Temporary water permits available for Ontario irrigators

Pond suffering the impact of July’s drought

The extremely dry growing season has been hitting Ontario farmers hard, particularly in the Niagara region. The effects of the intense heat combined with little to no rain has resulted in the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers and the Ontario Fresh Grape Growers’ Marketing Board asking the government to streamline Permit to Take Water (PTTW) procedures.

Map of drought in Southern Ontario for July 2016

With the combination of low moisture levels leading up to the growing season and minimal rainfall through the season, the industry is scrambling to maintain its crops within the current water allotment allowance. Harvesting local, nutritious fruits of marketable size is a commitment growers make to the public. Now, Ontario farmers are turning to irrigation to maintain crop quality.


Matthias Oppenlaender, chair of Grape Growers of Ontario, noted, "Vineyards can sustain a lot of dry, hot weather. However, to produce economically viable yields, water is essential. This continuous lack of moisture has put tremendous strain on new grape plantings and existing vineyards."


In early July, the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers and the Ontario Fresh Grape Growers’ Marketing Board collaboratively sent a letter to the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC). The communication urged the government to collaborate with municipalities and growers to develop short-term and longer-term water infrastructure solutions.


The MOECC, supported by OMAFRA, heard the pleas of Ontario farmers and agreed to a streamlined approval process for PTTW. The streamlining of the approvals process will be done during the current growing season and on a temporary and short-term basis. Requests by growers will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and may include takings from the Great Lakes and connecting channels, takings from dugout ponds and takings from neighbouring permitted sources such as ponds.


Patrick Spezowka, Supervisor, Program Support Services, MOECC in the South West Region, said, “the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change recognizes the unique and difficult situation faced by the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers and the Ontario Fresh Grape Growers. The streamlined urgent permitting process provides farmers with a solution to their immediate water taking needs. This process is available on a temporary and short-term basis during the current growing season to help maintain crop quality. We’ll continue to work collaboratively with the agriculture community to find solutions to current and future challenges.”


“Every water taking source is unique, and potential environmental impacts of the taking need to be evaluated,”says Sasha Novakovic, water specialist at the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association. “Growers are encouraged to contact their regional MOECC office or the OFVGA for additional information and support.”


Over the long-term, the government is committed to working with grower organizations in developing longer-term drought management solutions and infrastructure projects, particularly in the Niagara region, for tender fruit and fresh grape growers. Phil Tregunno, chair of the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers commented, “We look forward to working with the province and municipalities to implement water access strategies that will ensure a sustainable supply of local fruit for consumers.”


Rebecca Shortt, a water quantity engineer at OMAFRA, points to the importance of water conservation efforts as a whole, stating, “Efficient irrigation practices are always important but even more so during dry periods. Some practices which may help stretch irrigation to more crops include ensuring the irrigation system is applying the amount of water expected, using soil moisture instruments to ensure soil is at optimum moisture and avoiding irrigating non-target areas such as roadways and neighbouring fields.”


Despite water conservation efforts, the increasing demand for water has Grape Growers CEO, Debbie Zimmerman stating, "Weather patterns have changed significantly over the years and it will be our collective efforts to plan for these shifts in climate. Clearly we need the Ontario government and its relevant ministries to respond to the immediate needs of the growers with water taking strategies.”




  • Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs – Irrigation  




 Bruce Kelly and Morgan Ellis, Farm & Food Care Ontario. 


If latest news: 
Check if it is latest news (for "Latest News" page)
Publish date: 
Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Click to leave a comment

For security purposes, please confirm you are not a robot!


The perfect storm in accessing crop protection products

In recent years, the mergers of global crop protection companies promised robust R & D pipelines.  But the reality is that fewer products and label extensions will come to horticulture. That’s because there’s a bottleneck of reduced trial capacity at the Pest Management Centre says apple grower Charles Stevens, Newcastle, ON. 


Carbon taxes vs climate change: a hot potato for farmers

The cost of energy-intensive fertilizer is set to increase under a new carbon tax regime. It’s yet another burning issue for horticulture, on top of labour and crop protection. 

Pressure testing your financial health

John Molenhuis, business analysis and cost-of-production specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) worked with the grape, tender fruit and apple groups for years, updating baseline measurements every five years that compare the average of the group to the top 25. 

Wired for launch

Events by invitation-only became the norm in 2020 as the pandemic curbed in-person contact. The impacts of COVID-19 on research, new product launches and extension efforts will be felt for years to come. 

Hardest harvest reveals hard truths and even harder questions

Dejected workers gather to tear down the brittle leaves of a cucumber crop that perished after Nature Fresh Farms was shut down by public health authorities on June 30, 2020. In a recent short documentary, the story is told how 199 asymptomatic workers tested positive for COVID-19 but no one was ever hospitalized. The devastating effects of losing 7.8 million pounds of produce aren’t just economic but emotional as guest workers have testified.