During the Canadian Pacific Railway's construction of the national railway in the 1880s, it became involved in the sale and settlement of land. Part of the provisions made by the government to the company was a belt of land along the railway. Land grants were administered by the company's Land Department in Winnipeg until 1912 when the responsibility was transferred to its Department of Natural Resources. The administration of land grants was linked to the construction of large irrigation works, which were increasingly being centred in Alberta, therefore the headquarters of the department was moved to Calgary.
In 1903 the company selected a grant in southern Alberta, called the Irrigation Block, upon which to develop irrigation systems. Surveys of the western section of the block (Western Section) began in 1903, and construction was completed in 1910. This section was close to Calgary, headquartered in Strathmore, and consisted of one million acres (400,000 ha). The canal and ditch system served an irrigable area of 218,980 acres (987,600 ha), and was 1,600 miles (2,600 km) in extent. The Project Manager was Robert S. Stockton, who reported to the Chief Engineer, Engineering Branch, Department of Natural Resources in Calgary, A.S. Dawson. In 1944 a new organization, the Western Irrigation District, was formed when the CPR wrote off the farmers' indebtedness and allowed them to run the system as a cooperative. The works, headquarters, land contracts, and unsold land were transferred to the Board of Trustees of the Irrigation District. The CPR retained mineral rights and right-of-way for the railway. Penrose Sauder was appointed general manager of the WID.
For further information see Flow Beyond the Weir : A History of the Western Irrigation District. -- Strathmore : WID, 1994; and L. James Dempsey's article, "The CPR Demonstration and Supply Farm : 1908-1944" in Alberta History, vol.59, no.4 (Autumn, 2011), p. 19-25.