Student Projects: Policy and Management

 

Incorporating Indigenous and Local Stakeholder Knowledge into Resource Decision-Making in British Columbia

Vanesa Mena, MLWS 2019

Global concerns of the failure of modern natural resource management practices to solve environmental complex issues has led to the emergence of the incorporation of alternative ways of knowing and the co-production of knowledge as a viable solution. In recent years, however, multiple reports have uncovered several constraints in the integration of Traditional Knowledge into the environmental decision-making arena. The report compiles qualitative research methodologies, such as literature review (including current consultation process and polices), observation and informal interviews conducted to develop and to acquire a better understanding of the local natural resource and environmental context and challenges associated to the incorporation of Traditional Knowledge into Environmental Assessment in British Columbia, Canada. In the final section, transdisciplinary approach is presented as tool to address some of the challenges of integration of Traditional Knowledge and Stakeholder Knowledge into resource decision-making.

Impacts of Wildfires on Environmental and Human Health in British Columbia

Xinyao Li, MLWS 2019

Over the years, wildfires have been of higher intensity and of longer duration throughout the world. This is caused by either human activities or natural factors. In British Columbia, climate change is believed to be responsible for this increasing phenomenon. Forest fires can have long term impacts on the environment, including physical, chemical and biological impacts. These environmental impacts pose threats to aquatic species and human health. In response to wildfires that are increasing due to climate change, wildfire prevention strategies, such as reducing the fuel volume, are recommended to apply in forest management practices. In addition, post fire measures aimed to mitigate the effects of wildfires, such as the upgrading of water supply treatment plants, is believed to be important, as it has been shown that wildfires cause the formation of toxic substances to both human and salmonid species.

Groundwater Predictive Model on the Effect of Land Use Impacts on the Hopington Aquifer in Langley, BC

Juncheng Hu, MLWS 2019

The Hopington AB Aquifer is one of the most vulnerable unconfined aquifers in the lower mainland. It is reported that the Hopington AB aquifer water level is decreasing year by year. The predictive model indicates that these declines are due to excessive extraction, climate change and expected population growth will only accelerate the drop in water tables. In order to address the groundwater quantity issue, a groundwater management plan is needed to regulate and protect the unconfined aquifer.

The overall goal of the project is to determine the water balance of the Hopington Aquifer and its possible impact on streamflow in the Salmon River. The aim is to develop a predictive model to determine the effect of land use activities and water use on the Hopington Aquifer, to show if the aquifer is used in a sustainable manner and to evaluate if changes affect the stream water flow in the Salmon River.

A Review of the Regulatory Framework for Environmental Protection in BC’s Mining Industry

Lessons Learned from the Mount Polley Incident

Andrew Chan, MLWS 2019

In 2014, the Mount Polley mine tailings storage facility breached, spilling approximately 25 million cubic metres of water and mine tailings into the surrounding environment and nearby water bodies. Following the incident, an independent review panel and the Chief Inspector of Mines conducted investigations to determine the cause(s) of the failure and to make recommendations. The Auditor General of British Columbia also reviewed the incident during an audit of compliance and enforcement activities in the mining industry. This study was undertaken to determine areas of overlap in the recommendations across the three reports in order to identify regulatory gaps. This study conducted a review of key pieces of legislation guiding the mining industry in BC, two regulatory bodies and the three reports. The following four areas of overlap in the recommendations were identified: professional reliance, geotechnical oversight, life-of-mine planning for permitting and investigation, compliance and enforcement review. These findings suggested that additional controls should be implemented in these areas of overlap in order to prevent another tailings storage facility incident from occurring.

 


Microplastics: The Hidden Hazard

Xin Dong, MLWS 2018

This white paper provides a holistic overview of the microplastics problem, including the various components and sources of microplastics, their distribution and abundance, and the impacts of microplastics on the environment and human life. The goal of this paper is to make the public aware of the hidden hazard of microplastics, and thus take appropriate actions to mitigate the hazard. There are several removal solutions for microplastic contamination, including source control, recycling and advanced removal techniques for wastewater treatment, such as membrane bioreactors. The main solution for mitigation rests with public awareness and government legislation. To date, the research on microplastics has been concentrated on aquatic environment and organisms. The study of the impact of microplastics on human health is still in its infancy, and further long-term research of human effects is needed.


A Theoretical Stemflow Model for Urban Trees

with an Evaluation of Current Street Tree Pit Design and Practices

Anne Day, MLWS 2018

In this project, I develop a theoretical stemflow model that works to predict the volume of stemflow on an event basis for several common tree species that are used in the Metro Vancouver area as street trees. The model is based on a linear relationship between stemflow volume (L) and precipitation depth (mm) concerning tree diameter at breast height (DBH) (cm).

