A project by the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands will allow farmers and city planners to learn exactly who is using water and how and what amount can be used for other purposes.
It’s called a water demand model, has been completed in the Okanagan and a similar project is about to start in the Lower Mainland, in a partnership between the ministry and Metro Vancouver.
“You can ask the database almost anything and get information back to you,” said Ted van der Gulik, senior engineer with the ministry.
Researchers are about to start collecting data by driving around and noting land uses, types of crops grown and method of irrigation used in every parcel in the district.
The entire Lower Mainland will be catalogued over two years and it will take about a month to survey Maple Ridge, van der Gulik said.
Once completed, the Metro Vancouver Agricultural Land Use Inventory will show how much land is actively farmed and allow monitoring of any changes in land use.
That then will lead to the Metro Vancouver Agricultural Water Demand Model that can provide a scientific estimate of current and future water use.
A similar model is already in place in the Okanagan Basin, van der Gulik told Maple Ridge council. In the Okanagan, 70 per cent of the water supply is used by farmers.
“You don’t have to be much of a rocket scientist to know we’re really going to have a water problem there.” The type of crop grown determines the water used. Alfalfa uses more water than grapes, he pointed out.
“Very quickly you have lots of information about water demand.”
Coun. Craig Speirs said the project would be useful for Maple Ridge’s planning.
For Coun. Al Hogarth, the quality of soil data remains a challenge and that better soil data is needed.
“I know certain plants will not survive on some of the soil conditions.”
More information is available at www.irrigationbc.com. Another website, www.waterbalance.ca, allows municipalities to analyze how well or not they are at ensuring that runoff from buildings and roads filters into the ground rather than running into storm drains and streams.