Author Archives: Partnership for Water Sustainability

  1. SUSTAINABLE WATERSHED SYSTEMS: What is the provincial government role in supporting BC communities so that they “get it right” when moving from policy to action in implementing initiatives flowing from the Living Water Smart framework?

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    Note to Readers:

    Released in June 2008, “Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan” was the Province’s call to action create greener communities and prepare for climate change. To this day, Living Water Smart transcends governments. The ripple effects resulting from transformational initiatives inspired by Living Water Smart are reverberating through time.

    Look back to look forward. What have we learned? How do we pass that understanding (of what we have learned over the past 10 years) onto successive generations of land use, infrastructure and asset management professionals who do their work in the local government setting? How can we help them make informed choices that benefit from past experience? These are just some of the questions that guide the work of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

    Looking back, launch of the Living Water Smart outreach program commenced with a precedent-setting approach to capacity-building in the local government sector. Known as the 2008 Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series, and delivered through the CAVI-Convening for Action on Vancouver Island initiative, this capacity-building program was a “grass-roots” demonstration application of how to build inter-departmental and inter-governmental alignment.

    Both the Cowichan Valley Regional District and City of Courtenay stepped up to the plate and volunteered to host a regional seminar series. A decade later we celebrate their leadership as early adopters; and we reflect on what their efforts set in motion, and what comes next in the capacity-building process.

    Download a copy: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/air-land-water/water/water-planning/livingwatersmart_book.pdf

    “All land and water managers will know what makes a stream healthy, and therefore be able to help land and water users factor in new approaches to securing stream health and the full range of stream benefits” 
    lynch-pin statement in Living Water Smart, p. 43

    “In 2008, the desired outcome in bringing together local governments on the east coast of Vancouver Island (for the Learning Lunch Seminar Series) was inter-departmental alignment and a consistent regional approach to implementing Living Water Smart,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.

    “The Partnership championed a ‘regional team approach’ to sharing and learning from each other’s experience.”

    Journey from policy to universal implementation:
    Where to from here

    The provincial government has long recognized that communities are in the best position to develop solutions which meet their own unique needs and local conditions. Further, BC’s regulatory environment for urban watershed protection is outcome-based.

    A provincial policy, program and regulatory framework is in place that would result in Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management. This framework enables local governments to bridge the gap between policy and action. But it relies on collaborative processes to build practitioner capacity to implement requisite changes in accepted practice.

    Nature of the Capacity-Building Challenge

    Experience and observations over the past decade show that the drawn out nature of the capacity-building journey has unintended consequences when:
    • continual staff turnover is the “new normal” within local government;
    • there is limited capacity for senior staff to “pause & reflect”; and
    • there has been a loss in mentorship from retiring staff in how to implement policy.
    Simply put, the unintended consequences are missed opportunities to “get it right” regarding what communities do on the land and how this affects water. The cumulative impact of “missed opportunities” is to perpetuate practices that, for instance, exacerbate flood and drought risks; and this is happening at a critical moment in time when the rhythms of water are changing – warmer, wetter winters; longer, drier summers.

    Role of the Provincial Government

    British Columbia is at a tipping point vis-à-vis Sustainable Watershed Systems. Without provincial government leadership and direction, the process to adopt, change or evolve standards of practice and apply tools in the local government setting may be painfully slow, might not happen, or could simply peter out due to indifference or neglect.

    As a minimum, provincial government support is necessary if communities are to “get it right” from a water balance perspective vis-à-vis land use, infrastructure servicing of land, and asset management.

    An example of a driver for changes in practice that has the potential to truly be a difference-maker over time is Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework. This game-changer flows from Living Water Smart, resulted from “grass-roots” collaboration, and supports outcomes that reduce life-cycle costs and address risks.

    While the BC Framework is an important step in a capacity-building process, there is still a long journey ahead. Leadership and coordination by the provincial government, sustained over time, are essential ingredients that would help communities achieve the vision for Sustainable Watershed Systems.

    A decade ago, the genesis….

    In 2008, the Partnership decided to explore a collaborative approach that would help local governments make informed land development decisions that meet multiple objectives. The idea was an outcome of the Green Infrastructure Leadership Forum. CAVI and the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities co-hosted this high-profile event in December 2007.

