So why aren't we using the water?
We have acres of potable water at our beck and call in the form of the Rafferty and Alameda reservoirs, and yet we are doing precious little with it in terms of investment, development and recreational pursuits.
The question came to mind again this week following a forward push being made by the Upper Qu'Appelle Water Conveyance Project that sponsored a tour of the Moose Jaw-Regina area, promoting the prospects of irrigation programs in that region.
A successful 30-year-old irrigation program is continuing further north thanks to Lake Diefenbaker.
The proponents of the Upper Qu'Appelle proposal estimate that the pumping, reservoir and spillway costs would come in around $455 million, but it would be well worth the effort.
Which begs the question again — why aren't we using the water we already have?
We don't require spillways ... that was checked off the list decades ago. We don't require a reservoir, we have those already and nothing needs to be pumped into them. In fact our recent troubles have been created by not being able to pump enough of the water out in an orderly fashion to prevent flooding.
We have fertile valley land, plains and plateaus that appear to be suited for crops that would take to irrigation. We have an ambitious and creative agricultural community that has successfully explored all kinds of non-traditional crops.
The weather conditions are conducive to growing much more and different crop species if we cared to.
We understand the soil conditions are not as rich as they might be around Lake Diefenbaker, but agriculture specialists inform us that there is no real legitimate reason not to pursue the prospects of irrigation and that has been seconded by those who are in the business of irrigation in the Outlook/ Elbow/Saskatoon catchment area where projects have already met with success.
New irrigation technologies make the prospects much more feasible and that will only get better.
It is a shame that we haven't made better use of this vital life-giving resource other than to use it to bring oil up out of the ground and to build a few cottages around reservoirs in just two small patches where miles of potential shoreline begs to be developed for a variety of recreational and business pursuits including golfing, camping, boating, fishing, et al.
Boundary Dam's reservoir ended up with an ad hoc development plan decades ago, an almost unintentional result that came with the damming of water for a power station.
Yet even with Boundary Dam as a modest template, we haven't been able to get a decent development plan off the designer's desk.
At first we thought we could blame the politicians since Rafferty and Alameda came to life just as the provincial government was changing hands. It was well known the incoming NDP of the day were certainly not interested in completing the previous Conservative government's project. They snipped the ribbon to open Shand Power Station because they had to, and then let development drop into the abyss of government black holes.
But even with the return of a government that might have been more inclined to revive the plans and projects ... a government that might have been more friendly toward local developers and recreation- oriented businesses, it hasn't happened.
A Rafferty boat launch near Estevan languishes, only kept alive thanks to devoted local fishers and boaters who refuse to let it go. Promising cottage and economic development along the local shores of Rafferty have never been allowed to happen. Further up the line, limited developments, one and a half golf courses and a hint of business is all that has seen the light of day after all these years.
So again, we ask — why aren't we using the water Why aren't we using the water? Why can't we use the water?