The Value of Water Retention Beneficial Management Practices to Farmers and Landowners in the Seine Rat Roseau Watershed District
The design of the water retention project is key and can provide a win-win option for both farm owners and their neighbours.
Every dollar invested in water retention projects provides CAD 3 in co-benefits to livestock farm operations in addition to preventing damage to local infrastructure from floods.
In 2022, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Seine Rat Roseau Watershed District (SRRWD), and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Living Lab Eastern Prairies economic team collected and analyzed cost, benefit, and other related information for 10 water retention projects constructed in the Seine, Rat, and Roseau watersheds in Manitoba, Canada. The water retention projects examined in this study were constructed predominantly on livestock farms. However, many of the producers surveyed had a combination of pasture and cropland on their farms.
Based on the evidence collected, the installation of water retention projects changed farm management, allowing for more efficiency and multiple benefits in wet and dry years. The most common benefits reported by producers were:
- Flood protection
- Extended grazing period
- Reduced need to haul water for livestock
- Improved livestock, machinery crossing through berm
- Enhanced wildlife habitat
- Improved downstream water quality
Based on the analysis of 10 projects, the average benefit-to-cost ratio for implementation of water retention project is 2.45, which means that for every dollar invested in water retention over the period of 20 years, producers and the watershed receive $2.45 in water quality, extended grazing, and other co-benefits.
Considering only livestock farms, the average benefit-to-cost ratio is 3.16, meaning that for every dollar invested, livestock producers and the watershed receive $3.16 in water quality, extended grazing, and other co-benefits. Net benefits tended to be highest for the projects that were in operation longer than other water retention projects and reported multiple on-farm benefits.
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