Costs and Benefits of Irrigation Investments for Climate Change Adaptation in the Okanagan: A Participatory Approach

Post doctoral fellow within the Department of Economics, Philosophy and Political Science.


The Syilx People of the Okanagan Valley have long recognized that, in this landscape, water is life.  Redirecting water for the irrigation of agricultural lands was essential to facilitating the colonial settlement of the valley.  That investment has led to an extensive reshaping of the semi-arid landscape, creating one of Canada’s most important tree fruit and wine grape growing regions and attracting ever-increasing numbers of tourists and new residents.  Irrigation is a key component in the foundation of the Okanagan’s economic prosperity.

Climate change promises to bring hotter and drier summers, with a greater share of precipitation throughout the rest of the year falling as rain.  It also promises to increase the amount of land in the basin that is suitable for high-value crops and to provide opportunities for crops not currently grown here.  Adapting to the changing climate and making the most of emerging opportunities will require new investments in irrigation infrastructure.  Carefully estimating the costs and benefits of these investments will help inform public agencies responsible for allocating funding.  A challenging aspect of this analysis stems from the fact that some impacts of irrigated agriculture may be relatively easy to quantify – e.g., food production, job creation, tourism – while others may be more difficult –  e.g., altered riparian habitats, perceived improvements in landscape aesthetics, susceptibility to wildfire – and yet all of these factors will contribute to the balance between costs and benefits.

There are few people alive today who remember an Okanagan without irrigation, rendering it an activity that is seen as a constant across the landscape.  However, there is much activity in the Okanagan that would not occur without irrigation, and ongoing investment is required to sustain these activities.  The court of public option can have a strong influence on how public agencies prioritize investments.  Economic impact analyses, which aggregate all the direct, indirect and induced expenditures generated by an activity, such as those recently done for the Kelowna International Airport and the BC Wine Industry, have become an important part of the public discourse.  Identifying and estimating these impacts for irrigation in the Okanagan can balance the analyses being conducted by other groups seeking to influence those public agencies.

The various communities of interest in the Okanagan that affect and/or are affected by how water is managed are keenly aware of the importance of this resource.  These communities of interest will need to be involved with all steps of the analysis if they are to take ownership and use the results in decision making.  A participatory approach to developing this cost benefit analysis is therefore essential.

Postdoctoral Research Project

Over the duration of the project, the postdoctoral researcher will deliver a cost benefit analysis of several irrigation investment opportunities and an economic impact analysis documenting the direct, indirect and induced impacts of irrigation in the Okanagan.

The postdoctoral researcher will work under the supervision of Dr. John Janmaat, professor of economics in the Department of Economics, Philosophy and Political Science at the University of British Columbia.  The researcher will collaborate on an ongoing basis with staff at the Okanagan Basin Water Board and researchers at Agriculture and Agrifood Canada’s Summerland Research and Development Center.  A technical advisory committee composed of project supporters and regional experts will be consulted periodically to provide input on project direction and results.  The utilization of local expertise to ground the work in the local context and to enhance the value of the work to local interests will occur throughout the project.

The approved MITACS research proposal that will support this position is here.


  1. PHD in economics or a related field.
  2. Training in cost benefit analysis and the application of benefit transfer methods applied to cost benefit analysis.
  3. Strong communication skills.
  4. Demonstrated ability to work in a diverse team.
  5. Demonstrated ability to work independently and judiciously continue project work when supervisory input is not available.
  6. Satisfy Mitacs eligibility criteria (

Desired Qualifications

  1. Coursework to the upper undergraduate level in the natural sciences.
  2. A familiarity with the agricultural industry, ideally irrigated agriculture.
  3. Experience collaborating with members of the community beyond the university.


Appointment for this position is conditional on Mitacs accepting the suitability of the candidate for the approved project.  The minimum salary of $55,000 per year is guaranteed, together with Mitacs professional development support.  A suitably qualified and experienced candidate may be offered a higher salary.  Opportunities for teaching sessional courses at UBC Okanagan may also be available.

To apply to this position, please send the material listed below by email to  The message subject must be “OKANAGAN IRRIGATION PDF”.

  1. Curriculum Vitae,
  2. Transcripts for all degrees earned,
  3. Statement of interest, including descriptions of relevant experience,
  4. Contact information for at least two references, one or more of which is academic,
  5. Where English is not the first language, evidence of English proficiency.

Applications will be reviewed by a committee of three persons affiliated with the project.  Review of applications will continue until the position is filled.