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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.

BLUE ECOLOGY WORKSHOP: Module 1 – Fin Donnelly, founder of the Rivershed Society of BC will tell the story of his swims down the Fraser River and will “Connect the Drops” (November 28, 2017 in Richmond)

Fin Donnelly’s love affair with the Fraser River began more than two decades ago. As a young man, he was a marathon swimmer, crossing the Strait of Georgia several times. But it was his journey down the length of the Fraser River in 1995 that changed his life. It was a 1,400-kilometre swim, which he completed over 21 days. Following his epic swim, Donnelly and others formed the nonprofit Rivershed Society to promote public education about the Fraser River Basins.

BLUE ECOLOGY WORKSHOP: Module 2 – Ted van der Gulik has a compelling story about “The Fraser River, Agriculture and Food Security” (November 28, 2017 in Richmond)

“Agriculture's need for water will only increase as summers get longer, hotter and drier. The Ministry of Agriculture has developed a Water Demand Model that can determine agriculture’s water requirements today and in the future,” states Ted van der Gulik. “Climate change will raise sea levels and bring sea water farther up the Fraser River. This will limit the number of hours per year that fresh water is accessible for irrigation water supply in the Delta.”

BLUE ECOLOGY WORKSHOP: Module 3 – Bob McDonald reflects on “Water from a Global Perspective & Beyond” (November 28, 2017 in Richmond)

Bob McDonald translates complex scientific information in a way that is both fascinating and easily understood by his audiences. "Water is THE issue of the 21st century, both around the world and even here in Canada where we have more water than anyone. As glaciers disappear and droughts become more frequent, it is vital, in every sense of the word to manage our most precious resource wisely," states Bob McDonald.

BLUE ECOLOGY WORKSHOP: Module 4 – Michael Blackstock presents the case for “An Attitude Switch” (November 28, 2017 in Richmond)

The journey to a water-resilient future starts with Western science acknowledging water for its central functional and spiritual roles in our world. "Attitude influences behavior," states Michael Blackstock. "Blue Ecology is a new cross cultural approach which inspires a new attitude towards water.  There is good reason to have a strong belief in hope, instead of fear, while facing climate change.  The good costs nothing to switch our corporate or personal attitude." 

BLUE ECOLOGY WORKSHOP: Program Preview – Partnership for Water Sustainability unveils the program for interweaving First Nations cultural knowledge and Western science (November 28, 2017 in Richmond)

“The program is visionary yet pragmatic. Bob McDonald, Fin Donnelly and Michael Blackstock are a powerful trio. The Blue Ecology theme, blending First Nations cultural knowledge and Western Science challenges us to be more inclusive when addressing watershed systems,” observes Eric Bonham. "If we can create a documentary out of the workshop that blends Michael’s central message with commentary from Bob and Fin we will have a powerful message indeed."

REGISTER NOW for an inspirational workshop on “Blue Ecology – interweaving First Nations cultural knowledge and Western science” (November 28, 2017 in Richmond)

"For the fifth straight year, the Irrigation Industry Association of BC and the Partnership for Water Sustainability are partnering to co-host a workshop that will mainstream a 'big idea' and provide professional developmentabout water management in BC,” states Kim Schaefer. "This year the workshop moves back to the Lower Mainland after being held in the Okanagan (2016), Lower Mainland (2013, 2015) and on Vancouver Island (2014)."

BLUE ECOLOGY: Planet Reconciliation – an article about how to enhance Western science’s knowledge of the water cycle for the benefit of hydrologists and water managers (published in Water Canada magazine, March-April 2017)

"There is hope for future generations. Success depends on embracing a water-first approach. What we are essentially talking about is RECONCILIATION: going back to the headwaters of where we got our relationships with water and with one another wrong; and then starting back down the river of time – this time together – with a full understanding of the importance of embracing a water-first approach to planning human interventions in the environment," wrote Bob Sandford.

FLASHBACK TO 2003: “Charting a New Course – A Vision for Integrated Water Management in British Columbia” (Okanagan launch event for Water Sustainability Action Plan)

The Blue Ecology workshop in 2017 is a natural evolution of the vision for integrated water management as shared at the 2003 focus group workshop that launched the Water Sustainability Action Plan. The approach in developing the Action Plan is grounded. "Successful initiatives inform provincial policy through the shared responsibility model," stated Lynn Kriwoken.

Coquitlam River Watershed Roundtable: Keynote presentation by Kim Stephens at the June 2017 Community Meeting connected the dots to the call to action by the legendary Ian Mcharg in his classic book “Design with Nature” (1967)

Design with Nature is widely considered one of the most important and influential works of its kind. McHarg insisted we look at the many aspects of the entire system we are designing when building streets, structures, and cities; and instead of fighting against natural forces, design in harmony with them. "The ‘design with nature’ philosophy has become an integral and essential part of the green infrastructure, sustainable rainwater management and water sustainability branding in BC," stated Kim Stephens.

VIDEO: “My students really love using the Water Balance Express,” stated UBC’s Julie Wilson at a North Vancouver workshop organized by the North Shore Streamkeepers (March 2017)

"Land and water are connected in a watershed, with the resulting impact being due to cumulative effects of impervious surfaces from individual properties," stated Julie Wilson. "The redevelopment cycle presents an opportunity to reduce these effects. Use of the Express tool can help to illustrate these dynamics in greater detail, and can give homeowners and developers opportunities to explore alternative designs to improve water balance on a property."