    Regional Team Approach

    Although the Leadership Forum itself was a successful event, it was clear that there had to be a more effective and lasting way to inform and educate those who would benefit most. The concept was to bring together engineers, planners, building inspectors and bylaw enforcement officers; and focus on aligning efforts to implement effective green infrastructure.

    The idea resonated, so much so that the original inter-departmental concept quickly mushroomed into an inter-departmental AND inter-governmental concept. Each series comprised three all-day seminars. The Cowichan Valley Regional District hosted the first series in June and July 2008. The City of Courtenay hosted the second series in September, October and November 2008.

    The Story of the 2008 Series:

    Five provincial guidance documents formed the curriculum backbone. Local case study experience informed the program design.

    The approach to continuing education for local government practitioners was precedent-setting.

    Each series comprised three sessions that provided an inter-departmental learning opportunity for collaborative exploration.

    Each series was conducted as a cumulative process, from philosophy to tools.

    The story of the series is captured in a document published by the Partnership. “The purpose of the document was to ‘tell the story’ of the 2008 Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series in the words of those who embraced the concept and made it happen. The Learning Lunch series was precedent-setting,” stated John Finnie, CAVI Past-Chair (2006-2011). At the time, he was General Manager of Water & Wastewater Services at the Regional District of Nanaimo.

    “It came to fruition because of the commitment, the energy and the dedication of our local government partners in three regional districts – Cowichan, Comox and Nanaimo. We endeavoured to weave a seamless storyline that shows how the Learning Lunch series fits into a bigger picture; and how the program elements that comprise Convening for Action on Vancouver Island are linked. Each success built on the last, and paved the way for the next.”

    A substantive outcome: the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative (IREI)

    Experience and relationships flowing from the 2008 Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series ultimately led to the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative (IREI).

    Launched in 2012, the IREI brought together five regional districts, namely: Capital Region, Nanaimo Region, Cowichan Valley, Comox Valley and Metro Vancouver. Together, they represent 75% of British Columbia’s population. All five Regional District Boards have passed resolutions supporting inter‐regional collaboration under the umbrella of the Partnership for Water Sustainability.

    The educational goal of the IREI is to build practitioner capacity within local government to implement a whole-system, water balance approach branded as Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management. The Partnership is developing approaches, tools and resources that would advance “design with nature” outcomes through collaborative processes.

    participants in the 2008 Learning Lunch Seminar Series hosted by the Cowichan Valley Regional District

     

  2. VIDEO: Langley Township has engineered several thriving ecosystems for its 1600 kilometres of watercourses

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    Note to Reader:

    The video and story below are reproduced with thanks to the Metro Vancouver Regional District. As part of its Metro Vancouver Close Up program,  the region produces a monthly video series that highlights how local leaders advance sustainability and regional goals. 

    To access all the videos in the Metro Vancouver Close Up series, visit: https://metrovancouverblog.org/

    A special kind of culvert on Yorkson Creek has a unique feature – allowing for easier passage for spawning salmon

    A culvert upgrade was needed where Yorkson Creek passes under 86 Avenue but instead of the usual round shape, the replacement in 2016 was square.

    Justin St. Andrassy, the Township’s Environmental Coordinator explains that the previous narrow culvert caused water to rush through and made it difficult for fish to swim through.   The new culvert has angled baffles on the bottom side which creates a meandering watercourse.

    Up the road at 84 Ave is Yorkson Pond, which was engineered to manage stormwater in the developing residential area, and at a 3rd site, on Glover Road, a farm field has been gradually turned into a vibrant creek.

    St. Andrassy says the work started in 2009 and was phased over several years.  “We installed pool and ripple sequences,  habitat features, large woody debris, and we planted the entire restoration zone with native plantings over several years.  This now has never flooded the farm or the property as it used to.”

    Justin St. Andrassy, Township of Langley

     

     

  3. VANCOUVER SUN OP-ED ARTICLE: Led by Asset Management BC, the BC Framework refocuses business processes on how physical and natural assets are used to deliver services, and support outcomes that reduce life-cycle costs and address risks (published on June 2, 2018)

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    Note to Reader:

    On Saturday, June 2nd 2018, the Vancouver Sun newspaper published an op-ed article co-authored by four members of the Partnership for Water Sustainability’s leadership team, namely: Kim Stephens, Ted van der Gulik, Tim Pringle and Peter Law. The article is reproduced below.

