Thursday, February 10, 2011

High salinity levels may hurt farming in British Columbia's Lower Mainland

Matthew Burrows in (Vancouver): A Richmond agrologist believes climate change is affecting salt levels in Fraser River waters needed to irrigate crops. “Runoff is concentrating so heavily in the spring now because of climate change,” Arzeena Hamir, coordinator of the Richmond Food Security Society, told the Georgia Straight. “The melt is happening so early and so fast that—come later in the summer, as the river levels are starting to go down—what they call a ‘salt wedge’ is starting to come up the Fraser River.”

Hamir, a lifelong Richmond resident, is trying to get more farmers growing in her municipality, mainly through her role on the board of directors of the nonprofit Richmond Fruit Tree Sharing Project. She said she started hearing about higher salinity levels in the river water two years ago.

Salinity doesn’t affect traditional crops that don’t require irrigation, such as potatoes, she said, but there’s a long-term economic implication: a higher level of salt would restrict the type and variety of crops grown and would hit the bottom lines of new farmers in the region.

“If we’re trying to get young people back into farming, these [non-irrigation crops] are not the crops that they are interested in, because they are extremely low-value,” Hamir said in a phone interview. “Potatoes are, like, 29 cents a pound, and the same with squash. The return is very low.” Young people want to grow the “high-value salad crops”, Hamir said, because there is a greater return there, especially with the proliferation of farmers markets.

“And for that, you definitely need irrigation, and so again, the conundrum is there: if you want young people back in farming, they need access to water because the type of farming they want to do is fairly highly water-intensive.”…

The Fraser River delta in British Columbia, shot by Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

No comments: