GUIDANCE DOCUMENT – Sustainable Watershed Systems: Primer on Application of Ecosystem-based Understanding in the Georgia Basin
Think and Act Like a Watershed: Primer on Application of Ecosystem-based Understanding Connects Past and Current Research
Local governments are starting to recognize that natural assets have value, ecosystem services have a role in municipal service delivery, and so need to be integrated into their asset management programs.
For these reasons, Sustainable Watershed Systems: Primer on Application of Ecosystem-based Understanding in the Georgia Basin is written in a magazine-style to help multiple audiences – whether elected, administrative, technical or stewardship – ask the right questions and ensure that “science-based understanding” is applied properly and effectively to implement land development practices that restore the water balance (hydrologic integrity) of watersheds.
What the reader will learn from this Primer
Everyone learns about the water balance (water cycle) in elementary school, but by high school most have forgotten what they learned. So what does this mean for communities, the reader might well ask? Consider that:
A legacy of community and infrastructure design practices has failed to protect the natural water balance (hydrologic integrity). Failure has financial, level-of-service and life-cycle impacts and implications for taxpayers. Consequences include expensive fixes.
Restoring hydrologic integrity, and thus the water balance, is key to achieving a water-resilient future in urban areas. Released today, the sixth in the Beyond the Guidebook Primer Series serves as a refresher on core concepts that underpin the vision for Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management.
Watershed systems are infrastructure assets. They need to be managed and protected as such.
The Partnership objective in publishing this Primer is that readers will grasp WHY it is necessary to “stay true to the science” IF communities are to achieve a vision for Sustainable Watershed Systems. And we hope that readers will be inspired to learn more about the science behind the Water Balance Methodology.
Sustainable Watershed Systems,
through Asset Management
Launched by the province and Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) in 2015, Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework is a game-changing initiative. It is a game-changer because it links directly to the requirements for grants under the Canada-BC Gas Tax Agreement.
“The BC Framework focuses on desired outcomes rather than prescribe methodologies. This gives local governments the flexibility to develop and implement measured and incremental approaches tailored to the needs and capacities of their communities,” explains Glen Brown, General Manager (Victoria Operations), Union of British Columbia Municipalities.
“Along with the new Water Sustainability Act and Develop with Care 2014, the BC Framework points the way to Sustainable Watershed Systems. This outcome would result from a ‘whole systems’ approach to community development and infrastructure servicing. Implementation of ‘whole systems’ thinking would include incorporating the benefits provided by nature into the delivery of local government services,” states Peter Law, Partnership Director.
Formerly with the BC Ministry of Environment, Peter Law was Chair (2000-2002) of the inter-governmental Steering Committee responsible for Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia. This is a foundation document for application of ecosystem-based understanding in the local government setting.
What Happens on the Land Matters: “The vision for Sustainable Watershed Systems is the culmination of a building blocks process which cross-pollinated Washington State and BC experience,” explains Peter Law. “In the mid-1990s, Washington State research established the primacy of hydrology in either protecting or impacting stream health. In BC, this finding spurred development and evolution of the Water Balance Methodology.”
“Stream health and what happens on the land are connected. In the early 1990’s, the ‘Coho Salmon crisis’ raised the alarm that changes in hydrology caused by land development were resulting in small stream salmon demise. The stewardship sector was the catalyst for restorative action in BC.”
“Community-based Environmental Stewardship has been an institution in BC for a generation. From the early days of Fish & Game Clubs in the 1950’s, the role of the stewardship sector has evolved. Today, community organizations partner with local governments to monitor and restore local watershed health. These groups provide thousands of volunteer hours to restore aquatic habitats.”
“Now, a convergence of initiatives and ideas is the catalyst for taking stock of past and current research. The purpose of this latest Primer is to connect the dots and disseminate information on the ‘science-based understanding’ that underpins the vision for Sustainable Watershed Systems. This understanding will help multiple audiences ask the right questions so that communities make informed decisions,” concludes Peter Law.
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