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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.

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."

Coquitlam River Watershed Roundtable: Community Meeting – a Call to Action for Governments, First Nations, Private Stakeholders, Watershed Governance and Policy Experts, and Members of the Public (June 10, 2017)

“With the development and launch of the Lower Coquitlam River Watershed Plan in 2015, the Roundtable is poised to implement strategies for action," stated Melissa Dick. “The collaborative, knowledge-sharing, and inclusive approach of the Roundtable has been central to its past successes and will continue to be a key characteristic as it works to implement elements of the Watershed Plan in alignment with efforts by the local municipalities and regional government."

Coquitlam River Watershed Roundtable: A team of 7 speakers shared their expertise and perspectives on key topics such as local watershed governance, sustainable funding mechanisms, and collaborative decision-making at a Community Meeting (June 10, 2017)

At the heart of building the capacity and resilience of community groups seeking to implement local watershed initiatives is the need for sustainable funding, “A long-standing, multi-year source of funding is critical to sustain watershed-related activities,” stated Steve Litke. A draft Business Proposal has been prepared by the Coquitlam River Watershed Roundtable and critiqued by leading experts in the fields of watershed governance and funding/delivery models.

Coquitlam River Watershed Roundtable: Community Meeting convened to explore sustainable funding mechanisms for implementing Lower Coquitlam River Watershed Plan (June 10, 2017)

The Roundtable is seeking to secure core funding to cover ongoing costs and to support the leverage of additional funds. “Diversity is key in sustainable financial planning, and we have already seen examples of what is possible when there is a strong partnership between, for example, a city and a watershed group. It is important to consider a blend of funding mechanisms. Resilience comes from diversity," stated Zita Botelho.

What Streamkeepers Can Do to Inform Local Government Decision-Makers: North Vancouver workshop attracted participants from communities throughout the Metro Vancouver region (March 2017)

“Our objective in hosting the workshop was to raise awareness about ways to better manage rainwater runoff, maintain stream health and support watershed-based plans. The workshop introduced community members to a vision for Sustainable Watershed Systems and what it means to value watersheds as infrastructure elements," stated Barbara Frisken. “Breakout groups then identified possible community actions that can support a sustained focus on improving watersheds.”

Coquitlam River Watershed Roundtable: Learning from the experience of other regions in British Columbia

“In the Nanaimo region, our parcel tax function provides us with a reliable long-term funding source to enable our work related to water sustainability education/outreach, data-collection/monitoring, and planning/policy development for our region,” stated Julie Pisani. “This in turn magnetizes other partners and resources, to collaborate on watershed initiatives with us, as we are recognized as an equipped, dependable and long-term player."

VIDEO: “Streamkeeper involvement and influence is expanding beyond the creek channel,” observed Kim Stephens at a North Vancouver workshop organized by the North Shore Streamkeepers (March 2017)

"Across this province there is a movement taking place within the stewardship sector. The key is how the stewardship sector partners with local government," stated Kim Stephens. "An informed stewardship sector may prove to be the difference-maker that accelerates implementation of the whole-system, water balance approach. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone really understood what it means to think and act like a watershed."

Coquitlam River Watershed Roundtable: What does the new Water Sustainability Act mean for local watershed governance?

The new Water Sustainability Act opens the door to potential opportunities to support local watershed governance initiatives. “With provisions including the potential for innovative water sustainability plans, a new ability to formally delegate decision-making under the Act, and enhanced protections for environmental flows, the WSA can provide a robust framework for freshwater management and governance," stated Rosie Simms.

Coquitlam River Watershed Roundtable: Collaboration benefits all

The Roundtable has turned its attention to building the capacity and resilience necessary to see the watershed plan through implementation and beyond. “One way to enhance the capacity of local governments to assess impacts is to work collaboratively, with other local governments, provincial and federal governments, government agencies, First Nations, the academic community and professional associations," stated Deborah Carlson.