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.

You may also watch our Project Spotlight Video Series, highlighting some our our students’ major projects.

Projects by category:

Search by keyword:

Student Projects

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

Cities across the world are dealing with storm water runoff and its management, as urbanization leads to urban densification. The use of urban forestry has become widely accepted as a more resilient means to address storm water management problems in the face of densification and climate change. The project’s development of a theoretical stemflow model 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) in relation to tree diameter at breast height (DBH) (cm). The model performed well and was able to reasonably predict stemflow volumes based on inputs of DBH and precipitation. Based on two modeling approaches, it was found that modeling stemflow based on grouping all trees together is more accurate in comparison to modeling stemflow based on grouping the trees by genus.

(Full report available soon)

Urban Land Subsidence: A Case Study in Richmond, British Columbia

Tishtaar Titina, MLWS 2018

Groundwater extraction can cause soil to consolidate and land to subside. Land subsidence increases relative sea-level rise and exacerbates inundation hazard for coastal cities. The City of Richmond is a low lying floodplain, on average 1 m above mean sea level, with increasing development due to urbanization. This makes it imperative that Richmond maintain its high water table to prevent subsidence. Furthermore, Richmond’s high water table necessitates dewatering at excavation sites in order to proceed with construction processes. Examining the impacts of dewatering based subsidence in Richmond, on a neighbourhood scale, highlights why groundwater levels should be maintained on a city-wide scale. Richmond can evaluate management practices utilized globally that contribute to the maintenance of the groundwater table to further mitigate subsidence and to combat potential effects of climate change.

Vertical Farming Feasibility

The opportunities and challenges of adapting vertical agriculture

Jie Sheng, MLWS 2018

As the human population continues to increase and land becomes more valuable, a day will come when people cannot completely rely on the produce from conventional farms. This study focuses on the technologies and challenges of adapting vertical farming as a new solution to feed the world’s population and potentially change our food system. The goal of this study is to analyze the theory and the potential of vertical farming in addressing the issues that exist in today’s food system. This study also conducts a comparison between the greenhouse system and vertical farming to determine the differences and the potential benefits behind vertical farming. Finally, to evaluate the feasibility of vertical farming, this study gives an opinion about the challenges to be overcome in this field and defines if vertical farming is a viable option to supply food to cities in an energy efficient and sustainable way.

A case study of constructed wetlands application to restore habitats and treat wastewater

Li Wang, MLWS 2018

Constructed Wetlands (CWs) have been seen as a practical and cost-effective solution to solve both wastewater issues and habitat loss issues. The use of constructed wetlands in Canada is, however, less common than in other countries. The main objective of this project is to investigate the current development of constructed wetlands and the current application of Constructed Wetlands in Canada. The elements of CWs, different types of CWs, as well as the advantages and limitations of CWs were reviewed in this report. In order to assess the current application of CWs in the west coastal area of Canada, a case study in the Greater Vancouver region was selected. It is expected that CWs provide multiple benefits to both wildlife and local communities. Further studies are required to understand the viability and long term performance of CWs in Canada.

Using SWAT to simulate the effects of forest fires on water yield in forested watershed:

A Case Study of Bonaparte Watershed, Central Interior of British Columbia, Canada

Abia Katimbo, MLWS 2018

Climate change has impacted the forested watersheds of British Columbia by bringing extremely high temperatures and beetle infestations, thus coinciding with increasing amounts of forest fires. On average, it is estimated that about 10,000 fires occur every year in Canada, burning about 2 million ha of the 400 million ha forested landscape. One of the areas that was most affected by the forest fires in 2017 was the Cariboo Regional District in the central interior of British Columbia. Wildfire burns away the ground cover of the landscape, exposing soils to erosion under heavy storms. The major objective of this study was to simulate the changes in water yield in the forested watershed during pre- and post-wildfire periods, using Bonaparte watershed as the study area. The SWAT model was used for water yield simulations, in order to evaluate the hydrological response of the watersheds to forest fires.

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.

