Published On: September 2022

The content of this Situation Report was written by:

  • Charmaine White, Food and Agriculture Institute, University of the Fraser Valley
  • Robert Newell, Royal Roads University & Food and Agriculture Institute, University of the Fraser Valley

Greater Victoria is the southernmost region of Vancouver Island, and it falls within the jurisdiction of the Capital Regional District (CRD), the regional government for three electoral areas on southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands and 13 municipalities. The 13 municipalities in Victoria’s census metropolitan area collectively house a population of over 415,000 residents, as per 2021 estimates (Statistics Canada, 2022). The land and waters of this region have been home to First Nations communities for over ten thousand years and are integral to their culture and identity (Capital Regional District [CRD], 2016). As a heavily-developed coastal region, Greater Victoria is highly susceptible to numerous water-related risks and threats associated with the interacting issues of climate change and human development. The CRD identifies climate change as a critical issue within their coastal region, along with many associated water-related risks and challenges, and integrates both mitigation and adaptation in future regional plans and strategies (CRD, 2021a).

The Greater Victoria region is located in the traditional territories of over 20 First Nations including the lək̓ʷəŋən people, Songhees, Xwsepsum (Esquimalt), W̱SÁNEĆ, {W̱JOȽEȽP (Tsartlip), BOḰEĆEN (Pauquachin), SȾÁUTW̱ (Tsawout), and W̱SIKEM (Tseycum), Sc’ianew (Beecher Bay), T’Sou-ke, Pacheedaht, MÁLEXEȽ (Malahat), and Pune’laxutth’ (Penelekut) Nation (CRD, n.d.). These Nations have called this area home since time immemorial (CRD, n.d.). Pre-contact with European settlers, the area was a trading centre for a diversity of First Nations groups, and it was the site of long-term land management practices, such as those used by the lək̓ʷəŋən People who practiced controlled burning and food cultivation (Songhees Nation, 2022). In the last 150 years or so, colonization and government policies have drastically changed the landscape and disrupted the Indigenous peoples’ traditional way of life (CRD, 2016). Colonial government systems have disconnected First Nations from their land and existing food systems and have prevented access to traditional foods and culture (CRD, 2016). On southern Vancouver Island and in Greater Victoria, a collection of 14 treaties, known as the Douglas Treaties, were negotiated in the mid-1800s (Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, n.d.). However, there was much room for misunderstanding in the treaty process, with it being likely that the terms were poorly communicated to the Indigenous parties and the land ownership implications were not properly conveyed (The Governer’s Letters Project, n.d.). Few formal treaties have been established in BC, with examples being Treaty 8 territory (which extends across parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, and BC) and the more-recently negotiated Nisga’a Treaty, which came into effect in 2000 (​​Nisga’a Lisims Government, n.d.).

Vancouver Island is over 32,000 km² in size, with the majority of this area falling within the Pacific Northwest Coast Ecoregion, a diverse region consisting of coniferous forests, coastal mountains and marine ecosystems (Iachetti, 2022). Greater Victoria is part of a geographically unique place on Vancouver Island, as it (along with the Southern Gulf Islands and the Gulf Islands National Park) lies within the Georgia-Puget Basin Ecoregion, the northern portion of the Willamette Valley-Puget Sound-Georgia Basin (Nature Conservancy of Canada [NCC], 2006; NCC, 2004; Demarchi, 2011). The Greater Victoria region experiences a Mediterranean-like temperate climate with average daytime highs of 20°C in the summer and 6°C in the winter (CRD, 2017a). 

Greater Victoria is surrounded by the Salish Sea, a semi-enclosed body of water that includes the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound, and the Strait of Georgia, and it is a hub of tourism and economic activity in the region, as well as a major economic contributor to regional and provincial GDP (HDR Corporation, 2021). Businesses and organizations in Victoria Harbour and Esquimalt Harbour contribute $1.8 billion to the local GDP and $2.0 billion to provincial GDP (HDR Corporation, 2021), including industrial businesses, tourist attractions, recreational organizations, fishing charters, the Canadian Forces Base (Esquimalt), and the Esquimalt Graving Dock (HDR Corporation, 2021).

Potential and existing disruptions to regional water security  

In 2019, the CRD declared a climate emergency and identified Climate Action & Environmental Stewardship as a priority for the region. In 2021, the CRD released a five-year Climate Action Strategy, which replaced earlier strategies to better integrate with current local, provincial, and federal initiatives and to clearly outline pathways for achieving net-zero emissions by the middle of the 21st century (CRD, 2021a).