Stemflow volume can be a significant proportion of incident rainfall and, as a concentrated source of water at the base of the trunk, should not be ignored when practitioners consider the stormwater management benefits of urban trees. The theoretical stemflow model was developed to be as simple as possible and rely on the least amount of field measurements. This model can provide a first pass estimate of stemflow volumes. For more accurate predictions, further research and multiple regression analysis involving more predictive parameters should be included. That is not to say that this model cannot be improved upon as more research and measurements are collected, and the model is refined.

Comparative Transboundary Nitrogen Budget of the Abbotsford-Sumas Aquifer

Kamal Kakish, MLWS 2018

Transboundary groundwater issues are of significant importance. The depletion of aquifers is adding pressure to growing water scarcity in many parts of the world; and groundwater quality is being reduced as a consequence of several sources of anthropogenic pollution, which eventually restricts its uses in certain applications.

Future sustainable management of shared resources requires a shift toward holistic cooperation, while strengthening the scientific knowledge available, to effectively inform policy actions. This is particularly important within the Abbotsford – Sumas Aquifer, a Transboundary Aquifer (TBA) system shared by British Columbia and Washington State, USA.

In this paper, a comparative nitrogen budget analysis is conducted on the Abbotsford-Sumas Aquifer and includes all major agricultural nitrogen flows. The study compares nitrogen surplus amounts on both sides of the border. This provides an indicator of excess nitrogen that could be leaked into the environment and eventually contribute to the contamination of the aquifer. Furthermore, conceptualizing nitrogen flows at the regional scale within the extent of the aquifer could promote a more effectual design of intervention measures and conjunctive policy creation for the sustainable management of the transboundary Abbotsford-Sumas Aquifer.


Evaluation and Remediation of Potential Environmental Contaminants in Alberta Oil and Gas Well Sites

Jierui, MLWS 2018

By way of a reconnaissance, this report presents an evaluation of some of the challenges pertaining to drinking water access and availability in small First Nation communities in BC’s southern interior. Representatives from two groups were approached, Lytton First Nation and Esh kn-am, and through informal meetings, an assessment of local drinking water concerns in the region was conducted.

The Lytton First Nation had recently installed a new water treatment system. The communities represented by Esh-kn-am had challenges with water shortages and some sporadic Boil Water Advisories (BWAs). The current water management does not provide long-term solutions, and as such, potable water will always need to be treated if further actions are not taken.

As a result, a holistic approach to drinking water management has been recommended for both community groups. The use of watershed-level management by way of the multi-barrier approach and/or integrated watershed management more effectively protects water at its source and better ensures the quality of the water at the tap. Additionally, these holistic methods generate more collaboration and require that adequate data be gathered, both of which are needed in addressing drinking water concerns. Despite watershed level management of drinking water sources being a viable solution, the communities have little control over local governance, especially within their traditional territory, which hinders the more holistic approaches.


Exploratory Assessment of Drinking Water Management in the Southern Interior of British Columbia: A First Nation Story

Destiny Allen-Green, MLWS 2018

By way of a reconnaissance, this report presents an evaluation of some of the challenges pertaining to drinking water access and availability in the Lytton First Nation and Esh kn-am.

The Lytton First Nation had recently installed a new water treatment system. The communities represented by Esh-kn-am had challenges with water shortages and some sporadic Boil Water Advisories (BWAs). The current water management does not provide long-term solutions, and as such, potable water will always need to be treated if further actions are not taken.

As a result, a holistic approach to drinking water management has been recommended for both community groups. The use of watershed-level management by way of the multi-barrier approach and/or integrated watershed management more effectively protects water at its source and better ensures the quality of the water at the tap. Additionally, these holistic methods generate more collaboration and require that adequate data be gathered, both of which are needed in addressing drinking water concerns. Despite watershed level management of drinking water sources being a viable solution, the communities have little control over local governance, especially within their traditional territory, which hinders the more holistic approaches.


Phosphorus Dynamics for Efficient Nutrient Management in Organic Agriculture

Cagla Buzluk, MLWS 2018

There exists a wide range of observable inefficiencies in phosphorus (P) management in current organic agriculture. This paper’s objective is to increase the understanding of P dynamics in order to increase the P efficiency in organic agriculture. As a result of the nutrient imbalances in organically accepted nutrient sources and the high reactiveness of P, the management of P is challenging. One of the major contributors to the P inefficiencies in organic agriculture is the strong focus on meeting plant nitrogen (N) needs. Considering the growing global trend towards organic agriculture, decreasing P inefficiencies is important for both increasing the future sustainability of farms for the efficient use of P sources and decreasing the environmental impacts of organic farms on concerns such as eutrophication.


