Potential for similar flood, drought risk computer model for Assiniboine River Basin brings key Manitoba groups to table

(Winnipeg, MB) June 1, 2015---A recently-approved Aquanty computer modelling project underway on Alberta's South Saskatchewan River Basin is drawing strong looks from Manitoba agricultural and conservation groups keen on the potential of what a similar project might be for Manitoba. 

"We are excited to learn more about Aquanty and their work in Alberta and how their proposal for a similar computer modeling project here in Manitoba might work," says Henry Nelson, Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association's (MFGA) vice-chair. "Aquanty has provided us with the "HydroGeoSphere modelling platform for the Assiniboine River Basin" proposal, a cutting-edge computer modelling platform that might serve as a valuable component of a flood and drought risk mitigation strategy for Manitoba. Our discussions around this proposal are bringing key agricultural and conservation interests to the discussion table." 

Aquanty is a hydrologic modeling and software development firm that began as a spinoff from the University of Waterloo. Aquanty utilizes a range of high performance computing resources to run physically complex simulations of water movement through surface water and groundwater flow systems. MFGA is coordinating stakeholder discussions around the Aquanty proposal and has applied to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's AgriRisk Initiatives (ARI) program as the proponent on the Aquanty proposal coordination over the three-year period. The modelling proposal, at this time, is structured similarly to the South Saskatchewan River Basin Aquanty project that has the Alberta Federation of Agriculture at the project helm and would seek funding via a hybrid of Growing Forward 2 and industry resources. 

"MFGA has engaged in this proposal as we believe grasslands and forage crops are a critical part of the solution for future flood and drought ravaged areas of southwest Manitoba," says Henry Nelson, MFGA's vice-chair. "If it works out here, the Aquanty proposal will provide valuable data and expertise to reinforce this fact while furthering the importance of proactive solutions for producers and Manitobans. But, we will need the help, insights and experience of numerous key players from the agricultural industry, conservation organizations and government departments to explore this possibility in the most feasible way."

Nelson says the Aquanty proposal is currently a work in progress and believes it is necessary to bring Manitoba groups up to speed and then involve leaders from other jurisdictions such as Saskatchewan, Alberta and North Dakota. Nelson highlights the input of the Assiniboine River Basin Initiative (ARBI), Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP) and Manitoba Conservation Districts Association (MCDA) as necessary and valuable stakeholders around the table. All were among the stakeholders in meetings held recently in Winnipeg, along with representatives from AAFC, Aquanty, and provincial government departments. Dr. Allan Preston, chair of ARBI, concurs. 

"While we are certainly not at the full commitment stage we are well down the road toward pulling Manitoba into a parallel position with Alberta and then we need to bring Saskatchewan and North Dakota into the mix," says Preston. "To do this, we will have to engage and work closely with KAP and other leaders here in Manitoba as well as engaging and working with their counterparts in Saskatchewan and North Dakota." 

Dan Mazier, president of KAP, has been monitoring the Alberta project closely and is a strong advocate of the Aquanty proposal's potential to help Manitoba farmers hit hard by flooding. 

"Floods and droughts have significant financial impacts," says Mazier. "Not only would this type of modelling help farmers and rural communities manage the risk, it will also enable us to take a proactive approach to water management. This is a modern-day solution to a decades-old problem, and it will help us adapt to a changing environment now and in the future." 

As current chair and long-time executive member of the MCDA, Heather Dalgleish knows full well of the challenges Manitoba faces with flooding and drought. She has been very active in the province's surface water dialogues and was impressed with the Aquanty potential after seeing the presentation. Dalgleish believes Aquanty could be a valuable catalyst for Manitoba's agricultural producers and conservation interests going forward. 

"Our organization works closely with producers, governments, and other conservation groups," says Dalgleish. "We all know historically we have faced flood and drought challenges .Many indicators show our future may have increased risk of floods and droughts. The Aquanty proposal may very well represent a valuable component of a future flood and drought risk mitigation strategy for Manitoba. We are interested in learning more." 

Nelson says the next steps for the modelling proposal will be a series of stakeholder communications and meetings to continue to build momentum, including an Aquanty presentation at the ARBI Board meeting at the end of June where many key stakeholders from all across the basin will be in attendance. 




For More Information: 

Duncan Morrison 
Executive Director, MFGA 
Cell: 204-770-3548