Australia, Dyack would recommend including the word “optimize,” which demands that advisors provide the best integrated triple bottom line advice and that policy makers put in place legislation that delivers on optimizing for the good of society today and into the future. Australia’s Crisis and Ontario’s Challenge How does the Australian water crisis story relate to Ontario’s sustainability challenges? In Ontario, we are not as concerned with water availability, but we are concerned with other important issues at the interface between the environment and agriculture. These include water quality in the Great Lakes, soil quality, and carbon emissions. The best policies will come from well-informed consideration of the costs and benefits of alternatives. As it is now, there are knowledge gaps that need to be filled, and farmer perspectives need to be communicated to policy makers now—before a crisis hits. Brenda Dyack is Principal Research Associate at Agri-Food Economic Systems. Her expertise is in agri-environmental economics as well as agricultural research and innovation policy. Prior to joining Agri-Food Economic Systems, Brenda was with the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the University of Canberra in Australia. Brenda has written extensively on agri-environmental economics, especially in relation to water, and is an expert in the assessment of agricultural research and innovation policy.

Christian Farmers & Water Stewardship The CFFO believes that water will be the next major issue for agriculture in Ontario. The 2017 Water Stewardship Workshop is part of a larger CFFO initiative to build the reservoir of knowledge on agricultural water across the province. In 2014, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario received funding through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative, to build industry knowledge on agricultural water use. The CFFO wanted to engage the wider community in being part of this knowledge-building exercise and built a team of knowledgeable people to lead their organizations and the industry on water stewardship issues. The Water Resource Stewardship Team, formed in 2015, is made up of staff representatives across disciplines (e.g. livestock, field crops, greenhouses, conservation, etc.) in order to get different perspectives, build communications, and share knowledge across organizations. The team also played a large part in developing the 2017 Water Stewardship Workshop.

The 2017 Water Resource Stewardship Team Suzanne Armstrong, Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Richard Blyleven, Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Holly Dolan, Sr. Policy Advisor, Policy Development Unit, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs Mark Eastman, Credit Valley Conservation Authority Katherine Fox, Beef Farmers of Ontario Heather Hargrave, Ontario Sheep Mel Luymes/Bruce Kelly, Farm & Food Care Ontario Clarence Nywening, Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Tina Schankula, Ontario Federation of Agriculture Justine Taylor/Nathan Warkentin, Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Amy Tenbult, Ontario Soil & Crop Improvement Association Joshua Wise/Sarah Hedges, Ontario Nature Project management services for the Water Stewardship Workshop provided by Susan Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald & Co.

642 Woolwich St. Guelph, Ontario N1H 3Y2 519-837-1620 1-855-800-0306 @CFFOnt

CHRISTIAN FARMERS Federation Of Ontario

CFFO Water Stewardship Workshop  
CFFO Water Stewardship Workshop