Food Security Concerns and Challenges of First Nations Communities in the Interior of BC

Brittany Myhal, MLWS 2018

The vulnerability of rural communities is a global issue that has been persisting for decades. As development pressures increase and climate change intensifies, these communities are forced to shift their reliance on local resources to imported goods. Due to the low population density of rural areas relative to urban centres, they hold less political power and their needs are often not prioritized by government. As a result, even communities in a resource abundant province such as British Columbia are experiencing food and water security issues. Rural First Nation communities have been particularly vulnerable as they have a history of being marginalized which has impacted their livelihood and decreased their ability to remain resilient to change.

This is a preliminary report intended to explore the main challenges and concerns regarding food security in rural communities in BC from a First Nations perspective. Two communities in BC’s interior were selected and visited. The first was Lytton First Nations and the second organization was Esh-Kn-Am Cultural Resources Management Services, which represents three different First Nations bands. There was greater focus placed on Esh-Kn-Am as they expressed more concern than the Lytton community in regard to their local food security.


Cooks Ferry Indian Band: Land Capability Assessment

Luc Anderson, MLWS 2017

Cooks Ferry Indian Band at Spences Bridge, like many rural communities, is experiencing major challenges in maintaining a viable socio-economic future due to urbanization and population dynamics. Dependence on a limited range of economic bases such as agriculture, mining, forestry, fishing, and recreation ties opportunities for employment to the success of these industries. The migration of skilled people, and notably younger generations, to urban centers has resulted in a decline of human resources. There has been little attention given to developing a community-based resources inventory to guide communities as they seek to incorporate emergent and innovative opportunities. The utilization of a computer based land capability classification framework is a first step in providing an ecological base for resources planning and development.


Constructed Wetlands: A Potential Alternative Technology for the Treatment of Wastewaters from Institutions in Rwanda

Charles Mungwakuzwe, MLWS 2017

In Rwanda, it is nearly impossible to collect domestic wastewater with centralized systems, due to the lack of financial investments and the sanitation chains. However, on-site systems such as constructed wetlands may be feasible for wastewater treatment in schools and other similar sized institutions. Constructed wetlands are an alternative technology to conventional wastewater treatment to explore due to their operational simplicity and requirements. This project provides technical information and review of two constructed wetland designs (surface flow and subsurface flow constructed wetlands) and proposes a horizontal subsurface flow constructed wetland for Indatwa n’Inkesha school. The treated effluent will meet the regulatory targets of Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority for domestic wastewater discharge and could be reused in agriculture. It is expected that the adoption of constructed wetland technologies in Rwanda will depend on the land availability, sanitation chains and safety factors. Further studies are required to understand the viability of this technology, and to provide monitoring data about their long-term performance.

An Evaluation of the Institutional Framework for the Organic Waste to Compost Process in Metro Vancouver

Meg McIllfaterick, MLWS 2017

Within the regional district of Metro Vancouver, organic waste has been banned from disposal in landfills as of 2014 (Metro Vancouver, 2017). Organic waste is source separated by residents and business owners, collected by haulers, processed by composting facilities and utilized by a variety of users in the region. Metro Vancouver relies on the efficient and sustainable operation of this framework as a regional waste management strategy for the organic waste stream of municipal solid waste.

There have been several points identified within the framework where the steps are occurring inefficiently. To address the issues identified within the framework, specific strategies have been developed for the utilization of the following stakeholders: Metro Vancouver’s Solid Waste Services, member municipalities, composting facilities, haulers and Metro Vancouver residents and businesses. By addressing institutional inefficiencies, the stakeholders can improve the regional organic waste to compost system in Metro Vancouver resulting in a more efficient, productive and profitable system for all stakeholders.

A Conceptual Framework for a Community-Based Approach to Addressing Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining in Ghana

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 several 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.

Cumulative Ecological Impact of the Residential Construction Industry on Watershed Health in Three North Shore Communities in the Lower Mainland of BC

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. 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.

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From Water Act to Water Sustainability Act: Changes & Opportunities to Advance Water Sustainability in BC

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.

Natural Richmond Through a Water Lens

John ter Borg, MLWS 2014

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 and Land Use Change.