Economic Activities and Development

Climate change projections for Greater Victoria, under a high-emissions ‘business as usual’ scenario, estimate daytime high temperatures in summer months to increase by 3.3°C by the 2050s and more than 5°C by the 2080s (CRD, 2017a). The region receives approximately 1660 mm of rain annually, but these projections also anticipate changes in precipitation patterns, with summer precipitation reducing by an average of 18% by the 2050s and 26% by the 2080s (CRD, 2017a). Such temperature and precipitation changes have implications for agriculture in the region. In 2016, agriculture brought in over 64 million in total gross farm receipts in the CRD (Ministry of Agriculture, 2016). Increases in average temperatures could result in longer growing seasons and new opportunities for expanding the agricultural economy. However, climate change also brings more instability in the form of water availability and unpredictable weather patterns, and farmers will be increasingly confronted with challenges related to reduced precipitation in the summer. The Water Sustainability Act prohibits farmers from drawing water from water bodies during dry spells (CRD, 2017a), and reduced water availability for crop irrigation and livestock will put further stress on farmers in the region (CRD, 2017a).

Drinking water and Human well-being

Climate change-induced reductions in precipitation combined with an increasing population will exert pressures on Greater Victoria’s drinking water resources and water supply systems. The CRD owns 20,550 hectares of forested land northwest of the City of Victoria, with approximately 11,000 ha of this encompassing the Sooke, Goldstream, and Leech watersheds, along with five source water reservoirs that comprise the Greater Victoria Water Supply Area (GVWSA) catchment (Water Quality Program [WQP], 2021; CRD, n.d.). Protection and maintenance of these lands and sufficient annual rainfall recharge during the wet season is necessary to provide a high quality, safe supply of drinking water to the CRD. Reducing risks to the water supply and protecting its surrounding intact ecosystems is one of three top priorities and commitments of CRD’s 2017 Regional Water Supply Strategic Plan released in 2017 (WQP, 2021; CRD, 2017b). Waterways across the region are susceptible to rural and urban effects, including logging and agriculture (Somers, et al., 2021). 

CRD’s Climate Action Strategy released in 2021 emphasized the importance of both wildfire prevention and postfire rehabilitation for protecting the water supply and quality within the GVWSA (CRD, 2021a). As prolonged heat events due to climate change increase, so do the risks of wildfires. The GVWSA is situated within forest ecosystems, thus making it vulnerable to wildfires and presenting a need for adaptive planning by the CRD (CRD, 2017a). Climate adaptive planning within the Climate Action Strategy report highlights a need for mapping watershed ecosystems to gain a better understanding of forest characteristics and potential climate vulnerabilities to inform efforts toward mitigating the intensity and extent of potential wildfires (CRD, 2017a). 


Ocean acidification will increasingly exert impacts on marine ecosystems surrounding Greater Victoria (and around the world). Ocean acidification occurs as carbon dioxide absorbed in seawater forms carbonic acid, and the increased acidity could affect the mortality rates of young fish and contribute to increases in harmful algal blooms (Ganter, et al., 2021). In addition, the formation of carbonic acid in marine waters reduces the available carbonate for marine life that create calcium carbonate shells, such as oysters and mussels (Lavoie, 2018; Smithsonian Ocean Portal Team, 2018), while also requiring more energy to build and maintain shell structures (Haigh, et al., 2015). Such impacts have economic implications for Greater Victoria and the province of BC, as most of the shellfish harvested in BC comes from the Salish Sea region (Ianson, et al., 2016).

In 2016, BC’s fisheries and aquaculture sector (e.g., commercial fishing, fish and shellfish farming, fish and seafood processing, and freshwater and saltwater sport fishing) contributed $1 billion to the province’s economy, and $3.3 billion in revenue for the province (BCStats, 2018). Such activities have been threatened and impacted by CRD’s waste management practices, as the CRD has a long history of dumping untreated wastewater directly into the ocean (Britten, 2016), contributing harmful toxic phytoplankton species to the surrounding waters (Krepakevich & Pospelova, 2010). In 2021, construction of a regional tertiary wastewater treatment plant was completed at the entrance of Victoria harbour (Britten, 2016), and it pumps wastewater from the core area municipalities, including the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations to be treated (CRD, n.d.). 

Water-related hazards and climate change

Sea level rise brought on by the warming effects of climate change will have several major impacts on coastal communities within Greater Victoria. Flooding of coastal lands from sea level rise and winter storm surges will increase with climate change, as glaciers and sea ice melts to potentially raise sea levels by 1 m by the year 2100 and 2 m by 2200 (CRD, 2021b). In 2021, the CRD released the second version of its Capital Region Coastal Flood Inundation Mapping Project Summary report, which combined the work from its Sea Level Rise Modelling and Mapping Report and Tsunami Modelling and Mapping Report to create a comprehensive picture of coastal flooding from rising sea levels and tsunamis for the region (CRD, 2021b). 

