A recent consultation meeting in Swift Current pushing for a wetlands policy to be implemented in Sask. turned into a discussion around the potential expansions of irrigation at Duncairn Reservoir.

About 25 individuals last Wednesday crowded into First United Church's Burnham Room to hear from the Official Opposition Critic of the Water Security Agency Erika Ritchie.

The Saskatoon Nutana MLA has crafted a private members policy, Bill 615 - Wetlands Conservation, and presented a PowerPoint presentation regarding the undertaking. Following sharing the information with those in attendance, she opened the floor to the public for input.

The conversation then shifted from wetlands to irrigation, although the first-term MLA expected that to occur and welcomed it. 

"It's a really tough topic to talk about because people are very vested in the conversation and to show up and be willing to delve into the issue takes a lot of courage," she said.

"The regional issues here in the southwest are different than where we have unapproved drainage happening in the east side of the province. Not to say that there aren't wetlands being impacted by drawing down Reid Lake, there will be. Wetlands occur along water bodies large and small."

Ritchie believes the provincial government is mismanaging water and pointed to their Agricultural Water Management Strategy.

"It's a policy that's focused narrowly on a sector, an important sector, but it leaves so many people out of the conversation," she said. "It won't address the unique issues here in southwest Sask. where the concerns are more about water for irrigation and how that affects the local scene."

The 54-year-old has been tracking the irrigation proposal for Duncairn Reservoir since August of 2023 after attending the Water Security Agency's presentation to Swift Current city council.

Dwight Lemon, the co-chair of the Reid Lake Property Owners Board, has worked closely with Ritchie since. The latter has aided the former in receiving the Water Security Agency's technical assessment and fishery assessment through the Freedom of Information Act.

"That was my first engagement on the file and I have been monitoring and engaging ever since," she said. "We will see where this goes next."  

She believes the province has done a lacklustre job with its consultation process around the irrigation idea and has created a lack of transparency with closed-door meetings.  

"If you want something different, change the government," she said.

Should the NDP be elected, Ritchie would like to see more public engagement on this proposal and a significant increase in data and science research performed.