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Green, Heal and Restore the Earth: Ian McHarg’s “Design with Nature” vision has influenced implementation of British Columbia’s Water Sustainability Action Plan


In his 1969 book, Design With Nature, Ian McHarg pioneered the concept of environmental planning. "So, I commend Design with Nature to your sympathetic consideration. The title contains a gradient of meaning. It can be interpreted as simply descriptive of a planning method, deferential to places and peoples, it can invoke the Grand Design, it can emphasize the conjunction with and, finally it can be read as an imperative. DESIGN WITH NATURE!," wrote Ian McHarg.

BEYOND THE GUIDEBOOK 2015: To download a copy of “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management”……


Five Regional Districts representing 75% of BC’s population are partners in the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative (IREI). A program deliverable is the Beyond the Guidebook 2015. It is a progress report on how local governments are ‘learning by doing’ to implement affordable and effective science-based practices. It is the third in a series that builds on Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia.

Convening for Action in British Columbia


"Convening for Action is a provincial initiative that supports innovation on-the-ground. From the perspective of those leading and/or participating in regional programs, having this community-of-interest provides the opportunity to 'tell our story' and 'record our history' as a work-in-progress," states Ray Fung.

Water is a Form-Maker: Three bold ideas for building water-resilient communities explored at FLOWnGROW Workshop

The workshop program was structured as four modules and was cascading – from high-level visioning to ground-level applications. Adaptation to a changing climate was a unifying theme. Both the urban and agricultural perspectives were represented. “Our climate is changing. Demand for water will only increase as summers get longer, hotter and drier. And irrigation is the elephant in the room," stated Ted van der Gulik, President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.

FLOWnGROW WORKSHOP: “The challenge of climate change now demands a level of collaboration and commitment heretofore unseen,” states Eric Bonham in his reflections on the most important take-aways

“We deliberated long and hard at the planning stages of the program on how to include the ‘Spirit & Science – An Inclusive Journey’ component. Without question the decision to proceed was the correct one,” stated Eric Bonham. "Bob McDonald's opening keynote reminded us all, in no uncertain terms, that we all live on one fragile planet that demands our collective respect. Bob Sandford – the other keynote - also gave a very powerful presentation.”

FLOWnGROW WORKSHOP: “The BC Framework is the lynch-pin for Sustainable Watershed Systems because it provides local governments with a financial incentive,” stated Kim Stephens

“No longer is asset management only about hard engineered assets – watermains, sewers, roads,” stated Kim Stephens. "Already facing a $200 billion challenge for renewal of hard infrastructure, 'Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework' provides a financial driver for local governments to integrate watershed systems thinking and climate adaptation into asset management."

FLOWnGROW WORKSHOP: “How did we end up with a water ethic that is so completely disengaged from the place in which we live?” – question posed by John Wagner, cultural anthropologist (UBC-Okanagan University)

“A greater appreciation for the natural beauty of the Okanagan, and a greater appreciation for the valley as an interconnected series of waterscapes, from mountain top to valley bottom, could help us develop a ‘made in the Okanagan’ aesthetic,” stated John Wagner. “Ensuring the long term sustainability of the water resource in the Okanagan requires that we fundamentally transform the ‘settler culture values’ that have dominated the region for the past century and a half."

FLOWnGROW WORKSHOP: “To protect watershed health, engineered infrastructure ought to fit into natural systems, rather than the other way around,” asserts Tim Pringle

“Designing with nature is efficient. It amounts to using income from natural capital rather than drawing down the resource,” states Tim Pringle. “The key principle is that settlement and ecology are equal values and they must be as much in balance as possible for wellbeing of human and natural systems. This condition supports better control of the life-cycle costs of providing infrastructure for the built environment.”

FLOWnGROW WORKSHOP: “We all live on one fragile planet that demands our collective respect,” stated Bob McDonald, host of the ‘Quirks & Quarks’ science show on CBC radio

The workshop explored the role of water from the global to the local. The particular journey facing the Okanagan Basin includes the impact of climate change, water security, population demand and food security issues. "The Okanagan is a desert. As soon as people living there realize that, and stop living a California lifestyle, they will treat water as the truly rare commodity it actually is," stated Bob McDonald when he provided his closing reflections.

FLOWnGROW WORKSHOP: “I created Blue Ecology, by interweaving the best threads of Indigenous and Western Science, to lay a new foundation, to make water-first decisions,” stated Michael Blackstock

The workshop introduced the vision for Blue Ecology. "Hydrologists and water managers can use the hydrological and Blue Ecology cycles to help explain how and why the climate is changing," stated Michael Blackstock. "Western science is not wrong. It is just not complete. It is a matter of Western science embracing that water is part of a living ecosystem. Water is a core human interest upon which we can build collaborative cross-cultural climate change strategies."

“Within two years, our goal is that local governments will understand WHY and HOW to transition to Sustainable Watershed Systems, through asset management,” stated Kim Stephens at a meeting of Metro Vancouver’s Stormwater Interagency Liaison Group (Nov 2016)

"The project 'Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management' describes a whole-system, water balance approach to community development and infrastructure servicing," stated Kim Stephens. “As understanding grows, local governments will progress incrementally along the Asset Management Continuum for Sustainable Service Delivery. Step Three is Sustainable Watershed Systems."

“It has taken more than a decade to implement a policy, program and regulatory framework that makes ‘Water-Resilient Communities’ possible in British Columbia,” Kim Stephens explained to a local government audience in Parksville

"Kim Stephens was able to communicate concepts in a way that made sense to the class. They understood him perfectly," observed Todd Pugh, sessional instructor for Capilano’s Local Government Administration Certificate program. "It is such a mix of people – there were some who would have liked to hear more about the science behind what he presented, and for others it was more science than they’ve experienced since elementary school. So on the whole, I think he hit the right mix."

Metro Vancouver Agricultural Water Forum: BC Greenhouse Growers’ Perspective on Water for Agriculture – reflections by Linda Delli Santi

“On our greenhouse farms we use the roof rain water. The greenhouse sector acknowledges the cost of producing potable water and also acknowledges that we do not necessarily need potable water for irrigation," stated Linda Delli Santi. “We would like to see a source of river water, non-potable water piped directly to our farms. This is not a new idea, many cities in the world have two water supplies, potable and non-potable readily available to residents."