Climate Change, Water Issues and a Petition

Canada’s wildfire season is off to an intense start and winter is barely over. More than 100 fires are burning across British Columbia. Several communities in northern Alberta are under evacuation alert already. Climate scientists have been warning us about this for decades, of course. Our weirdly warm winter produced hardly any snow, and left drought conditions right across the prairies to B.C. So, right now, the conditions are already more conducive to generating wildfires than they were at this time last year, and the federal government has now officially warned us that this wildfire season could indeed be worse than in 2023.

It is hard to look forward to another summer of toxic smoke and brutal, deathly heat. Despite all this, the SaskParty government released a budget that didn’t mention the “climate crisis” once.

In fact, Premier Scott Moe is forging ahead with his Diefenbaker Dam Expansion Project. Lake Diefenbaker was created in 1967 by the provincial and federal governments to supply water for a range of purposes, including irrigation. Currently, persistent drought has damaged crop yields and challenged the economic viability of farmers and ranchers and has both Saskatchewan and Alberta announcing plans to ramp up irrigation.

Saskatchewan River water levels are in trouble

According to the Canadian Drought Monitor, the South Saskatchewan River sits at its second lowest level in the past 23 years. Lake Diefenbaker is currently at approximately three-quarters capacity, one metre higher than this time last year and 1.5 metres higher than in spring 2022. The update, provided by the Water Security Agency, aligns with the most recent run-off report issued in mid-March that predicted persistent dry conditions for the majority of Saskatchewan for a third year in a row. We have a shrinking water supply and increased demand okayed by the SaskParty government. The math doesn’t add up. We are in trouble. 

Last month (March 13), the provincial government made an initial $19 million investment in a planned $1.4 billion project to expand irrigation at Lake Diefenbaker by 90,000 acres. Four years ago, Premier Moe estimated the cost of the Irrigation Project at 4 billion dollars; he has recently admitted it will cost ‘considerably more’ now. Our tax dollars are being thrown into a project to make a few southern Saskatchewan already-rich megafarmers even richer. This is happening while the SaskParty pays no attention to climate modelling and the danger our entire water supply is in, with so much sourced from diminishing Rocky Mountain snowpack with its dramatically shrinking glaciers.

Lake Diefenbaker Water Levels

The government is forging ahead with this project, ignoring a petition undersigned by 14 environmental groups that was delivered to the federal Ministry of Environment in 2021, asking for intervention to mandate an environmental impact assessment before any of the projects breaks ground. The letter argues that public concern about ecological harm warrants exercising federal jurisdiction under the Impact Assessment Act. There is good reason to keep putting pressure on the federal government to intervene and pause this project!

The SaskParty clearly laid out its plans to expand production of oil, potash, ranching, farming, mining and other resource-based exports. Water is a huge component in fracking, and we now have over 10,000 fracking wells in Saskatchewan; in comparison, twenty years ago we had about one hundred. This is a Super water-intensive industry. The government is banking on fracking to boost oil production by 25 percent by 2030. Similarly, ALL these other SaskParty plans are also water-intensive at a time when water scarcity due to climate change is becoming a much bigger problem for our province.

The South and North Saskatchewan Rivers both originate in Alberta. Most of our water is snowmelt from the Rockies, with the snowpack going down for the past 30 years. We haven’t noticed it quite as much because the glaciers are melting. But the forecast is that there will be no east-facing glaciers in the Columbian Ice Field by 2050. The reality is that the source of water that is currently maintaining the rivers will stop.

"Our water is a precious resource that must be conserved and safeguarded for future generations. It is absolutely vital that as the climate crisis progresses, we elect strong climate champions to the legislature who will protect our water."


In fact, Saskatchewan is the only province without a Wetlands Protection Act. It’s time that Saskatchewan follows the lead of our neighbours in Alberta and Manitoba and develops a more balanced mitigation policy, one that offers protection for municipalities, producers and society. 

When wetlands are drained, we lose the benefits they provide: clean water, flood and drought protection, and recreational opportunities. In late 2019, the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency (WSA) began consulting stakeholders on a new Wetland Conservation Policy for agricultural land that would allow drainage to occur, but with limits designed to ensure the preservation of wetland benefits. The biggest deficiency of WSA’s policy is the provision allowing landowners to drain smaller wetlands in exchange for implementing alternate conservation measures, such as planting winter cereals or protecting other natural areas. While it is great that they are talking about conserving other areas, that is still not the same as actually conserving wetlands.

Saskatchewan must have a Wetlands Conservation Policy that doesn’t fall short of what is actually needed. As well, we also need legislation to protect our grasslands.


We demand that: 

*Crown grasslands remain publicly owned and protected from development, including former PFRA and provincial pastures.

*Halt the sale of public land with ecological value including Crown lands that, until removed by a recent Order-in-Council, had been protected under the Wildlife Habitat Protection Act.

*Introduce legislation to strengthen the Environmental Assessment Process to better involve the public and protect the remaining grasslands from development.

*Bring forward legislation to protect native prairie, including monitoring and enforcing Conservation Easements preventing the breaking of these lands. Once native prairie is broken it cannot be restored.


Please sign here in support of a needed Saskatchewan Wetlands Protection Plan!

Saskatchewan Green Party Wetlands Petition 2024


Water is Life!


Naomi Hunter,

Saskatchewan Green Party Leader

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