The Urban Food–Water Nexus: Modeling Water Footprints of Urban Agriculture using CityCrop

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Thoreau Rory Tooke, Michael J Lathuilliere, Nicholas C Coops and Mark S. Johnson, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Urban agriculture provides a potential contribution towards more sustainable food production and mitigating some of the human impacts that accompany volatility in regional and global food supply. When considering the capacity of urban landscapes to produce food products, the impact of urban water demand required for food production in cities is often neglected. Urban agricultural studies also tend to be undertaken at broad spatial scales, overlooking the heterogeneity of urban form that exerts an extreme influence on the urban energy balance. As a result, urban planning and management practitioners require, but often do not have, spatially explicit and detailed information to support informed urban agricultural policy, especially as it relates to potential conflicts with sustainability goals targeting water-use. In this research we introduce a new model, CityCrop, a hybrid evapotranspiration-plant growth model that incorporates detailed digital representations of the urban surface and biophysical impacts of the built environment and urban trees to account for the daily variations in net surface radiation. The model enables very fine-scale (sub-meter) estimates of water footprints of potential urban agricultural production. Results of the model are demonstrated for an area in the City of Vancouver, Canada and compared to aspatial model estimates, demonstrating the unique considerations and sensitivities for current and future water footprints of urban agriculture and the implications for urban water planning and policy.