Importance of Irrigation in Metro Vancouver

Why does irrigation in Metro Vancouver matter?

Metro Vancouver is Canada’s third largest city—supporting a population of 2.5 million. In addition to being an urban hub, Metro Vancouver is also home to a highly productive and profitable agricultural industry [11]. The preservation of the region’s agrarian character is associated with the creation of the province’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) in the 1970s. The ALR establishes agriculture as the prioritized land-use for land with the greatest agricultural potential [1]. With over 60,000 ha in the ALR, the Metro Vancouver region holds a small fraction (<1%) of the province’s total ALR, but remains an extremely productive and economically important region for the agricultural industry of BC. As an example, in 2010, despite representing only 1.5% of the province’s agricultural land, gross annual farm receipts from Metro Vancouver represented over 25% of BC’s farm total [11].

The region’s high productivity results from a combination of temperate Pacific climate and fertile soils. These permit intensive production of many high-value specialty crops. For example Metro Vancouver hosts over 40% or more of British Columbia’s cultivated area of blueberries, cranberries and field/greenhouse vegetables [14], all of which are largely reliant on irrigation.

 

Irrigated area has increased by almost 50% since 1996 .

Irrigated area in Metro Vancouver 1996-2011 as reported by BC Agricultural Census [14]

 

Accompanying this trend has been a shift in the type of cultivated crop—particularly increases in berry and greenhouse production, which have expanded significantly (below) in the region over the course of the past 15 years.

 

Cultivated area of selected crops in Metro Vancouver 1996-2011 as reported by BC Agricultural Census [14]

Photo credit Acadia Tucker

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