The extreme effects of climate change have been in the spotlight in BC in the last year, from the deadly June 2021 heatwave to the atmospheric river that caused flooding that cut off Metro Vancouver from the rest of Canada.
What those disparate events have in common is that they both have profound impacts on water supply, in rivers and streams as well as beneath the Earth’s surface.
Acknowledging those impacts is essential for government bodies that regulate groundwater and watersheds.
Drought and Deluge: Informed Water Allocation Decision Making in a World of Intensifying Hydrologic Extremes aims to give government officials the tools they need as part of PICS’ Opportunity Project Program (OPP).
Our understanding of how climate extremes will alter the amount and timing of groundwater recharge to aquifers — and, subsequently, its discharge to streams during the summer low-flow period — is lacking. This information is critical for governments making decisions about applications from large groundwater users under the Water Sustainability Act.
“In their current practices, there’s no consideration given to how extreme events might be impacting the water cycle within a watershed, so there’s very limited understanding of how to make water allocation decisions into the future with this lens of climate change being absent,” says SFU professor Diana Allen, one of the project’s principal researchers.
Thus, Drought and Deluge is a collaboration with the BC Ministry of Forests to:
- investigate the impacts of hydrologic extremes on watersheds in the urban-rural-wildland fringe of the Lower Mainland; and
- develop a series of tools to inform decision making and policy around water management that accounts for climate extremes.
The areas being examined aren’t exclusively about water quantity but, also quality; researchers are looking at water temperatures in streams and how they affect aquatic life; water contamination; and impacts within different types of watersheds.
“We know extreme weather events are going to have pretty significant impacts on watersheds,” says Allen, “but there hasn’t been any research to address how much, how big of a change is there going to be and what are the implications for water allocation decision making.”
Opportunity Project: Began April 1, 2022 / Project duration: three years