11/13/2014 11:13 EST | Updated 01/13/2015 05:59 EST

Saskatchewan government to use public consults to develop new drainage policy

REGINA - Saskatchewan's Environment minister says the government will use the results from public consultations to create new rules for agricultural drainage.

The Water Security Agency surveyed stakeholders, who gave insight into topics including downstream flooding, water quality and effects on biodiversity.

Last summer, farmers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba dealt with torrential rain and intense flooding.

Norm Hall, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, told The Canadian Press in July that there was talk that farmers draining their land in Saskatchewan added to the flooding in Manitoba.

Minister Scott Moe said he hopes to look at the issue regionally and have new regulations in place by spring.

"We work closely with our neighbours when it comes to the movement of water," Moe said.

Moe said the public consultation results, collected from October 2013 to April 2014, represent the most comprehensive survey on drainage policy in the province.

He said regulations need to be clarified for farmers.

"One point in the report, it said 44 per cent of people didn't realize you needed a permit to conduct drainage," he said.

Moe added that he wants to move from a complaints-based system to a risk-based system, which looks at the risks of each drainage project.

"There are different levels of drainage that are happening out there," he said, calling it a complex issue that has posed the same questions for 30 years.

More than half the participants felt that the current agricultural drainage policy was not effective and almost 90 per cent supported the development of a new one.

In 2012, the agency released Saskatchewan's 25-year plan on water security, which included a commitment to address problems caused by unauthorized drainage.