The B.C. government has announced a series of in-person workshops in more than 30 communities to help farmers prepare for potential drought this summer.
The workshops will include sessions to assist producers in optimizing irrigation systems, exploring options for on-farm water storage and tips for using and managing water on farms. The other session will be aimed at improving awareness of the supports available to producers to prepare for and reduce the impacts of drought.
Three workshops are scheduled for the Lower Mainland and will be held this March, but none will take place in Delta.
Requesting a meeting with the province last fall, the Delta Farmers’ Institute (DFI) is hoping for financial support for ongoing irrigation and drainage issues, especially following last summer’s drought conditions which prompted the City of Delta to intervene.
“The impacts from climate change continue to affect farm productivity in Delta. In 2021 we had a heat dome in June and then in November we had unprecedented flooding. 2022 was a dry very summer and unusually dry fall with hardly any precipitation in Delta for the month of October. This year, there was a very early snowpack melt with low river flows causing unprecedented high salt content for crops 2 months earlier than usual. There was very little precipitation from the end of May to the end of August. Farmers need access to water to irrigate on a timely basis for healthy and productive crops,” DFI president Jack Bates said in a letter to the province.
Delta’s farm water is pumped from the river and moved through a conveyance system of ditches, pumping stations, culverts, outfalls, and control structures.
A Delta staff report last October notes that while Delta has some of the best biophysical conditions for agricultural production in Canada, climate change has emerged as a threat to the long-term viability of agriculture in the community.
“During consultation with Delta’s agricultural sector as part of the Agricultural Plan process, there was a high degree of concern over potential loss of agricultural land to flooding, changes in spring freshet, challenges in maintaining drainage ditches, impacts to crop viability due to excessive salinity in irrigation water and extreme heat, and erosion of ditches as water levels fluctuate. This past summer, climate change especially impacted Delta farmers,” the report notes.
The report also notes that the early freshet this year resulted in the Fraser River salt wedge extending up the river further than expected, which was then exacerbated by drought, impacting irrigation through excess salinity and reduced water availability.
Significant costs were incurred to employ temporary measures, including installing pumps and deployment of city engineering staff, costs covered by the City of Delta.
“These efforts were successful in providing additional irrigation waters during a critical time and similar efforts may be needed in the future to address the changing climate,” the report adds.