Connecting the Drops: An agricultural water assessment and strategy for Surrey, BC

There are many challenges facing the global food system. With the global population expected to reach 9 billion by the year 2050 and with 1 in 9 people already experiencing hunger, the need for increased food production has never been greater. At the same time, climate change, environmental degradation, and increased levels of demand are threatening the finite supply of resources that support the global agricultural system.

Conflict over resources is particularly problematic in peri-urban areas, where urban and rural development relies on the same land and water resource systems. Peri-urban agriculture is a valuable form of agriculture that provides environmental, recreational, and food security benefits to urban areas; however, urban competition for land and water and a lack of system-based planning has led to the parcelization of arable land, stressed water systems, and a consequent decline in the potential for peri-urban agricultural production. There is a need to improve the efficiency of land and water use and better integrate urban and rural demands for land and water resources.

This project uses the city of Surrey, British Columbia, Canada as a case study for developing a regional, system-based strategy for increasing peri-urban agricultural productivity. The strategy focuses on integrating the management of geographically-fixed soil resources with water resources that flow through time and space. A water chain analysis and a water resource suitability assessment reveal that opportunities, vulnerabilities, and inefficiencies exist within Surrey’s water system. These results are applied using a holistic decision-making framework in order to demonstrate how alternative water harvesting and cropping opportunities may be developed by farmers and be encouraged by city policy.


About this project & website:

This website is the capstone project for the Master of Land and Water Systems degree program at UBC. It is intended to be an information-providing document suitable for the general public, small-scale farmers, or regional water managers in mixed rural and urban areas. The author, Michelle Radley, completed her bachelor’s degree in Applied Biology with a focus on Food and the Environment at UBC in 2013. She is a long-time resident of Surrey, and has a particular interest in food security, land use planning and sustainable design, and small-scale agriculture.

The website is categorized into the following pages:

Global Trends in Agriculture

This section provides background information regarding the global and regional context for this study. It will discuss the environmental and population dynamics that are causing stress on the global food system and will provide a description of the unique characteristics of peri-urban agriculture.

Study Site: Surrey BC

This section provides a detailed description of the city of Surrey, including population, topographic and land use characteristics, and will discuss the limitations to agricultural production that Surrey is currently facing.

Water System Assessment

This section is composed two parts, a water chain assessment and water suitability analysis. The water chain assessment provides a description of how water resources interact with each other to flow through time and space in Surrey, and identifies how the water quality and quantity changes as this occurs. The water suitability analysis ranks the water resources according to their current suitability for agricultural production, based on the parameters of location, quality, quantity, and timing of availability.


In this section, a holistic decision-making framework is used to apply the information from the water assessment to farm planning and city policy development.


A complete list of the works cited in this project.


To read about the context for this project, continue to the first page: Global Trends in Agriculture.

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