When the City of Kamloops completed its first Agricultural Area Plan in 2013, there was an abundance of action items that lay before it.

One of the most pressing was the development of an Agriculture Water Demand Model that would increase understanding of agricultural water use and bolster BC’s commitment under the Living Water Strategy to reserve water for farmland.

A water demand model is a management planning tool that calculates current and future agricultural water demands for areas within the Agricultural Land Reserve and areas zoned for agriculture within the City. Crop type, irrigation system type, soil texture and historical climate data are all used to calculate current water demands and to project future demands using various climate change scenarios.

With federal and provincial funding delivered through IAF’s Agricultural Area Planning Program, the City was able to complete the water demand modelling exercise in 2016.

For Jason Locke, Community Planner Supervisor with the City of Kamloops, having a resource in place that clarifies water use issues is vital for any long-term agricultural planning.

“The water demand model provides a better understanding of the opportunities and issues related to crop irrigation,” says Locke. “This information can be used by the local agricultural industry to improve agricultural productivity and potentially see more land available for production…from a sustainability perspective, the City sees the model as an important tool to encourage water conversation and enhance local food production.”

Included in the comprehensive report are climate change scenarios developed by the University of British Columbia and the Summerland Research and Development Centre. Among other predictions is an increase in agricultural water demand due to warmer and longer summers, as well as lower precipitation during summer months.

Using three climate change models, researchers were able to determine that in an extreme climate scenario, there is potential for the annual water demand to increase by up to 18 percent than that experienced in historically dry years.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Researchers also discovered an opportunity for significant water reduction by converting irrigation systems to a higher efficiency for some crops. Drip systems, for instance, can be used for all fruit and vegetable crops, as well as some other horticultural crops.

Marvin Kwiatkowski, Director for the Development and Engineering Services Department, is thrilled the City now has a blueprint to facilitate future research projects.

“Access to current and accurate data will allow the Kamloops agricultural industry to put additional land under cultivation,” Kwiatkowski predicts. “The benefits will include increased food production in the region and associated economic benefits, as well as increased food security for local residents.”

As part of the project, the City was also able to complete a Land Use Inventory which gives administrators a better understanding of current agricultural land use and production, as well as an online soils database that offers the agricultural community accurate mapping of potential agricultural land and capability.

An Agricultural Toolkit, including the Agriculture Water Demand Model report, soils mapping and Land Use Inventory is available at www.kamloops.ca.

Funding: $5,000 through the former federal-provincial Safety Nets framework. (B0016.23.02)