05/03/2013 02:32 EDT | Updated 07/03/2013 05:12 EDT

Federal, provincial governments splash out $65M to quench farm irrigation needs

REGINA - Farmers in Saskatchewan are getting help with irrigation to provide water for livestock and to spray crops.

The federal and provincial governments said Friday that they are adding $65 million over five years to the Farm and Ranch Water Infrastructure Program.

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said the program, which started in 2008, has been invaluable.

"There were almost 5,500 projects completed across the province, including 12,000 additional acres of irrigated land, and 98 per cent of those projects were on farm. The balance would be community wells," he said.

"With the additional funding, I think we can expect great things."

The projects include wells, dugouts, running pipelines, connections to rural water utilities, wellhead protection and well decommissions.

Dave Marit, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, said his own community, the Rural Municipality of Willow Bunch, set up three community wells and two ranchers have tied in to get water for their cattle. Other ranchers have taken similar action, he said.

"We had guys that did pipelines for a mile to get water to pastures that were critical for their livelihood and to increase the herds. I think that was the important thing," said Marit, who added the program helps develop long-term, reliable sources of water.

"They had the grass, but they didn't have water and now we've done that."

Stewart said he doesn't expect demand for the program to let up, even though 5,500 projects have already been completed.

"There's great demand for water improvements out there and this program makes many water improvements feasible that otherwise wouldn't be."

The $65 million is to be split 60-40 between the federal and provincial governments.