Current initiatives and efforts 

The Together for Climate (T4C) project conducted by ICLEI Canada and funded by the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia’s (REFBC) granting program, supported eight communities across Vancouver Island in advancing their climate adaptation and resilience efforts, including Greater Victoria communities such as the City of Colwood, the Township of Esquimalt, and the District of Saanich. The project outcomes were summarized in the Together for Climate: Managing Risk Through Community Collaboration report.

Considering Sea Level Rise and Cultural Heritage: A Resource for Municipalities assists local government staff in an effort to better understand and manage cultural heritage sites in the face of climate change and sea level rise. 

Peninsula Streams Society was established in 2002, and works to restore and protect aquatic ecosystems throughout Greater Victoria through research, restoration, innovative projects, public education and private land stewardship.


Local Imperatives and Future Priorities and Plans

Capital Region Coastal Flood Inundation Mapping Project Summary Version 2.0 (November 2021)

The project had three main tasks and took place from 2019 to 2021, resulting in the following three reports each with an in-depth analysis and includes sea level rise flooding analysis, tsunami source identification and modelling, and mapping and reporting (CRD, n.d.). : 

  1. Digital Elevation Model Development Report (Task 1 Report)
  2. Sea Level Rise Modelling and Mapping Report (Task 2 Report)
  3. Task 3: Tsunami Modelling and Mapping Report (Task 3 Report)

Climate Action Strategy Taking Action on the Climate Emergency (September 2021)

This strategy includes six goal areas where the CRD will focus its efforts, together with numerous actions that will be undertaken by several different services across the organization. The goal areas include:

  1. Climate-Focused Decision Making
  2. Sustainable land use, planning and preparedness
  3. Low-carbon mobility
  4. Low-carbon and resilient buildings and infrastructure
  5. Resilient and abundant nature, ecosystems and food systems
  6. Minimized waste

Climate Projections for the Capital Regional District (April 2017)

Climate change is expected to have an impact on Greater Victoria in multiple ways. The Climate Projections for the Capital Regional District  identifies and describes a number of these, including water-related considerations such as:

  • Water Supply and Demand: The potential for more frequent, intense, and longer-lasting precipitation events as a result of climate change will need to be considered in the planning and management of water supply systems. Increased temperatures will impact evapotranspiration and contribute to increases in wildfire activity, while a reduction in rainfall will lead to reduced water supply, particularly during the summer months. Efficient and sparing water use will become more important, especially in coastal areas supplied by wells, as overdrawing groundwater can reduce available water supply and lead to saltwater intrusion. In addition, more frequent extreme precipitation events in the wet season will contribute to runoff, in turn leading to high turbidity levels that create issues for water disinfection and treatment processes and carrying excess nutrients and nutrient pollutants to freshwater systems, which can result in algal blooms, leading to taste and odour issues. 
  • Ecosystems and Species: More severe storm events presents issues for ecosystems and species. Flooding of lowland areas in the fall, winter, and spring months can result in tree roots becoming saturated, stressing trees and potentially making them more susceptible to being damaged or blown down by strong winds. In addition, high stream flows from major rainfall events can negatively affect fish spawning habitat through channel erosion, and the deposition of sediment. Moreover, severe storms increase surface runoff,  which carry pollutants from roadways and parking lots into aquatic and marine ecosystems.
  • Food and Agriculture: An increase in growing degree days and a reduction of frost days will provide longer growing seasons in the Greater Victoria region. However, the region may also experience a decrease in summer water levels in ponds, wetlands, and streams used for irrigation, and increases in competition for water. Warmer temperatures also mean warmer oceans, where red tide and other aquatic pests could compromise aquaculture health. In addition, agricultural areas are increasingly threatened by saltwater intrusion due to rising sea levels, and some of these lands (and other areas) may need to be converted to (or restored as) wetlands for stormwater management purposes.

Regional Water Supply Strategic Plan (2017): This Strategic Plan delivered by the Capital Regional District for Regional Water Supply sets Commitments and identifies Strategic Priorities and Actions, with a planning horizon to the year 2050, that will guide the future direction for the Regional Water Supply Service. 

