Delta

CAI works with partners in Delta to deliver projects that equip producers to adapt to climate change.

Many projects flow from the 2013 Delta Adaptation Strategies plan that outlines:

  • 4 climate issues of top concern to producers
  • 11 strategies for responding to the issues

CAI developed the regional adaptation plan over 12 months.

Map of the Delta region, with Agricultural Land Reserve shown in green.
Map of the Delta region, with Agricultural Land Reserve shown in green.

Climate projections and top issues

This section highlights a subset of climate projections important to agriculture in Delta. The projections are for the 2050s and also help illustrate climate change trends.

Temperature

  • 2.0°C to 4.2°C increase in annual average temperatures
  • 38 to 57 more frost free days annually

Precipitation

  • 15% decrease in average summer precipitation (-40% to -0.95%)
  • 73% decrease in precipitation falling as snow (-83% to -66%)

Extremes

  • Increase in frequency and magnitude of extreme rainfall events
  • Average of 14 days over 30°C annually, up from 2 days

These projections, provided by the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, are in comparison to the baseline historical period of 1961-1990.

The full set of projections for the Metro Vancouver area were shared during the regional planning process where producers discussed how the anticipated changes would likely affect their operations. Then they identified four climate issues as their top concerns.

1. Increasing coastal flood risk

Most of Delta’s agricultural lands are less than 2 metres above sea level. This means they are at much greater risk of flooding than residential areas at higher elevations, such as Tsawwassen and North Delta.

By 2100, sea level in the Georgia Basin is projected to rise by 1.2 metres due to climate change. As the sea level rises, high tide and storm surge conditions could overwhelm the dike system. Coastal flooding has potential to harm crops, livestock and farm infrastructure.

2. Changing hydrology

Water supply and salinity are twin management challenges in Delta, caused by a combination of:

  • Sea level rise
  • Earlier peak flows in the Fraser River
  • Drier summers

In 2013, 4,236 hectares of agricultural land in Delta were irrigated, and this number is expected to increase as the climate continues to change. Irrigation water is drawn from the Fraser River. Climate changes are increasing the potential for this water to become saltier during key irrigation periods.

These changes will make it harder for the agriculture sector to access enough clean irrigation water during some parts of the production season.

3. Increasing amount & variability of precipitation

Effective drainage of agricultural lands is important to the viability of the agriculture sector in Delta.

Most producers in Delta have invested in at least one type of drainage infrastructure. Privately installed drainage connects into a system of drainage ditches and pumps, which are maintained and upgraded by the City of Delta.

Average precipitation is projected to increase during spring and fall, which is particularly challenging for producers to manage during planting and harvesting.

4. Increasing variability & extreme conditions

Shifting and unpredictable temperatures and precipitation patterns — variability — create uncertainty in the timing of critical production activities, such as planting, pollination and harvesting.

Projects

Many of these projects are a direct response to the adaptation strategies and top issues outlined in the Delta Adaptation Strategies plan. The projects are developed by CAI with oversight and input from a regional working group.

Other projects deliver applied research that supports climate change adaptation at the farm level. These 2-4 year projects fall under the Farm Adaptation Innovator Program.

Regional climate and production systems

Historical climate and production capacity

The City of Delta is located at the mouth of the Fraser River. The Fraser River delta’s climate has mild warm winters, warm summers and a narrow range of temperatures.

The region has one of the longest frost free periods in Canada, and the temperature rarely drops below zero degrees Celsius. Delta has higher light levels than other agricultural areas in the Lower Mainland. This makes it especially suitable for greenhouse production.

Average annual precipitation in the region is around 927 millimetres. Most of this precipitation falls as rain between October and March.

Delta’s agricultural land is very productive, with much of the soil formed by sediment deposits from the Fraser River. Most of the region’s agricultural soils can be improved to Class 2 and 3. Improvements often include drainage and water table control as soils tend to hold water and are prone to ponding in the winter. However, not enough precipitation can be a problem in summer, and some soils are prone to salinity.

Delta’s agricultural land base experiences significant pressure from development due to its proximity to Vancouver, Deltaport and the United States border. In 2010, about 9,400 hectares were included in the Agricultural Land Reserve, 52% of the municipal land base.

Agricultural production

In 2016, Delta had 185 farms, making up only 8% of the farms in the Metro Vancouver Regional District but earning 23% of the area’s total gross farm receipts.

Agricultural production in Delta is diverse, with a range of field crop and livestock operations.

About 50% of the province’s potato acreage can be found in Delta. The region is also home to more than 40% of BC’s vegetable greenhouse production area. Agricultural production in the region also includes forage; berry crops, mostly blueberries; dairies; and small-scale poultry operations.

For a complete regional overview, read the plan:

Delta Adaptation Strategies plan