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Convening for Action in British Columbia

What happens on the land matters. Apply ‘cathedral thinking’ – a far-reaching vision, a well thought-out blueprint, and a shared commitment to inter-generational implementation – to create a lasting water sustainability legacy. Convening for Action is a British Columbia process that is about moving from defining the problems (the ‘what’), to determining options (the ‘so what’), to taking action to achieve results (the ‘now what’), and after that, to replicating in other communities (the ‘then what’).

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DOWNLOADABLE RESOURCE: The Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia – Our Story (March 2018)


“Future planners, engineers, scientists, politicians and citizens alike will be called upon to demonstrate both vision and pragmatism, working as a team towards consensus, commitment and collaboration for the common good. Such collaboration is essential and must cross all political and community boundaries given that climate change is no respecter of such creations. The Partnership has accepted this challenge and its implementation,” stated Eric Bonham.

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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.

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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. “It will turn ideas into action by building capacity and understanding regarding integration of long-term, strategic planning and the implementation of physical infrastructure.”

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DOWNLOAD: “The Story of the 2008 Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series” – this capacity-building program was a “grass-roots” demonstration application of how to build inter-departmental and inter-governmental alignment to achieve the vision for Living Water Smart, BC’s Water Plan


Inter-departmental participation by all member local governments effectively meant closing front counters on three Fridays for most of the day so that planning, engineering, operations and building inspection staff could attend the Learning Lunch seminars. “Throughout the series, our theme and our challenge was to ask participants what will they do better or differently to achieve a shared vision for the Cowichan Valley,” stated David Hewetson, Building Inspector with the City of Duncan. “This is why it was so important to get everyone thinking in terms of the What – So What – Now What mind-map.”

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OP-ED ARTICLE: Kim Stephens – Celebrating a decade of living water smart in B.C., but where to from here? (published in the Vancouver Sun in June 2018)


“The hard work of hope has resulted in a policy, program and regulatory framework that enables community-based action to adapt to the New Normal. Living Water Smart successes are defined by collaboration and a “top-down / bottom-up” approach. This brings together decision-makers and community advocates,” stated Kim Stephens. “The legislative piece is the Water Sustainability Act, one of several game-changers. A historic achievement, the Act recognizes the connections between land and water – what happens on the land matters!”

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DOWNLOADABLE RESOURCE: Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process for Watershed Assessment – Demonstration Applications on Vancouver Island (April 2018)


“The focus of EAP is on watershed hydrological conditions and the dependent ecological services provided, and which sustain natural systems and human settlement. EAP is not about engineering practices as the analytical starting point. Neither is it about managing hydrology through a land use, transportation, or other human settlement framework,” stated Tim Pringle.

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GUIDANCE DOCUMENT: “Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia” (released by the Province in 2002)


“Released in 2002, the Guidebook provides a framework for effective rainwater management throughout the province. This tool for local governments presents a methodology for moving from planning to action that focuses on implementing early action where it is most needed,” stated Laura Maclean. “The Guidebook approach is designed to eliminate the root cause of negative ecological and property impacts of rainwater runoff by addressing the complete spectrum of rainfall events. The Guidebook approach contrasts with conventional ‘flows-and-pipes’ stormwater management.”

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GUIDANCE DOCUMENT: City of Chilliwack Policy and Design Criteria Manual for Surface Water Management (released 2002)


The City of Chillwack’s Manual was developed through an inter-departmental and inter-agency process that also included community participation. “Through interaction with the Chilliwack community during its development, the Manual also provided a feedback loop for the Guidebook process. The Manual incorporated the content of the Bylaw that it replaced, and is designed to manage both flood risk and environmental risk,” stated Dipak Basu.

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ARTICLE: “A recipe for stormwater management – The Stormwater Planning Guidebook helps make land develolpment compatible with stream protection” (published in Input Magazine, Spring 2003)


“Many local governments are under pressure to protect streamside property that is threatened by stormwater development,” wrote Geoff Gilliard. “The Guidebook offers a new approach to stormwater management that eliminates the root cause of ecological and property impacts by designing for the complete spectrum of rainfall events. The Guidebook uses a series of case studies to illustrate solutions to stormater problems.”

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BLUE ECOLOGY WORKSHOP (November 28, 2017): “The vision for a water-first approach is an idea whose time has come – and a set of videos uploaded to YouTube provide a permanent record of this watershed moment,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia


“The Partnership showcases big ideas through its annual workshop series,” stated Kim Stephens. “The Blue Ecology workshop has been captured in its entirety in a set of videos that have been uploaded to YouTube for ease of access by those who are curious and/or interested to learn about what transpired at the workshop. Or simply refresh their memories. The video for each module includes the featured speaker plus the ensuing town-hall interaction with the audience.”

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BLUE ECOLOGY VIDEO 1: “Because the over-arching theme of the workshop is interweaving Indigenous and Western thought, we invited the Musqueam to attend and provide a traditional welcome,” stated Kim Stephens


“Water and land are inseparable,” stated Morgan Guerin, Musqueam First Nation fisheries officer and Councillor, when informed about the Blue Ecology program (and which was held on the traditional territory of the Musqueam). “They are inseparable just like you cannot separate blood from the body. Because then both would die.” This statement led into a discussion of how land development alters the natural water balance and results in cumulative effects (or impacts). “It is death by a 1000 cuts. As a fisheries officer, I see those consequences. We must do business differently.”

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BLUE ECOLOGY VIDEO 2: “When collaboration is a common or shared value, the right mix of people and perspectives will create the conditions for change. We need a paradigm-shift in the way we do things,” said Fin Donnelly – Member of Parliament, founder & Chair of the Rivershed Society of British Columbia


“I learned about the issues threatening the health of BC’s longest river in university. I experienced those issues and drew attention to the world’s greatest salmon river in a unique way, by twice swimming its 1,400km length. And because the need for Watershed CPR (Conservation-Protection-Restoration) is urgent, my goal is to inspire and encourage British Columbians to take action and apply CPR,” stated Fin Donnelly. “I can relate to Michael Blackstock’s Blue Ecology vision in that it interweaves Western science with Indigenous traditional knowledge.”

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BLUE ECOLOGY VIDEO 3: “The Fraser Valley alone could provide two-thirds of the additional irrigated land area that is needed for food security. Think about that,” stated Ted van der Gulik, President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability


“The agricultural area irrigated in the Fraser Valley is substantial – for example, it is about 1.4 times that in the Okanagan, a fact that is not intuitive to most people,” stated Ted van der Gulik. “Also, the potential buildout for irrigated farmland in the Fraser Valley is about 2.4 times what is currently irrigated. The Fraser River would be able to supply much of the water required. But delivering the water would require a huge investment in infrastructure.”

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