Note to Reader:
Five regional districts representing 75% of the population of BC are partners in the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative (IREI). The Capital Regional District (CRD) is one of the five. Led by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC, the over-arching goal of the IREI is to provide tools to help organizations achieve their water sustainability goals.
A program deliverable is Beyond the Guidebook 2015: Moving Towards “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management”, released in November 2015. Following release of this guidance document, Kim Stephens (Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC) met with each of the partners to celebrate their contribution to Beyond the Guidebook 2015. He met with the CRD Environment Committee on November 25, 2016.
Align Regional and Local Actions with Provincial Policy, Program and Regulatory Framework
The purpose of the presentation by Kim Stephens was to celebrate the good work by the Capital Regional District; and provide the elected representatives with a picture of what the Partnership for Water Sustainability is doing inter-regionally and where the Inter-Regional Educational Initiative is heading. The record of the meeting as published by the CRD states that:
Kim Stephens provided an update on activities of the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative, of which the CRD is a partner, and spoke about the publication “Beyond the Guidebook 2015: Towards a Watershed Health Legacy in the Georgia Basin”, produced as part of the program to educate local governments on how to achieve sustainable watershed systems through asset management. Main points included: the publication previews the program for integrating the water balance services provided by soil, water and trees into asset management; and local governments can foster a new land ethic through integrated watershed management strategies.
“Beyond the Guidebook” builds on
the Guidebook foundation
“CRD is a partner in the Inter-Regional Educational Initiative, and the reason I am here today is to release Beyond the Guidebook 2015. In terms of celebrating the good work that local governments are doing, there is an entire chapter on the CRD and your Integrated Watershed Management Strategy and the work that is being done at a staff level by people like Dale Green and Jody Watson. It is something you can be really proud of,” stated Kim Stephens in his opening comments.
“Why is it called Beyond the Guidebook? In 2002, I was the project manager and principal author of a provincial guidance document called Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia. We continue to add depth and to build on that foundation. In terms of the title today, it is the third in a series. It is a progression. We are talking about moving towards sustainable watershed systems. That is the collaboration that is taking place.”
“Everyone is doing something different. But it all fits together into an overall picture. It is how they share and learn from each other – because the objective is to ensure that we are all moving in the right direction. And so, in terms of the outcome of this collaboration, it really is about how to align regional and local actions with the provincial policy, program and regulatory framework. Our focus is on what we call hydrologic integrity.”
New Paradigm: Watersheds as Infrastructure Assets
“The key takeaway today is introducing you to the new paradigm,” continued Kim Stephens. “And that is, begin to think of watersheds as infrastructure assets. As local government, you are used to thinking about managing your other assets – water, sewers, roads. Well, watersheds are assets too. And a watershed is an integrated system.”
“In my conversation with you today, I am coming at this from a ‘water perspective’. And if you think from this perspective, there are three pathways by which rainfall reaches the creek or watercourse. Some goes over the land. Some goes down deep to groundwater. But the majority of water that falls as rain moves horizontally through the shallow interflow zone. Those are your infrastructure assets. That’s what we are saying is watershed as infrastructure assets.”
“Those three pathways are what provide you with water balance services. And that is the key message. If they are providing you with services, then you manage them and you protect them,” emphasized Kim Stephens.
Foster a New ‘Land Ethic’
“We talk about water. But it is really the integration of land and water because….It is land ethic that has the consequences for water. The graphic (above) shows this in a pictorial way what we mean by a watershed system. And what is the desired outcome? Well, it is to collaboratively manage the landscape to maintain watershed function and , in so doing, create sustainable communities.”
“If you think about this past year being a teachable year (because of the drought), the Capital Region did quite well compared to the rest of the province. But we are seeing a change: the longer, drier summers; the warmer, wetter winters. When I talk about sustainable watershed systems, I am talking about this concept from both the water use and drainage perspectives. This brings it down to basic language and how we manage THE SYSTEM.”
Twin Pillars for Sustainable Watershed Systems
“The graphic (above) is a snapshot of where ‘we are at’ in a progression that has taken place over the past 15 years,” stated Kim Stephens in his concluding segment. “It also shows how we will go forward over the next couple of years.”
“Think of the area bounded in purple as being my world. This is the world of the Partnership in terms of our responsibility in delivering the Water Sustainability Action Plan,” he pointed out when explaining the road map graphic. “The Action Plan is a partnership umbrella. That is the significance of the five regional partners because we all live in this big watershed called the Georgia Basin. When you are in a plane at the 3000 foot elevation, that is when you realize that each regional district is a valley (within the big watershed).”
“You can think of what we are doing from the perspective of the twin technical pillars for Sustainable Watershed Systems. In terms of hydrologic integrity or water balance integrity, we have spent a lot of effort over the past 15 years into evolving the science and the practical aspects of implementing the Water Balance Methodology. This is why we can now translate words like ‘integrated watershed systems’ into something that is meaningful for performance targets.”
Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A Framework for BC
“Over the next couple of years, we will be bringing along the Ecological Accounting Protocol. This starts to put a dollar value to nature’s services to be able to make decisions. This is where the Town of Gibsons has established a precedent by including an accounting statement in the Town’s annual Financial Statement about how needs to also account for the value of nature.”
“We are not talking about the birds and bees. We are talking about basic functions. If you don’t manage the Water Balance, then the consequences of the increased stream energy (when it rains) include channel erosion which requires money to fix.”
“The lynch-pin for what we will be doing over the next two years is Asset Management for Sustainable Service: A BC Framework. Going forward, it is the lynch-pin because qualifying for provincial grants will depend on local governments having an asset management plan.”
“Once everyone has their asset management plan, and are moving in the direction of Sustainable Service Delivery, what then? By 2017, our objectives are pretty modest. We just want people in local government to understand what we mean (by the phrase) ‘watersheds as infrastructure assets’ and how we value them.”
“In that regard, Cowichan Valley has stepped forward to be the demonstration and the other regional districts will serve as the sounding board,” concluded Kim Stephens.
To Learn More:
Download Beyond the Guidebook 2015: Presentation to the Capital Regional District Environment Committee in November 2015 to view the complete storyline for the presentation by Kim Stephens.
The Capital Regional District chapter in Beyond the Guidebook 2015 is 20 pages and is organized in five sections as shown below. To download a PDF copy and read the complete story, click on Convening for Action in Capital Region.
To download a copy of the entire 158-page Beyond the Guidebook 2015: http://waterbucket.ca/viw/files/2015/11/Beyond-Guidebook-2015_final_Nov.pdf