UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Water, equity, and the rural consciousness : an agricultural response to water shortage in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia White, Kasondra Victoria


The combined effects in the Okanagan Valley of rapid population growth, climate change, and an environment that is naturally hot and dry are expected to exacerbate the region‘s already limited water supplies to a point where critical water shortages could occur within the foreseeable future. This issue is particularly relevant within the agricultural sector, as the water that has been allocated for irrigation in the valley may not be available if increasingly dominant urban demands impinge on farm requirements. Based upon an extensive series of interviews and a focus group session with Okanagan irrigators, this thesis documents current water use patterns, as well as agricultural perceptions surrounding the factors that contribute to both present and anticipated water shortages in the valley. Insight gained from this research has also been applied to an evaluation of various water shortage adaptation options. In particular, water trading and collaborative approaches to water management have been assessed for their acceptability and appropriateness within the Okanagan Valley. This discussion has been placed within the context of sustainable development theory and political ecology, which together demand a consideration of the ways that policies and management regimes may disproportionately impact upon various stakeholders and the natural environment, in positive and negative ways. Drawing upon this framework, it has been concluded that the preferences of Okanagan irrigators surrounding water shortage adaptation options are affected by the presence of a number of conditions that are seen as threatening agricultural viability in the valley. In light of this, opinions surrounding the usefulness of water trading and collaborative management are often based upon a desire to iii preserve the agricultural base in the Okanagan, while also balancing environmental and essential domestic requirements.

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