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Farmers standing in field beside pick-up truck


Katja Rochacewich – Sustainability Manager, Canada

Canadian farmers are excellent stewards of the land and water, constantly seeking the best ways to build resilient operations that can continue for generations. Faced with recent drought across the Prairies, farmers are keenly aware of the importance of conserving water and improving water quality to irrigate crops, water livestock and maintain wildlife habitats.


With agricultural practices under increased public scrutiny, farmers know everyone benefits if they play a leading role in developing reliable, sustainable methods to preserve and enhance their local environments. Through expanded water stewardship practices and development of partnerships, farmers can implement proven strategies that contribute toward soil stabilization, water conservation and water-quality improvements.


As with any sustainability challenge, the key to success is a commitment to take many smaller meaningful steps in the right direction and with the right partners. In 2022, BASF, along with ALUS, The Water Council, Nutrien, General Mills and J.R. Simplot, came together with participating farms in the Redboine and Central Assiniboine Watersheds in a large collaboration between farmers, corporations, not-for-profits and other stakeholders to address water quality and quantity challenges in the Lake Winnipeg Basin. Through this pilot project, farmers were able to weigh in and implement an expanded water stewardship practice with the intended benefit toward soil stabilization, water conservation and water quality. 


In this first phase, participating farmers in the region applied a global water stewardship framework on their operations. Farmer participants crafted comprehensive water stewardship plans in accordance with the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) standard, which were then analyzed by EcoMetrics. The farmer participants also identified current water stewardship actions and explored additional practices that could be applied across the 34,000 acres, growing potatoes, grains and oilseeds. Potential outcomes of water stewardship strategies outlined in the water stewardship plans were forecasted by the EcoMetrics reports and are published here.


Because natural systems are interconnected, the practices driven by water stewardship commitments will provide benefits in many other areas and to many other stakeholders beyond the farm. This pilot project in the Lake Winnipeg basin found farmers who use a full suite of water stewardship practices can improve soil stabilization, reduce runoff, increase water availability and enhance water quality, leading to a more stable rural economy and increased biodiversity. The most valuable results come from combining cropland stewardship strategies (e.g., crop rotation or changes in tillage) and enhancements to edge-of-field and marginal farmlands (e.g., developing wetlands or incorporating and maintaining hedgerows).


Ultimately, farmers, surrounding communities and the local environment can realize the greatest benefits from full implementation of water stewardship practices. Throughout this pilot project, participating farmers broadened their knowledge of water stewardship and the connections their activities have to the watershed and surrounding communities.

This pilot project points the way to identify, quantify and value water stewardship outcomes and capture the social, economic and environmental value of on-farm water stewardship efforts. At BASF, we are dedicated to helping farmers and our food system shape the future of sustainable farming. We’re proud to partner with farmers, the ultimate stewards of the land and water, in doing the biggest job on earth.