    In 2008, the Living Water Smart program called British Columbians to action to create greener communities and prepare for climate change 

    Water defines British Columbia, and the rhythms of water are changing – winters are wetter and warmer; summers are longer and drier. Flood, drought, fire, wind and cold – extreme events are the New Normal. We are at a tipping point. When will communities adapt, and how?

    In 2008, “Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan” was the Province’s call to action, and to this day transcends governments. The vision:

    “We take care of our water, our water takes care of us.”

    “On the 10th anniversary of its release, we celebrate transformational initiatives set in motion by Living Water Smart,” wrote the four co-authors.

    Collaboration in the Local Government Setting

    The hard work of hope has resulted in a policy, program and regulatory framework that enables community-based action to adapt to the New Normal. Living Water Smart successes are defined by collaboration and a “top-down / bottom-up” approach. This brings together decision-makers and community advocates.

    “While legislative reform is a foundation piece, collaboration takes place outside the legislative framework,” Lynn Kriwoken stated in 2008. An Executive Director in the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, she personifies continuity, commitment and leadership in bringing the Living Water Smart vision to fruition.

    “This is why we constantly emphasize that Living Water Smart is about motivating and inspiring everyone to embrace shared responsibility. Influencing behaviour and attitudes is at the heart of moving from awareness to action,” added Kriwoken.

    Game-Changers Flowing from ‘Living Water Smart’

    The legislative piece is the Water Sustainability Act, one of several game-changers. A historic achievement, the Act recognizes the connections between land and water – what happens on the land matters!

    What Makes a Stream Healthy:

    In Living Water Smart, the lynch-pin statement is:

    “All land and water managers will know what makes a stream healthy, and therefore be able to help land and water users factor in new approaches to securing stream health and the full range of stream benefits”.

    This vision statement guides the work of the Partnership for Water Sustainability, the hub for a “convening for action” network in the local government setting. The Partnership collaborates with the province, local governments, stewardship sector and First Nations to develop and mainstream approaches, tools and resources that advance “design with nature” outcomes.

    Strategic Direction for Local Government:

    Another game-changer flowing from Living Water Smart is “Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework”. Led by Asset Management BC, the BC Framework sets a strategic direction for local government service delivery. It refocuses business processes on how physical and natural assets are used to deliver services, and support outcomes that reduce life-cycle costs and address risks.

    Sustainable service delivery by local government occurs alongside associated evolution in community thinking. By managing the built and natural environments as integrated systems, local governments would incrementally move towards a water-resilient future as an outcome.

    Value of Ecological Services:

    Hydrology is the engine that powers ecological services. Thus, integration of the Partnership’s work within the BC Framework should accelerate implementation of the whole-system, water balance approach at the heart of the Partnership’s “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management” program.

    A pillar of Sustainable Watershed Systems is the Ecological Accounting Process. EAP establishes what the definable benefits of ecological services derived from creekshed hydrology are, what they may be worth to stakeholders, and how they may be maintained and enhanced. EAP has the potential to transform how communities make decisions about creekshed restoration.

    Water & Food Security:

    Yet another game-changer flowing from Living Water Smart is the B.C. Agricultural Water Demand Model. It accounts for climate change, is applied to establish future needs for Agricultural Water Reserves, and is the engine for the online B.C. Agriculture Water Licence Calculator. Developed to support implementation of the B.C. Groundwater Regulation, the Calculator quantifies outdoor water use for any property in B.C., including residential.

    Call to Action

    B.C. communities can adapt to the New Normal. They can create a water-resilient future where flood and drought risks are reduced. As a result of initiatives inspired by Living Water Smart, we have tools and experience to “get it right”. So, through collaboration and commitment, together let’s make it happen – sooner, not later!

     

  4. VIDEO: West Vancouver’s McDonald Creek Gets a Fish-Friendly Makeover Thanks to Volunteer Effort and City Support

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    Note to Reader:

    After decades of disruption, many local streams are being engineered to encourage the return of spawning salmon. A key element is volunteer time and effort, coupled with municipal support. In West Vancouver, one of their 22 streams was enhanced at the foot of 19th St.

    Learn how volunteers and the municipality collaborated, making McDonald Creek more welcoming to salmon species heading upstream.

    The video and story below are reproduced with thanks to the Metro Vancouver Regional District. As part of its Metro Vancouver Close Up program,  the region produces a monthly video series that highlights how local leaders advance sustainability and regional goals. 

