Good Water Stewardship a Must

June 25, 2021 | Clarence Nywening

Good Water Stewardship a Must

As farmers, we need to keep on top of a lot of issues – taking care of plants and animals, watching markets, making sure our machines work the way they’re supposed to and much, much more. But the very basis of our ability to farm are healthy soil and safe, plentiful water. 

Anyone who experienced the dry weather of May – and previous years of drought – understands the importance of good water stewardship.

Last month was particularly bad for dry weather in southwestern Ontario. While normally it would receive about 90 to 100 millimetres of rain, the area received only a tenth of that. Most of the areas where crops are grown in the province are experiencing moderate to severe drought, and it’s as bad or worse in places like Manitoba.

With increasingly erratic weather, we need to be more mindful than ever about properly managing our water resources. Our future may depend on it. In fact, Kamala Harris, the U.S. Vice-President, recently warned that, while in the past wars were fought over oil, in the future they will be over water.

The CFFO recognizes the importance of farmers being able to access clean water when they need it. Almost three years ago, we encouraged the Ontario government to develop and fund water resource research and monitoring projects, to provide farmers with incentives for improving water quality and soil health and to make the regulatory environment sensitive to agriculture’s need for water.

We also asked that the government ensure that we can continue to use the infrastructure and systems we need to control an increasingly erratic supply of water, including retention/storage facilities, drainage and irrigation.

Fortunately, the needle has moved, somewhat, on this one – thanks to a concerted effort by our industry, Indigenous groups and government to better prepare for the droughts, floods and other consequences that will come.

Last December, the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food announced public consultations around the creation of a Canada Water Agency that would “find the best ways to keep our water safe, clean, and well managed.”

While the main consultations closed on March 31st, talks will continue between the government and Indigenous people throughout 2021. A summary of recommendations that came out of the work is available on the federal government’s website. I encourage everyone to find out how our country can move forward with research and policies that will protect both the safety and abundance of our water supply.

Clarence Nywening is General Manager of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and CHLP Listowel.