Agriculture Drought and Excess Moisture Risk Management Plan for Alberta

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Introducing the ADEMRMP | What is drought? What is excess moisture? | Vision | Goals | Risk Management Actions | Moisture condition

Introduction to the ADEMRMP

Extreme weather events create challenging decision-making situations for the agriculture industry. The effect of weather extremes can be seen during all seasons, particularly during the growing season. Within the Province of Alberta, extremely dry and extremely wet conditions can exist concurrently during the same season.

Although extremely dry or drought conditions can begin slowly and subtly, experience has proven that the impact can be as significant as other more dramatic disasters. Reduced crop, forage, hay productivity and lack of livestock water are examples of impacts.

Excess moisture conditions can result from both dramatic flooding and extreme, intense precipitation conditions which can damage agricultural crops, prevent seeding, and carry away top soil, as well as damaging infrastructure and property.

In the past, reactive measures and emergency responses were costly and often provided only short-term solutions. In contrast, the current pro-active risk management approach prepares for and mitigates short term and long-term impacts; as well as, long term vulnerability to extreme weather events.

The Agriculture Drought Risk Management Plan (ADRMP), implemented in 2001-2002, was built upon the province’s experiences with drought and government responses, beginning with the mid-1930’s Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act.

Building on past experiences, the ADRMP was updated in 2010 and focused on planning and preparedness measures; further developing the risk management approach.

As the agricultural industry experienced excess moisture events, the need to plan for these extreme events resulted in another update. This version of the plan, the Agriculture Drought and Excess Moisture Risk Management Plan (ADEMRMP), continues to provide a framework for a coordinated, pro-active approach to reduce the short and long-term effects of drought and excess moisture on Alberta farmers and ranchers. It will guide government agencies in assisting producers to more effectively reduce the impacts before, during and after an adverse event, and will help the agricultural industry to be more prepared and less vulnerable to moisture extremes.

The intent is to continue with the three strategies of preparedness, monitoring and reporting, and response. Throughout the implementation of ADEMRMP strategies, awareness of, and alignment with, the other policy frameworks of government will promote the adaptability of the ADEMRMP.

Farmers and ranchers manage operations in an increasingly uncertain world. ADEMRMP tools help agricultural producers make informed business decisions.
Risk management strategies described in this document are available not only for farmers and producers, but also for government. The idea behind this approach to moisture extremes is to expect the events and plan around them, rather than regard them as crises requiring ad hoc measures.

What is Drought? What is Excess Moisture?

Drought:: There is no definitive definition of drought. Research in the early 1980s uncovered more than 150 published definitions of drought, definitions that reflect differences in regions, needs, and disciplinary approaches.

The huge range in the perception of drought depends on the individual's experiences and the climatic region where they live. Some people may have a ‘feeling’ that they are experiencing drought after just a few weeks of no rain; whereas others may consider drought to occur only when paddocks are denuded of grass.

Drought is commonly considered to be a deficiency of moisture when compared to some normal or expected amount over an extended period of time.

Some repercussions of drought include:
- Decreased agricultural production: crops, livestock, range / pasture
- Decreased water supplies: wells, dugouts, streams, lakes, wetlands
- Increased fire
- Increased pests, such as grasshoppers
- Long-lasting effects: soil erosion
- Multi-sector effects resulting in:

    o Decreased employment
    o Net farm losses
    o Decreased GDP
These repercussions may be complicated by overgrazing and tillage practices.

Dry periods can also result in water shortages for licensed water users and can affect municipal
and industrial water supplies and impact on lake, river, reservoir and groundwater levels. Water allocation and water shortage is managed under the Water Act.

For the purposes of this Plan, drought is defined as an extended period of below-normal precipitation rsulting in decreased soil and sub-soil moisture levels and diminished water supplies affecting crop growth, livestock water or irrigation water.

Excess Moisture: Similar to drought, repercussions of excess moisture can also have a negative impact on agricultural production, and managing this risk is now included in the ADEMRP.

Repercussions of excess moisture may include:
- Damaged (decreased) agricultural production: crops, livestock, range / pasture
- Erosion
- Waterlogging
- Multi-sector effects resulting in:
    o Decreased employment
    o Net farm losses
    o Decreased GDP
- Inability to access saturated land
- Seeds washed away
- Plants drowned out or washed away
- Re-management of reservoir systems to attenuate early-season flood risk can reduce water supplies available for irrigation later in the growing season

For the purposes of this Plan, excess moisture is defined as excess rains or sudden melting of snow or river or lake floods, resulting in water covering land that is normally dry land.

Vision for the ADEMRMP

The Agriculture Drought and Excess Moisture Risk Management Plan (ADEMRMP) is a pro-active and fiscally responsible approach to mitigating the effects of drought and excess moisture on Alberta’s agricultural areas.

  • The drought and excess moisture management planning and actions of government are:
      - communicated to producers,
      - coordinated and effective,
      - consistent over time, and amongst departments, and
      - moisture situation monitoring and reporting is effective and timely, supporting planning and action.
  • Alberta's agricultural producers have access to, and use the knowledge provided, to manage risk associated with moisture extremes like periodic drought and excess moisture; and are therefore more prepared and less vulnerable to those extremes.

Risk Management Actions

The ADEMRMP is supported by three approaches to action that are in turn linked to the various levels of moisture conditions:
  • preparedness focuses on year-round efforts, especially during near normal conditions, to increase the level of resilience of the agricultural community and government to mitigate the effect of the extreme moisture event.
  • monitoring and reporting includes ongoing monitoring, evaluation and reporting on soil moisture conditions, precipitation amounts, and temperature regimes in the agricultural areas of Alberta. and
  • response involves taking appropriate action during and immediately following a drought or excess moisture event to reduce negative impacts on producers.

Moisture Condition

The three levels of moisture or hyrdometeorological conditions that are addressed in the risk management action plan and that are used throughout the reporting mechanisms of the ADEMRMP are:

Normal or Near Normal Conditions:
  • Precipitation amounts and soil moisture reserves are near normal
  • Crops and pastures are not showing moisture stress
  • Temperature regime is near normal
  • Normal releases from reservoirs
Exceptional / Notable Conditions:
  • The province or a portion of the province is operating under the potential for drought conditions
  • Precipitation amounts and soil moisture reserves are low to very low or high to very high
  • Crops and pastures are beginning to show moisture stress
  • Declining stream flows and water shortages beginning to emerge or moisture levels in excess of normal and its effects are noticed
  • Temperature regime may be higher or lower than normal
Extreme Conditions:
  • The province or a portion of the province is suffering drought or excess moisture
  • Precipitation amounts and soil moisture reserves are extremely low or high
  • Crops and pastures are suffering moisture stress with significant yield reductions expected to occur
  • Severe water supply deficits affect agricultural production
  • Water surplus is obvious and affecting crops and land access
  • Temperature regime may be extremely high or low

The full Alberta Agriculture Drought and Excess Moisture Risk Management Plan can be viewed by clicking here The ADEMRMP.

Other Documents in the Series

  Preparing for Extreme Soil Moisture Conditions
Monitoring and Reporting Precipitation and Soil Moisture Conditions
Agriculture Drought and Excess Moisture Risk Management Plan for Alberta - Current Document
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Isabel Simons-Everet.
This information published to the web on May 13, 2002.
Last Reviewed/Revised on June 24, 2016.