“Sustainable Watershed Systems”: A new way of thinking about municipal infrastructure has the attention of the local government world
Note to Reader:
The Partnership for Water Sustainability is a champion for “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management”. This is a whole-system, water balance approach for restoration of watershed health within the built environment. It is based on this premise:
Natural watershed systems are infrastructure assets – we must manage and protect them as such.
The premise is grounded in the vision for Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A Framework for BC; and has twin technical pillars – Water Balance Methodology and Ecological Accounting Protocol.
Sustainable Watershed System message resonates with audiences in BC and beyond
“Early uptake of the vision for Sustainable Watershed Systems has exceeded expectations,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.
“In November 2015, the Partnership for Water Sustainability framed this PROGRAM GOAL for the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative (IREI): By 2017, local governments would understand how to achieve Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management.”
“The IREI promotes ‘sharing & learning’ and cross-pollinating of experience among local governments in five regional districts on the east coast of Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland regions of British Columbia.”
To Learn More:
Asset Management Continuum for
Sustainable Service Delivery
“The Partnership’s outreach program for sharing the Sustainable Watershed Systems message is broadly based. We have introduced it to an array of audiences in a variety of forums and media,” continued Kim Stephens.
“Within the initial 12-month period, getting the word out involved constantly making presentations to inform and educate:
Regional boards and municipal councils (6), conference audiences (6), local government technical groups (3), professional groups (1), stewardship sector (1) and university classes (2).”
“Our key message is that Sustainable Watershed Systems will be the outcome in Step Three as communities progress along the Continuum. But it is not a wait-and-see proposition.”
“Even as local governments are progressing through Steps One and Two for their core infrastructure, they need to be laying the groundwork so that they will be ready to implement Step Three.”
Defining Moments in 2016
In August, the keynote address by Kim Stephens at a national conference in Australia provided a platform to reflect on “parallel journeys”. International exposure allows us to judge how BC stacks up against the rest of the world.
In October, publication of an op-ed in the Vancouver Sun newspaper demonstrated that our whole-system, water balance message is news worthy.
Rising to the Challenge in Australia
Stormwater Australia invited Kim Stephens (Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia) to be the primary keynote speaker at the Stormwater Conference, held in August 2016 in Surfers Paradise, Queensland.
“The Rising to the Challenge conference was a milestone event,” stated Kim Stephens. “Because Australian practitioners are at a fork in their journey, they are looking to learn from BC experience. They are curious about our ‘whole systems’ approach to water balance management.”
“In my keynote, I introduced Australians to three ‘big ideas’ that underpin where we are heading in BC, namely: Primacy of Hydrology, Shifting Baseline Syndrome, and Cathedral Thinking. The three are interconnected. The outcome would be Sustainable Watershed Systems.”
To Learn More:
Download Parallel Journeys to a Resilient Future: Water Cycle / Water Balance Approaches in Australia and British Columbia – 2001 to 2016 and Beyond to view a PDF copy of the PowerPoint presentation by Kim Stephens.
Watch the YouTube video:
Op-Ed published in Vancouver Sun
The Vancouver Sun provided the Partnership with a platform to reach out to the public. The storyline integrated contributions from a panel of provincial and local government representatives.
“Local governments are rising to the challenges posed by a changing climate and urban growth. 2003, 2009 and 2015 were teachable years. Droughts, forest fires, wind storms and floods became catalysts for action. As a result, local government staff are innovating.”
“No longer is asset management only about hard engineered assets – watermains, sewers, roads.”
“The BC Framework sets a strategic direction that would refocus business processes to properly manage the water balance within the built environment. Mimic natural flows in streams. Preserve the natural pathways by which water reaches streams.”
“Collaboration is leading to precedents for GETTING IT RIGHT. Other regions recognize BC as a leader. They perceive BC moving in the right direction with integration of watershed systems thinking and asset management.”
“Successful programs that are politically supported would ensure we restore the water balance and have sustainable watershed systems. This approach has the potential to re-set the ecological baseline along the east coast of Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland. Success would be abundant salmon in urban streams.”
To Learn More:
Download We must protect watershed systems to read the complete article by Kim Stephens as published by the Vancouver Sun in October 2016.