DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Water Allocation, Irrigation, and Food Security” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2021


Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the vision for Living Water Smart in British Columbia to build greener communities and adapt to a changing climate; and embrace “design with nature” approaches to reconnect people, land, fish, and water in altered landscapes.

The edition of Waterbucket eNews published on November 16, 2021 featured the Agricultural Water Demand Model. With longer and drier summers being the new reality for water management, this tool is a game-changer for achieving food security.

Water Allocation, Irrigation, and Food Security in BC

The genesis for British Columbia’s Agriculture Water Demand Model (AWDM) was the 2003 “teachable year”. In the Okanagan, for example, the response by local governments and others to the drought crisis was to look to reallocation of agricultural irrigation as a solution to water woes in urban areas. Agricultural irrigation accounted for some 80% of total water use in the region. Surely, their thinking went, unused agricultural irrigation water could simply be reallocated for residential use in cities.

“That’s when I started thinking that we don’t even know how much we need or how much we have,” recalls Ted van der Gulik, the former Senior Engineer with the Ministry of Agriculture. “So how could we start going down that path? And that was the genesis for the AWDM. I had no idea at the time as to what it was going to look like or what it was going to be. I was thinking that it would be something very simple.”

“But I was working with researchers, notably Denise Nielsen, a research scientist with the Summerland Agriculture and Research Centre for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Denise and her colleagues go beyond simple. They said no, we can get this down to an exact science.”

“The contribution by the research team members at the Summerland Research Centre was huge! It was basically two components that we had to do. We had to survey all the farms. We had to know exactly what they were going. And what kind of irrigation system they had. Then we incorporated soils from the soils database.”

“And then came the biggest challenge. It wasn’t the most money, but it was the hardest job, and that was to downscale climate data to a 500m climate grid. That was the game-changer. Because then we had daily data and when you have daily data you can calculate crop water use every day throughout the entire growing season.”

“The model did that for all the climate cells in the Okanagan. For all the crops on every property. And it did it in about 3 minutes. You’re talking billions of calculations. We could then run a whole series of years. We did all that and compared years.”

“We matched up the model results with an irrigation district that had meters. And the two sets of data tracked very closely. Our tool is doing a pretty good job calculating agricultural water demand, we concluded. And that led us from the Okanagan to do the rest of BC.”


To read the complete story published on November 16th 2021, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Water Allocation, Irrigation, and Food Security.