Note to Reader:
For British Columbians, 2015 was the year of the great drought, dwindling snow packs, melting glaciers, beleaguered salmon runs and a costly forest fire season, followed by windstorms and heavy rains. Launched from a powerful El Nino, storms caused the single largest electrical outage in the province’s history. The 2015 Drought was selected as the Top Story of 2015 in a poll conducted by the CBC.
2015 ranks with 2003 as a defining ‘teachable year’ for a paradigm-shift
The drought that extended this past winter, spring and summer from Vancouver Island to Manitoba and from Mexico to the Yukon suggests that Western North America may be crossing an invisible threshold into a different hydro-meteorological regime.
Year-end newspaper, radio and television interviews about BC’s changing climate featured the perspective provided by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia. In the first week of January, Kirk LaPointe invited Kim Stephens for an in-depth conversation about water on Roundhouse Radio in Vancouver.
Kim Stephens is the Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.
Prescribe Outcomes vs Embrace Shared Responsibility?
In the course of the conversation, Kirk LaPointe asked: “What would be your prescription for a city like ours where the land use is relatively diverse. There is not a lot of agricultural land inside our city (Vancouver). Yet users are very demanding on the system, and where you have individuals who maybe do not act as a community at times, but are rather isolated. What would be your prescription for a big place like this?”
“If is funny that you would use the word prescription,” replied Kim Stephens. “In British Columbia we don’t prescribe. We encourage shared responsibility. Prescribing just doesn’t seem to work. We seem to have to get to a critical mass where people realize that we have to do something.”
“Didn’t we get there last year?” interjected Kirk LaPointe.
Potential for Implementing Changes in Practice Through the Water Sustainability Act
“You would hope so,” replied Kim Stephens. “If I Iook back in context, the last ‘teachable year’ was 2003. That set in motion a process that culminated with a number of things, mainly the adoption in 2014 of the Water Sustainability Act. The key now is…how do we take the 2015 teachable year and build on that in terms of where we go with all the aspects of the Water Sustainability Act…which does include regulations.”
This statement led Kirk LaPointe to ask: “So, what are your ‘encouragements’?”
Decisions Ripple Through Time
“It does start with the understanding and the ‘water ethic’ of those who are in the front-lines on a daily basis and are making decisions in local government,” responded Kim Stephens. “Those actions that get approved on a daily basis will either have cumulative benefits or impacts, one property at a time.”
“So, the biggest thing that we can accomplish in the short-term is educating enough people to get to that critical mass that understand that each site is part of a watershed, and what each of us does has consequences, or better still, benefits. We are in transition now. We have changed the nature of thinking at a watershed scale. Now the focus is on how we implement changes, which do include performance targets, for managing water at the site scale so that we can achieve those big picture goals.”
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