Student Projects

  Here is a showcase of the MLWS students’ Major Projects, which investigate a particular land and water issue. These projects are a culmination of their learning and work experience in the MLWS program. Visit our Major Project page for more details.

Analysis of impervious surface area, and the impacts on soil-based agriculture and the hydrological cycle

A case study in the Agricultural Land Reserve in Metro Vancouver, BC, Canada

By: Ashley Rose, MLWS 2016

The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) was originally established with the goal of protecting prime agricultural soils from being lost to urbanization and other development in the province of British Columbia. However, there are a wide array of activities that are permitted in the ALR such as the construction of greenhouses, crop and dairy barns, estate-sized homes, roads, and commercial facilities that permanently seal the soil with impervious surfaces and take the soil out of production. The objective of this study was to estimate the extent of impervious surface area in the Metro Vancouver ALR in order to analyze the impacts on the hydrologic cycle and to quantify the amount of arable agricultural land that is taken out of production, based on the Soil Capability for Agriculture classification. The information in this report is useful in developing watershed protection strategies and assisting policy makers in making land use decisions to protect the long term integrity of the ALR and soil-based agriculture. FULL REPORT (pdf)

An analytical model of rainfall interception by urban trees

By: Jieying (Jenny) Huang, MLWS 2016 Modelled rainfall interception of four common street tree species Urban trees are recognized for their capacity in improving air quality, aesthetic values, and reducing energy consumption, while their ability to help divert rainfall and reduce urban runoff are often overlooked. This study provides an analytical model on rainwater interception performance of a selection of common urban trees in Metro Vancouver, given a series of climatic and tree characteristics. The model outputs and interface are designed to inform and enhance decision support tools that are used in the development of stormwater management plans and permit applications associated with urban development projects. Specific goals of this study include:
  • Developing a rainfall interception model with different approaches to deriving model parameters
  • Validating the model with empirical data collected in the District of North Vancouver
  • Evaluating the sensitivity of major model parameters
  • Investigating the seasonal rainfall interception performance of four deciduous tree species
  • Projecting future interception performance of selected tree species under climate change scenarios
The rainfall interception model provides useful information to address several aspects of urban stormwater management for different stakeholders. The potential audiences who will benefit from the outcomes of this study are people involved in urban planning and management of stormwater such as city/municipal planners, engineers, developers, and local decision makers. FULL REPORT (pdf)

Conceptualizing Stream Ecosystem Restoration

By: P. Clemens Langemeyer, MLWS 2016 Ecosystem Network. For interactive version, visit Land managers and conservationists generally agree that ecocentric restoration is a mandatory practice with regard to the development of a sustainable future. Years of unsuccessful restoration have led to the realization that conventional approaches are ineffective. Present-day restoration projects continue to be undermined by conceptual models founded decades ago: river systems were seen as inherently homogenous, held in equilibrium by natural processes, and that these processes remained constant regardless of scale. This has led to the continued misunderstanding of the heterogeneity and interconnectivity of streams, a perception that is still represented by conventional restoration practices. The Stream Ecosystem Network is an interactive digital mind map that stimulates thought with respect to ecosystem connectivity, allowing users to visualize various components of stream ecosystems, and how they are interrelated. Environmental professionals capable of identifying and communicating interactions between system components across a multitude of disciplines (systems-thinkers) are a valuable asset to the continued development of this network. This project reviews and discusses how the network might benefit restoration ecologists throughout project development. Several published guidelines serve as a platform for discussing restoration strategy development and the re-integration of riverine natural processes. Interactive Mind Map:

Assessment of the opportunities and challenges of organic cranberry production in BC

By: Adarshana Thapa, MLWS 2016

Cranberries are known to have beneficial health effects and there is limited supply to meet local markets. As the demand for organic foods continues to expand, there is interest in exploring organic cranberry production in British Columbia. Commercial cranberry production in British Columbia is well documented, but there is little information on the feasibility of growing organic cranberries. This study focused on the economic feasibility and challenges of growing organic cranberries in the Lower Fraser Valley of British Columbia, the major producing region for cranberries in the province. The feasibility evaluation was based on three scenarios: a) Growing cranberries on a field that has not been cultivated before; b) Transitioning a field from conventional to organic cranberries, and c) Transitioning from an organic crop to organic cranberries. This study integrated information from industry experts, local organic cranberry growers, researchers and academics. A financial analysis was conducted to provide an assessment of the economic feasibility of initiating organic cranberry production. A financial model, based on a 15 year time frame, was developed that may be used by growers. The model projected that an economic break-even time of 7-14 years could be achieved. FULL REPORT available upon request.