Setting Our Table Capital Regional District Food & Agriculture Strategy (2016)

    • This strategy includes a list of recommendations responding to issues and opportunities identified in this report. The recommended actions are regional in nature and scope, broadly supported, have the potential to have a significant and systematic impact on the region’s food and agriculture, and build on or support existing CRD activities or initiatives. Each recommendation has an associated action and desired outcome. The following is an example of a water-related recommendation, with an associated action and desired outcome.
      • Recommendation: Maintain affordability and improve access to irrigation water for food and agricultural operations was one of 10 recommendations of this strategy. 
      • Associated Action: Encourage innovation in water-conservation techniques, facilitate access to funds for investment in infrastructure (retention ponds, drip irrigation), and encourage conservation activities.
      • Desired Outcome: Improved ability and capacity to effectively respond to regional food and agriculture-related issues and opportunities within existing departmental mandates.

BCStats. (2018). British Columbia’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector, 2016 Edition.

Britten, L. (2016). Sewage controversy in Greater Victoria finally circled the drain in 2016. CBC News.

Capital Regional District. (2021a). Climate Action Strategy: Taking Action on the Climate Emergency.

Capital Regional District. (2021b). Capital Region Coastal Flood Inundation Mapping Project Summary Version 2.0, November 2021.

Capital Regional District. (2017a). Climate Projections for the Capital Region.

Capital Regional District. (2017b). Regional Water Supply 2017 Strategic Plan.

Capital Regional District. (2016). Setting Our Table: Capital Regional District Food & Agriculture Strategy.

Capital Regional District. (n.d.). Core Area Wastewater Treatment: McLoughlin Point Wastewater Treatment Plant. Retrieved February 28, 2022, from

​​Demarchi, D. A. (2011). An Introduction to the Ecoregions of British Columbia: Ecosystem Information Section Ministry of Environment, Victoria, British Columbia. Retrieved from

Ganter, S., Crawford, T., Irwin, C., Robichaud, V., DeMaio-Sukic, A., Wang, J., Andrews, J., & Larocque H. (2021). Canada’s oceans and the economic contribution of marine sectors. Statistics Canada.

Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce. (2021). Accessed February 23, 2022, from,

Haigh, R., Ianson, D., Holt, C. A., Neate, H. E. & Edwards, A. M. (2015). Effects of Ocean Acidification on Temperate Coastal Marine Ecosystems and Fisheries in the Northeast Pacific. PLoS ONE 10(2): e0117533.

HDR Corporation. (2021). Economic Impact Study Victoria and Esquimalt Harbours.

Iachetti, P. (2022). Pacific Northwest Coast Ecoregional Assessment: Prioritization of Terrestrial and Freshwater Portfolio, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Data Basin. Accessed February 28, 2022, from

Ianson, D., Allen, S. E., Moore-Maley, B. L., Johannessen, S. C., & Macdonald, R. W. (2016). Vulnerability of a semi-enclosed estuarine sea to ocean acidification in contrast with hypoxia. GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, 43(11), 5793–5801.

ICLEI Canada. (2017). Together for the Climate.

Krepakevich, A., & Pospelova, V. (2010). Tracing the influence of sewage discharge on coastal bays of Southern Vancouver Island (BC, Canada) using sedimentary records of phytoplankton. Continental Shelf Research, 30(18), 1924.

Lavoie, J. (2018). The Race for Adaptation in an Increasingly Acidic Salish Sea. The Narwhal.

Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. (n.d.). 1850 – Douglas Treaties. Accessed March 1, 2022, from

Ministry of Agriculture, Province of British Columbia. (2016). Agriculture in Brief – Census 2016, Capital Regional District.

Nature Conservancy of Canada & Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. (2006). Pacific Northwest Coast Ecoregional Assessment.

Nature Conservancy of Canada. (2004). Willamette Valley–Puget Trough–Georgia Basin Ecoregional Assessment.

​​Nisga’a Lisims Government. (n.d.). Understanding the Treaty.

Peninsula Streams Society. (2022).

Smith, N.F. and ICLEI Canada. (2020). Considering Sea Level Rise and Cultural Heritage: A Resource for Municipalities. An Initiative from the Together for Climate Project. ICLEI Canada, Toronto, ON. September 2020.

Smithsonian Ocean Portal Team. (2018).Ocean Acidification.

Somers, K., Proulx, C., Kilgour, B., & Raggett, J. (2021). Reference Model Supporting Documentation for CABIN Analytical Tools.

Songhees Nation. (2022). lək̓ʷəŋən Traditional Territory.

Statistics Canada. (2022). Table 17-10-0135-01 Population estimates, July 1, by census metropolitan area and census agglomeration, 2016 boundaries. Accessed February 23, 2022, from,

The Governer’s Letters Project. (n.d.). Background to the Douglas Treaties.

Water Quality Program: Capital Regional District. (2021). Greater Victoria Drinking Water Quality 2020 Annual Report.

West Coast Living Canada. (2022). Greater Victoria. Accessed February 23, 2022, from,