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Integrated Water Resources Management and the Last Remaining Glacier in Metro Vancouverís Drinking Watersheds

Congress: 2008
Author(s):
I am a geoscientist (P.Geo) and watershed planner with a Masters in Natural Resources and Environmental Management. For the past 10 years I have worked for Metro Vancouver on issues related to watershed management, drinking water supply and drinking wate

Keyword(s): glacier, climate change, IWRM, water supply, water quality, dsm
AbstractIntegrated Water Resources Management and the Last Remaining Glacier in Metro Vancouverís Drinking Watersheds Name: David Dunkley, Derek Bonin, Brent Burton Address: Metro Vancouver, 4330 Kingsway Ė 11th floor Burnaby, B.C. Canada V5H 4G8 Telephone 604-432-6285 Fax 604-436-6811 E-mail ddunkley@gvrd.bc.ca Mode of Presentation- Oral Congress Sub-theme - Water Availability, Use and Management Introduction The three sources of water supply for the Metro Vancouver region are situated in the nearby protected, forested and mountainous Capilano, Seymour, and Coquitlam watersheds. In the Coquitlam watershed is the last remaining glacier in any of the three drinking watersheds. With the predicted climate changes for the region, this glacier will continue to decline in size, probably becoming extinct sometime in the 21st century, at the same time as snowpack levels are declining. Climatic conditions resulting in the loss of the glacier and the reduction of snowpack have implications on water availability, use and management. Objective This paper explores, from an integrated water resources management (IWRM) approach, the potential consequences of changing climatic conditions on water quality and water supply. Without effective adaptive responses, these changes could become particularly acute during critical periods of the year, such as late summer to early fall when high water demands are coincident with low reservoir inflows. This paper investigates the future challenges, opportunities, and strategies for maintaining drinking water supply and quality for the region. Methods The decline of glaciers world-wide is well documented. Field measurements and a review of historical aerial photography indicate that the last remaining glacier in Coquitlam has decreased in size significantly. In addition, available climate change scenarios show a major reduction in snowpack area for the three watersheds by mid-century. Concomitantly, Metro Vancouver is embarking on a holistic IWRM approach for managing source drinking water while satisfying other beneficial values such as environmental flows for fisheries, power, recreation, and cultural concerns. The costs and benefits from opportunities for additional storage (alpine and valley reservoirs), deeper multi-port water intakes, and demand side management strategies are examined from an environmental, economic, and social perspective to ascertain the resiliency and sustainability of Metro Vancouverís drinking watersheds for the future. Results Increased water storage in existing valley reservoirs, currently a highly-rated option, needs to be examined further from a water quality and IWRM perspective (e.g. loss of endangered species). Preliminary data from the alpine lakes indicate that significant water can be supplied with positive impacts to water quality, supply, and downstream environmental flows. Demand side management strategies help lower water consumption per capita, but these gains can be partially offset if extremely high rates of population growth continue in the Metro Vancouver region. Conclusion Unique challenges and opportunities exist over the 21st century as Metro Vancouver continues to ensure that drinking water supply and water quality meets the needs of a growing population while protecting other resource values as well.
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