A conceptual framework for a community-based approach to addressing artisanal and small-scale mining in Ghana

By: Alfred Baafi Acheampong, MLWS 2016

Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) in Ghana is becoming a major concern, in spite of its positive economic impacts, particularly in alleviating rural poverty. ASM contributes to the pollution of land and water resources in Ghana, and thus to the health of the ecosystems and the local people. These environmental challenges and ASM-related social issues have resulted in a number of government interventions. These “top-down” approaches and policy implementations have proven unsustainable. The study examined the potential of the introduction of a community-based framework for moving towards a more sustainable ASM in Ghana. Two case studies (Obuasi-Ghana and Mongolia) that involved community-driven intervention with the focus on the integration of technical, institutional and political capacity were examined. The framework developed presents a systematic planning and implementation strategy for project facilitators. ASM interventions should focus on organizing the miners, developing cleaner technology options, and formalizing ASM by strengthening political and institutional support. FULL REPORT available upon request.

Assessing water appropriation and equity in the Coello and Bermellon watersheds, Colombia

Application of Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism (MuSIASEM)

By: Roya Bennett, MLWS 2016Water funds and flows calculated for the Bermellon watershed with the MuSIASEM framework.

Water allocation frameworks have focused largely on allocations of supply and recommendations for supply-side management. This approach does not consider the environmental effects and requirements to sustain ecological services, nor the equitable allocation among users. The Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism (MuSIASEM) approach assesses the complex interactions between socioeconomic and environmental facets of water resources. The framework integrates the ecological availability of water, as well as the socioeconomic water use across sectors and industries. MuSIASEM presents a systematic project planning and implementation strategy for project facilitators, and was applied in a case study region, the Coello and Bermellon watersheds in Colombia. These watersheds are under examination by local NGOs (Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida (Environmental Committee in Defense of Life)), the regional environmental authority (Cortolima), and the downstream irrigation district (UsoCoello), as plans move forward to build an open-pit gold mine, La Colosa. This analysis raised concerns about the potential of over-appropriation of water in the dry season, and identified potential for conflicting uses between the proposed mine and the agricultural sector. Currently, water is being appropriated at quantities approaching the average annual water availability and discharges do not meet the demand of downstream uses during parts of the year. Livelihoods in the region are dependent on water associated with agricultural activities, thus concerns of equitable water availability and appropriation need to be addressed before any decisions or policies regarding future industries are implemented. FULL REPORT available upon request.

Floodplain mapping of the Chilliwack River, BC

From Vedder Crossing to Slesse Creek

By: Yihang (Eric) Shi, MLWS 2016 In order to provide effective information to help minimize flood damage in British Columbia, floodplain mapping is critical for the Federal and BC governments to develop policies and strategies for potential flooding events. BC communities that lack up-to-date floodplain maps risk billions of dollars in property damage and even the lives of their citizens when a flood hits. This study focused on the community of Chilliwack, BC and the Chilliwack River, which has historically been subject to recurrent and severe flooding. Temperature and precipitation extremes have grown in recent years, leading to an increase in flood risks in the watershed, and the floodplain map is nearly 30 years old. Water levels typically rise during the spring and summer as a result of snowmelt, but the historic larger floods have occurred in the fall and winter, brought on by heavy rainfall or rain-on-snow events. With more current climate data, it is expected that the modelled flood risk areas have changed since the last mapping period; this project’s aims were to update the map for this region using hydraulic analysis (HEC-RAS) and GIS applications (HEC-GeoRAS, ArcMap). This project provides useful information for landowners, governments, and local communities for the development of flood hazard strategies.

From Water Act to Water Sustainability Act

Changes & Opportunities to Advance Water Sustainability in British ColumbiaWater Allocation Decision-making Process Diagram

By: Katrina Sigloch, MLWS 2015

British Columbia’s new Water Sustainability Act (WSA) will enable the sustainable management of water and aquatic ecosystems, but requires a multi-disciplinary understanding of the causes of water crises, management complexities, and the new water management changes and opportunities under the WSA. This evaluation provides a comparative assessment of the potential changes to water allocation decision-making and opportunities for water management in BC as a result of the introduction of the WSA, which will replace the Water Act (WA) in 2016. The goal of the WSA is to manage water sustainably under increasing demand, climatic variability and frequency of water scarcity. This evaluation focuses on the changes to the water management regime as a result of moving from the WA to the WSA, and in particular on (i) significant immediate changes to water allocation for societal and environmental purposes, and (ii) opportunities for water planning and protection provisions. KEY MESSAGES The new provisions under the WSA are environmentally and hydrologically significant modernized water management provisions that enable:
  • Consideration and allocation of the complete hydrologic cycle
  • Environmental flow needs to be provided for in the statutory realm
  • More efficient and effective drought management
  • Legal establishment of water objectives and land use practice requirements
  • Opportunities for flexible governance
Decision makers supported by resource professionals can achieve the goal of water sustainability now and in the future through a multi-disciplinary approach as well as strategic and strong decision-making and leadership. FULL REPORT (pdf)