Preliminary Assessment of Flooding Hazards in the Nooksack River Watershed, Washington State, and its Effect on Water Quality and the Local Shellfish Industry

John Prizzi, MLWS 2017

Flooding in the Nooksack River in northwestern Washington State has predominantly been the product of heavy rains occurring between the months of October and March (Nooksack Indian Tribe, 2016). Future climate change models as well as trends observed in historic data suggest that yearly winter temperatures have increased by about 4º C over the last 50 years will continue to increase by about 3º C by 2100 under current land use conditions and fossil fuel emissions (Kremen, 2007). Increasing winter temperatures would decrease the amount of snowfall experienced along the Nooksack River floodplain and the rest of Whatcom County and replace it with rainfall. By increasing rainfall along the Nooksack River floodplain, the frequency of flood events, which are defined in this study as flow rates equal to or above 565 m3/s, is expected to increase during the months of October to March by about three floods per year. Heavy rainfall and overland flow along the floodplain as the result of flood events has the potential to move sediment, organics, and contaminants from the floodplain to the Nooksack River (NOAA, 2015). Due to the agricultural and industrial development as well as expansive rural environments, bacterial contamination has been of concern in the Nooksack River and its discharge point in Portage Bay since testing began around 1990 (Peterson, 2011). Due to this contamination, shellfish beds in Portage Bay have experienced conditional and permanent closures since 1995 (Peterson, 2011). Shellfish beds in Portage Bay are relied on by residents as sources of food and money and understanding influences on fecal coliform concentrations in the Nooksack River can lead to preventative measures to reduce fecal coliform introduction to the Nooksack River and Portage Bay.

To investigate influences on fecal coliforms concentrations in the Nooksack River, the relationship between flood events and fecal coliforms concentrations was analyzed. Conclusions drawn from this relationship was then taken one step further to analyze how increasing temperatures and precipitation would affect the frequency of floods over the next 50 years and ultimately the potential response of the fecal coliform concentrations in Portage Bay. It is expected that flood frequency will increase over the next 50 years and as a result fecal coliform concentrations in the Nooksack River and Portage Bay will increase as well.

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. The result is that compost produced from municipal solid waste has a variable quality, affecting the utilization and perception of such compost in the Metro Vancouver region. In addition, inefficiencies result in the reduced capacity for organic waste processing in the region. This impacts the overall productivity of the regional organic waste to compost system.

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.

Integration of Agriculture and Wildlife Ecosystem Services

A Case Study of Westham Island, British Columbia, Canada

Yuan (Ellen) Zhang, MLWS 2016
There is concern regarding the loss of ecosystem goods and services as a result of land use changes such as the expansion and intensification of agricultural activities. Assessments of these interactions require innovative analyses that combine qualitative and quantitative economic analyses. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment framework was applied to a peri-urban region in British Columbia, Canada to assess the effects of the integration of agricultural programs and the maintenance of waterfowl habitat located on the Pacific Flyway.

The Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust, a non-governmental organization, has implemented several activities to enhance eco-system goods and services by cooperative programs among the agricultural community and wildlife interests. The successful collaborative framework has resulted in enhanced soil quality, increased biodiversity, and the maintenance of valuable agriculture and waterfowl habitat.

View the article in Agricultural Sciences journal

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

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.

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

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.

View the article in the Agricultural Sciences journal

Floodplain mapping of the Chilliwack River, BC

From Vedder Crossing to Slesse Creek

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.

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 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)

Roya Bennett, MLWS 2016

Water 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.

Conceptualizing Stream Ecosystem Restoration

P. Clemens Langemeyer, MLWS 2016

Stream 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:

An analytical model of rainfall interception by urban trees

Jie Ying (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.

View full report in the Canadian Water Resources Journal (PDF)

Rain Water Harvesting with the Homegrown Rainwater Model

Encouraging Alternative Water Resources for Small Scale and Urban Agriculture

Acadia Tucker, MLWS 2015

A screenshot of the Homegrown Rainwater Model

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.

Understanding Irrigation Demand in Metro Vancouver

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

Naomi Robert, MLWS 2015

Irrigation 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.

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

Adam Ftaya, MLWS 2015

Map 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 available upon request.

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

Michelle Radley, MLWS 2015

A 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 Learned

Adrienne Turcotte, MLWS 2015

Highland Valley Copper Mine, BC

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.

Cumulative Ecological Impact of the Residential Construction Industry

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

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.


From Water Act to Water Sustainability Act

Changes & Opportunities to Advance Water Sustainability in British Columbia

Katrina Sigloch, MLWS 2015

Water Allocation Decision-making Process Diagram

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.


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.

Natural Richmond – Through a Water Lens

John ter Borg, MLWS 2014

Fraser 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

Water Availability and Climate Change

Chapman Creek Water System, Sunshine Coast, BC

Monte Staats, MLWS 2014
Reservoir supplying Chapman Creek water system in winter.

Reservoir supplying Chapman Creek water system in winter.

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.


Agricultural Potential of the West Kootenay

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

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.

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