SUSTAINABLE WATERSHED SYSTEMS, THROUGH ASSET MANAGEMENT: A workshop on “Stormwater Impacts Communities and Creeks – What Can Streamkeepers Do?” (March 2017)

Note to Reader:

In March 2017, the 2nd annual North Vancouver workshop organized by the North Shore Streamkeepers attracted participants from communities throughout the Metro Vancouver region, and on a Saturday afternoon!

The workshop informed participants about Sustainable Watershed Systems: Primer on Application of Ecosystem-based Understanding in the Georgia Basin.

North Shore Streamkeepers Workshop_DSC_0006_March-2017

CAUSE-AND-EFFECT: What Happens on the Land Does Matter!

A unifying theme for the workshop was this: Informed stream stewardship volunteers can spur local government decision-makers to capitalize on (and not miss) opportunities to implement whole-system, water balance practices.

Value Watersheds as Infrastructure Assets

“Streamkeepers come from all walks of life. They are ordinary people who are willing to be trained, spend their free time monitoring and improving streams and waterways. They have an interest in local history, ecology, and lifestyle,” explains Barbara Frisken, President of the North Shore Streamkeepers (NSSK).

Barbara Frisken_NSSK_1x1_120p“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.”

“Breakout groups were then asked to identify possible community actions that can support a sustained focus on improving watersheds.”

HOUSING TURNOVER CYCLE: The graph illustrates the relationship between house age and anticipated replacement. In Metro Vancouver, the housing turnover cycle is ~50 years. The North Shore landscape is being transformed by redevelopment as the older housing stock is replaced. In the District of North Vancouver, analysis of air photo imagery shows that per property increases in hard surfaces can be as much as 66% when small houses are replaced by big houses.

HOUSING TURNOVER CYCLE: The graph illustrates the relationship between house age and anticipated replacement. In Metro Vancouver, the housing turnover cycle is ~50 years. The North Shore landscape is being transformed by redevelopment as the older housing stock is replaced. In the District of North Vancouver, analysis of air photo imagery shows that per property increases in hard surfaces can be as much as 66% when small houses are replaced by big houses.

Journey to a Water-Resilient Future

“The ultimate objective of the workshop is to support fish populations – good habitat is a key element and sustainable watersheds are part of the big picture,” continues Glen Parker, member of the NSSK leadership team.

Glen Parker_NSSK_2017_120pPublic awareness and support is essential to achieving this objective. So we need to draw community attention to the tangible things that all residents can do to support sustainable watersheds. Their cumulative beneficial actions will lead to good habitat and fish will thrive, if given a chance.”

“We cannot overlook the political nature of decisions in our communities. The workshop, kicked off by Mayor Walton and MLAs Naomi Yamamoto and Jane Thornwaite, helped reinforce the belief with our leaders that watersheds matter. Also, though much of the drainage system is hidden, it does matter; and resources need to be directed to the system and to restoration of watershed health.”

“Having community leaders attend also helps motivate the community. It lets them know that leaders at least have watershed issues on their agendas,” summarizes Glen Parker.

IMPLICATIONS FOR STREAM HEALTH: Communities do have choices. Will they capitalize on cumulative beneficial opportunities resulting from the redevelopment cycle to “get it right” the second time, refocus business processes to properly manage watershed systems, and restore watershed and stream health? Or, will redevelopment simply be a “missed opportunity” that instead accelerates cumulative impacts on stream and watershed health over another 50-year cycle?

IMPLICATIONS FOR STREAM HEALTH: Communities do have choices. Will they capitalize on cumulative beneficial opportunities resulting from the redevelopment cycle to “get it right” the second time, refocus business processes to properly manage watershed systems, and restore watershed and stream health? Or, will redevelopment simply be a “missed opportunity” that instead accelerates cumulative impacts on stream and watershed health over another 50-year cycle?

Sustainable Watershed Systems:

“The North Shore Streamkeepers have learned from Sustainable Watershed Systems: Primer on Application of Ecosystem-based Understanding in the Georgia Basin. By hosting the workshop, and building on what we have learned, we wished to achieve four outcomes,” adds Glen Parker. He identifies these as:

  • a bit of education – get people pointed in the right direction;
  • a bit of motivation – we may not be able to solve ‘world hunger’ but there are things we can do personally and in our communities to make a difference;
  • a bit of networking – we want people with shared values to see they are not alone and that together they can both enjoy themselves (working in groups on tangible projects is rewarding) and leave a trail of positive impacts.
  • a bit of promotion – we wish to support the work that Kim Stephens (Partnership for Water Sustainability) and Julie Wilson (UBC) are doing to implement a whole-system, water balance approach.

Benefits of the whole-system approach include less flooding, less stream erosion, and more streamflow during dry weather when needed most. These water balance benefits ultimately translate into lower life-cycle costs and a water-resilient future!

Streamkeepers and Local Government

Janet Dysart, also a member of the NSSK leadership team, provides this perspective:

“My motivation is simple – I live right by a stream. I hear it roar when the rain is heavy, I hear it trickle in the summer. It provides comfort on dreary days. To me it is nature’s music. It is always there, that is how it should be. A threat to that undermines all those Janet Dysart_NSSK_trimmed1_120pemotions that I and many streamkeepers feel.”

“California is providing a living example of what happens after a dry summer and severe fires causing loss of trees and shrubs. Cause and effect. We hope to learn where we can help local government, and possibly participate by bringing ideas based on knowledge from this workshop.”

Sustainable Watershed Systems would be the outcome in Step Three. 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 would be ready to implement Step Three.  To learn more about "Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management" - CLICK HERE

Sustainable Watershed Systems would be the outcome in Step Three. 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 would be ready to implement Step Three. 
To learn more about “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management” – CLICK HERE