Rain Water Harvesting with the Homegrown Rainwater Model

Encouraging Alternative Water Resources for Small Scale and Urban AgricultureA screenshot of the Homegrown Rainwater Model

By: Acadia Tucker, MLWS 2015 Alternative water resources, like rainwater harvesting, are under-utilized yet offer a decentralized approach that can increase the reliability and resiliency of urban water supplies, particularly for urban agricultural production. By exploring alternative approaches to water use and distribution, urban areas can decrease their dependency on large scale water systems and avoid the risks associated with centralized water supplies. Now is the time to start planning for a more unpredictable future in a way that mitigates the adversity linked with these events. The Homegrown Rainwater Model was designed and developed to help small scale growers determine the feasibility of installing a rainwater system at a site. The model design is based on three different steps to help users fully understand the potential system requirements that work best for each individual situation. The model predicts a specific location’s water supply and demand based on easily accessible information such as local precipitation, air temperature and irrigated area.

Cumulative Ecological Impact of the Residential Construction Industry 

on Watershed Health in three North Shore Communities in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia Infographic_thumbnail

By: Erika Nassichuk, MLWS 2015 There are many issues associated with the impacts of residential construction on watersheds. Examples include sediment-laden or chemically contaminated water entering into watercourses and a trend towards larger building footprints that can reduce the amount of land available for rainwater infiltration. The cumulative effects of widespread construction are not well understood and there is not currently an easy to follow guide to help builders and contractors minimize damage to the surrounding watershed while building or renovating single-family homes. There are two overall objectives associated with this project. The first is to create a clear, easy to follow, online educational resource that can inform developers of the potential negative impacts of residential construction on watercourses and watersheds. The second objective is to encourage the use of Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) by the construction industry in order to facilitate small changes to improve urban watershed health. A guiding framework was developed to aid both developers and homeowners to minimize their impact on watersheds by activities.

Connecting the Drops: An agricultural water assessment and strategy for Surrey, BC

By: Michelle Radley, MLWS 2015A flow chart indicating the sources, pathways and sinks in the City of Surrey, BC's water system. Conflict over resources is particularly problematic in peri-urban areas, where urban and rural development relies on the same land and water resource systems. Peri-urban agriculture is a valuable form of agriculture that provides environmental, recreational, and food security benefits to urban areas; however, urban competition for land and water and a lack of system-based planning has led to the fragmentation of arable land, stressed water systems, and a consequent decline in the potential for peri-urban agricultural production. There is a need to improve the efficiency of land and water use and better integrate urban and rural demands for land and water resources. This project uses the city of Surrey, British Columbia, Canada as a case study for developing a regional, system-based strategy for increasing peri-urban agricultural productivity. The strategy focuses on integrating the management of geographically-fixed soil resources with water resources that flow through time and space. A water chain analysis and a water resource suitability assessment reveal that opportunities, vulnerabilities, and inefficiencies exist within Surrey’s water system. These results are applied using a holistic decision-making framework in order to demonstrate how alternative water harvesting and cropping opportunities may be developed and inform the directions for policy.

British Columbia Reclaimed Mine Sites

Case Studies and Lessons LearnedHighland Valley Copper Mine, BC

By: Adrienne Turcotte, MLWS 2015 This project aimed to answer the following questions:
  1. What are some of the techniques that are used to reclaim metal mines in BC?
  2. Which techniques were successful? Were there any similarities across the case studies in the different environments?
  3. Which techniques caused challenges in reaching ecological restoration? Were there any similarities across the case studies in the different environments?
By investigating examples at specific mines, knowledge on implementing successful ecological restoration can be gained. This study focused on several metal mines in British Columbia that are representative of the province’s ecological environments. The assessment provides a base from which we can learn from the successes and challenges encountered in these reclamation cases, and inform future approaches to mine closure planning. This project is intended to be a resource for those looking to understand mining reclamation practices in BC. This project may be particularly useful to those studying reclamation or mine closure, mining inspectors new to these mines, or practitioners looking to broaden their knowledge of real world mining reclamation examples.

