Stewarding Agricultural Watercourses

(2022 - 2023)

Upland Agricultural Consulting partnered with Diamondhead Consulting to complete the first phase of the Stewarding Agricultural Watercourses (SAW) project. The project aims to uncover key challenges and opportunities that will allow the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Food (AF) to build on the programs currently in place and take the next steps towards water resource stewardship on agricultural lands. A series of key directions which AF can take to help support agricultural producers in watercourse stewardship were developed and are outlined in this document.

The first phase of the SAW project was to better understand how farmers and ranchers are managing riparian areas and watercourses on agricultural land.

During the engagement process, participants shared concerns and ideas for change.

A What We Heard document was developed to provide a summary of engagement results from an online survey and interviews conducted by phone and zoom.

There were five key objectives associated with the engagement activities:

  1. Learn about barriers and challenges experienced by agricultural landowners and leaseholders in stewarding watercourses and riparian areas on farmland.
  2. Identify opportunities to address some of the concerns raised by agricultural landowners and leaseholders.
  3. Address the barriers to watercourse stewardship on agricultural land, laying out steps to short, medium and long-term implementation.
  4. Enhance collaboration between Indigenous communities, agricultural groups, and various levels of government.
  5. Enhance understanding of current stewardship of watercourses on agricultural land and ensure farmers and ranchers have a better comprehension of expectations around watercourses.

A survey was launched online to gather insights and experiences from producers on watercourse management. The survey was advertised through existing networks, including industry associations, and a total of 235 responses were received.

In addition to the survey, approximately 30 one-on-one interviews were conducted with a variety of stakeholders to further understand the challenges and develop some potential solutions. Finally, three focus groups were facilitated to circulate an early draft of the Discussion Paper for feedback. The three focus groups were organized by audience type:

  • practitioners (8 participants)
  • local government staff (21 participants)
  • provincial government staff (11 participants)

The input received during these sessions was instrumental in fine-tuning the potential actions and determining the list of collaborators for each action.

Following the finalization of the What We Heard Document, a Discussion Paper was drafted to provide some early recommended directions for AF to undertake in Phase 2 of the implementation of the Stewarding Agricultural Watercourses (SAW) project.  These directions were developed following the initial project engagement phase and are rooted in core concepts and themes which arose and are designed to be actionable and measurable.

The Discussion Paper and the feedback received will inform the development of the Stewarding Agricultural Watercourses Action Plan. The Action Plan will provide strategic direction for the Ministry to act on the recommendations proposed by agricultural stakeholders to improve farmers' and ranchers’ ability to steward watercourses on their properties.

The What We Heard report and Discussion Paper are available on the Ministry's project website.