WEBs in the Salmon River Watershed
The Watershed Evaluation of Beneficial Management Practices (WEBs) is a Canada-wide program to measure the economic and water quality impacts of specific agricultural beneficial management practices (BMPs) at nine watershed sites — including the Salmon River watershed in BC’s Shuswap region. The Fraser Basin Council has been a part of a recent WEBs project on the Salmon River, which is aimed at helping producers increase efficiency in irrigation.
An Early Focus — Managing Cattle for Watershed Health
WEBs work in the Salmon River watershed began in 2004. Federal agriculture statistics then showed more than 300 farms in the area — primarily beef and sheep ranching, dairy farming, and forage production. The region is dry during the growing season, and water from the Salmon River is used to produce forage for winter feeding.
The initial focus of the program (2004-2008) was on improving water quality and riparian health through cattle exclusion fencing and off-stream watering. A final report wrapping up experiences of WEBs watershed projects, including the Salmon River, is available on the Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada website, the major program funder along with Ducks Unlimited.
A Current Focus — Irrigation Efficiency
More recently, a WEBS initiative in the Salmon River watershed has targeted irrigation efficiency. The aim is a win-win for agriculture and the environment by protecting sufficient water for both. A particular focus has been expansion of the network of local climate stations in the region, and helping agricultural producers use evapotranspiration and other data to plan their irrigation schedules.
This project runs 2010-2013 through a partnership of Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada, BC Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Natural Resource Operations, ARDCORP (Environmental Farm Plan) and Salmon River Watershed Roundtable. FBC provides secretariat, education and outreach support for portions of the project.
In 2010-2011 FBC staff of the Thompson region helped promote irrigation beneficial management practices among agricultural producers and other interested members of the community. Workshops offered producers information on irrigation efficiency, climate station installation, use of climate data and irrigation scheduling calculators, Environmental Farm Plan funding, Water Act modernization and the role the Salmon River Watershed Roundtable.
There were encouraging signs. Some producers began to change their irrigation techniques and reduce water consumption, such as by changing sprinkler nozzles, or running their irrigation systems less in response to climate data.
Helpful online resources for producers include: