Agriculture and Water – How Will Climate Change Impact the Future on Vancouver Island?


Managing Water Workshop_cover

Moving Towards Settlement, Economy and Ecology in Balance

Water is a form maker. It defines communities. Furthermore, the consequences of water-centric decisions ripple through time. Also, water security will be the governing factor when envisioning a sustainable future on Vancouver Island.

Recognizing these factors, the “Managing Water Workshop” on December 9, 2014 is designed to spark a conversation and ultimately inform a shared vision for Vancouver Island. The workshop will demonstrate tools that can help communities move towards settlement, economy and ecology in balance.

The workshop program is cascading – from high-level visioning to ground-level applications. Adaptation to a changing climate is a unifying theme. Both the urban and agricultural perspectives are represented.

The workshop program comprises four modules. In Module C, the 3-person presentation team will help workshop attendees understand the complexities of planning for food security, land management and related water issues.

2014_AGM Workshop_Module C Team

Adapt to a Changing Climate

Food security, protection of agricultural lands and water uses are issues facing Vancouver Islanders. Agriculture is a high consumer of water. The Module C Team will address this defining question: What can be done to protect our food lands and the water needed to grow food in a changing climate? Module C comprises three topics:

  • Food Security on Vancouver Island – What will it take to get there (Mark Robbins, former Regional Agrologist with the Ministry of Agriculture)
  • What do Agricultural Land Inventories Tell Us (Corrine Roesler, Land Information Coordinator with the Ministry of Agriculture)
  • Agriculture Water Demand – What will Happen with Climate Change (Ted van der Gulik, former with the Ministry of Agriculture)

Is Food Security Even Possible?

“To achieve any resemblance of food security for Vancouver Island will require a major shift in the way we are managing our agriculture lands today, how we protect them in the future, and acceptance of the need to secure water for the production of food on these lands,” states Ted van der Gulik.

“In Module C, we will discuss what it will take to obtain food security for Vancouver Island. How much land would we need, and how much needs to be irrigated to achieve that level of production. Is it even possible?”

How the Agriculture Water Demand Model will Help Local Governments Make Informed Decisions

“How will climate change effect the production of food and will improvements in irrigation efficiency make a significant difference for water requirement by the agriculture sector? Are there improvements in water efficiency that can be obtained by growing crops that use less water? Will changes to diets lead to more or less water use?”

“The presentation on the Agriculture Water Demand Model – currently operating for the Cowichan Valley , Nanaimo and Comox Valley regions – will provide guidance and answers to these and many other questions about agricultural water use.”

“On Vancouver Island, the Agriculture Water Demand Model has been implemented through partnership agreements with three regional districts, namely – Cowichan Valley, Nanaimo and Comox Valley.”

“The data from Agriculture Land Use Inventories (ALUI) that are used within the Agriculture Water Demand Model also provide an insight on how we are currently managing agriculture lands.”

Ag Water Demand Model

How the Agricultural Land Use Inventory is Used

“Good policy decisions are based on quality data. ALUI data facilitates local government planning for agriculture, monitoring of trends in their communities, and evaluation of proposed regulations,” continues Corrine Roesler.

“It has been used to determine potential conflicts along Urban/ALR edges, crop practices along riparian areas with endangered species, and consequences of proposed changes to setbacks and minimum lot sizes.”

“ALUI data can also assist the Province and local governments during emergencies such as floods, fires and other threats that impact agriculture. Are we making the right choices today to set us up for the future?”

This barchart illustrates the results of the Agricultural Land Use Inventory for Delta Municipality in the Metro Vancouver region

This barchart illustrates the results of the Agricultural Land Use Inventory for Delta Municipality in the Metro Vancouver region

About the Module C Team

Biographical sketches for the members of the Module C team are presented below. Relevant career experience is highlighted to connect the dots to three Module C presentation topics.

Mark Robbins

Mark Robbins has farmed for the past 30 years breeding thoroughbred horses, raising chicken and turkeys and operating a 40 acre raspberry farm.  Prior to his recent retirement, he was also a Regional Agrologist with the Ministry of Agriculture where he was the lead Ministry contact on local bylaws for Langley and Abbotsford.

His career included work developing the first farm bylaw (mushroom composting), developing edge-planning guidelines, temporary worker housing and residential use bylaw standards.

Corrine Roesler

A former forester, GIS analyst, and software developer, Corrine Roesler has always been interested in generating the type of information that drives decisions. Corrine currently leads the Agricultural Land Use Inventory program at the BC Ministry of Agriculture office in Abbotsford.

Over the last 6 years, she has inventoried over 1 million hectares of BC’s farmland describing current use and future potential. Many groups are using the data to build an understanding of utilization, availability, needs and values of agricultural land.

The Agricultural Land Use Inventory provides the crop and livestock data required by the Agricultural Water Demand Model and has been used by more than 30 communities to inform agricultural area plans, watershed sustainability plans, and other community plans. The Agricultural Land Use Inventory program is a finalist at this year’s Real Estate Foundation of BC Land Awards.

Ted van der Gulik

Ted van der Gulik is a professional engineer, recently retired from a 35 year career with the Ministry of Agriculture specializing in irrigation, water management and water resources planning.

Ted is currently the president of the Partnership for Water Sustainability and is the chair of the Water Balance Model project.  He is also the chair of the Irrigation Industry Association Certification Board.

During his career he  built an international reputation for his leading edge work in agricultural water management.  This was demonstrated by his selection as the Irrigation Association’s 2000 Crawford Reid Memorial Award recipient recognizing his work in promoting proper irrigation techniques.

Ag Water Demand Model_study areas