Run-of-River Hydroelectric Projects and Cumulative Impacts in British Columbia

By: Adam Ftaya, MLWS 2015Map of ROR in Clowhom Watershed BC

The expansion of run-of-river (ROR) hydroelectric operations in British Columbia (BC) since the early 1990s has raised concerns over the potential cumulative effects arising from multiple ROR sites and additional land-uses within a watershed. While this concern has been expressed by a multitude of interest groups, cumulative effects assessments (CEAs) are still a developing concept, and ROR-centric CEAs are often hard to find or lacking in detail. A central issue is the lack of research regarding the environmental impacts of ROR operations and their associated infrastructure. To address these challenges, this study focuses on identifying the key land-use and aquatic changes that have occurred in the Clowhom River watershed in southwestern BC, an area that has recently undergone ROR development. The potential impacts of each ROR project component were identified through a literature review; these impacts were then examined in a cumulative manner along with the potential impacts from additional watershed activities and climate change. Results suggest that the cumulative effects of ROR developments will be largely determined by the pre-ROR state of watershed development and infrastructure. These findings may help to identify the most suitable locations to develop ROR operations, while trying to mitigate environmental impacts. Full report will be posted shortly.

Understanding Irrigation Demand in Metro Vancouver

An Application of the Agricultural Water Demand Model (developed by the BC Ministry of Agriculture)

By: Naomi Robert, MLWS 2015Irrigation Demand Results for crop types grown in Metro Vancouver Managing water quantity and quality in the Metro Vancouver region is an ongoing challenge under seasonal periods of water stress; particularly in the agricultural sector – a primary water consumer. Poor or absent regulation and monitoring of groundwater and surface water use in agriculture severely limits the capacity to assess water reserves and consumption and strategically manage water resources. This creates uncertainty regarding future water availability and risk within the agricultural sector. Improving our understanding of irrigation demand for agricultural production is a crucial step toward strategically managing the water resources upon which the agricultural industry depends. This investigation aims to address this concern by using the Agricultural Water Demand Model for Metro Vancouver (AWDM) as a comparative assessment tool. The AWDM is used to investigate irrigation demand within Metro Vancouver’s Agricultural Land Reserve in order to inform policy makers with regards to water management.

Agricultural Potential of the West Kootenay

A regional review of the land, soil and climate for crop potential

Infograph_ThumbBy: Rachael Roussin, MLWS 2014

There is growing interest in the West Kootenay region to increase and support agricultural activity while recent changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) are reinvigorating the question of farmland protection. What is the agricultural potential of the region from a land and climate perspective? This study assesses the agricultural potential of the West Kootenay for fruit, vegetable and grain production with climate change using a land and climate based analysis. The approach includes:
  • Quantifying the amount of agricultural land in the region and identifying its location using the Canada Land Inventory’s Soil Capability for Agriculture Classifications
  • Assessing the range of climate projections for 2050 and their significant for agricultural potential using Global Climate Model scenarios
  • Summarizing current agricultural activity in the region using the 2011 Canada Agricultural Census
  • Exploring the suitability of crops for specific areas
This study addresses issues of food security and resiliency from a land based perspective and the role of the ALR in protecting agricultural land. SUMMARY (pdf)

Article published in Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development

Water Availability and Climate Change

Chapman Creek Water System, Sunshine Coast, BC

Reservoir supplying Chapman Creek water system in winter.

Reservoir supplying Chapman Creek water system in winter.

By: Monte Staats, MLWS 2014

Chapman Creek is the main water source on the Sunshine Coast, BC, and services approximately 22,000 people. Concerns have been expressed that increasing water demand due to population growth and increasing climatic variability may lead to water shortages during the summer season and insufficient summer stream flows to maintain a healthy aquatic environment. A water demand and supply analysis was conducted for the Chapman water system to determine how climate change will impact water consumption and future water supply. The analysis reviews historic temperature, precipitation, discharge, and water consumption data to determine historic trends. This study examines relationships between climate and water consumption to provide insight into the potential impacts from climate change on water supply and demand during the summer season. This project is presented as a website, hosted on the UBC Blogs platform. Link to website here. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (pdf)

Natural Richmond – Through a Water Lens

By: John ter Borg, MLWS 2014Fraser River estuary in West Richmond, BC.

This study investigates some of the relationships presented by the Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus in the City of Richmond, BC. The concept of a Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus allows us to engage population growth, resource development, and climate change in a broader conversation. Recognizing that water, energy and food are inseparable, the focus on this nexus fosters integrated, cross-sectoral planning. This project is presented as a website, bringing some of Richmond’s water-related opportunities and challenges to the public’s attention through a series of short videos and complementary technical studies. In order to plan future directions for this municipality, and others, we must first know where we have come from. This project considers four key topics:
  • Natural History
  • Soils
  • Climate Change
  • Land Use Change

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