    To access all the videos in the Metro Vancouver Close Up series, visit: https://metrovancouverblog.org/

    A Collaboration Success Story

    A new rocky berm has given a West Vancouver creek a better connection to high tide ocean water and salmon are expected to benefit.

    “The idea behind this project was to create 80 metres of new streambed,” explains John Barker, president of the West Vancouver Streamkeeper Society. “To build it took 200 truckloads of material. We had 2 large excavators here creating it. They had to excavate down (and then) they lined it with fabric liner. They put material on it so we don’t lose our stream into the deeper rock.”

    Over time, the seawall and urban development altered the natural shoreline so that creek water fanned out from the culvert, making it too shallow for migrating salmon to access on all but the highest of tides, which occur only about once every two weeks.

    “Before, the stream emptied out over a sill, it was just braided out to the ocean. There was no stream bed or defined path,” says Barker. “As they mill around waiting for that 2 weeks, seals will target them, we have river otters in the area. And of course there is the sports fishery as well.”

    During heavy rains, this rocky trench will channel the stream water so that it meets up with each day’s high tide, and salmon can easily enter. Barker believes even a small change in the spawning numbers will be a big achievement.

    “They are going to come straight in the creek and head up. If we could get 20 to 30 pairs of salmon, that would be considered a huge success.”

    The stream bed improvements were a collaborative effort. Sandra Bicego Manager, Environment and Sustainability for the District of West Vancouver explains.

    “The district’s role was to coordinate the project. The Streamkeepers did all the hard work to fundraise and organize funding for the project. We hired the tradesfolks, the coordinator and marine biologist to do the design work, and the coastal engineer, and got the trucks organized. ”

    The stream bed project grew out of another stewardship group’s effort which focused on protecting the shoreline with rocks and boulders.

    “This is a perfect example of stewardship groups coming together and working in collaboration with the district,” says John Barker.

    “There isn’t a plan or project that doesn’t take place without working in collaboration with community groups,” adds Bicego.

    As the two survey the new and improved McDonald Creek, their pride in the outcome is evident.

    “Within the province, it is an icon,” says Barker. “It is delightful to think that so many people think about salmon.”

     

  5. FLASHBACK TO 2002: “The Guidebook premise that land development and watershed protection can be compatible represented a radical shift in thinking in 2002. It opened the door to implementing a regulatory approach to designing with nature,” stated Kim Stephens, Guidebook project manager & principal author

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    British Columbia Guidebook pioneers North American application to rainwater management

    “Published in 2002,  Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia was a catalyst for change that has resulted in British Columbia achieving international recognition as a leader in implementing a natural systems approach to rainwater management. It opened the door to implementing a regulatory approach to designing with nature,” stated Kim Stephens, Guidebook project manager and principal author.

    “The Guidebook premise that land development and watershed protection can be compatible represented a radical shift in thinking in 2002. The Guidebook recognized that water volume is something over which local government has control through its infrastructure policies, practices and standards.

    “The Guidebook was also a pioneer application in North America of ‘adaptive management’ in a rainwater management setting. In the Guidebook, adaptive management means: We change direction when the science leads us to a better way.”

    The Goal

    “The goal of adaptive management is to learn from experience and constantly improve land development and rainwater management practices over time,” continued Kim Stephens. “This requires ongoing monitoring of demonstration projects to assess progress towards performance targets and the shared watershed vision.”

    To Learn More:

    Click on this link to The Adaptive Management Approach to download an illustrative graphic from the Guidebook.

    Integrated Strategy for Managing the Rainfall Spectrum

    The Guidebook introduced two other innovations that are inter-linked with each other and with an adaptive management approach. The first was the concept of an integrated strategy for managing all the ‘rainfall-days’ that occur each year. The Guidebook also introduced the concept of performance targets to facilitate implementation of the integrated strategy for managing the complete rainfall spectrum.

    Three Tiers

    To create a mind-map for practitioners, the rainfall spectrum was defined in terms of three tiers, with each tier corresponding to a component of the integrated strategy, namely:

    • Rainfall Capture – keep rain on site by means of ‘rainfall capture’ measures such as rain gardens and infiltration soakaways
    • Runoff Control – delay overflow runoff by means of detention storage ponds which provide ‘runoff control’
    • Flood Mitigation – reduce flooding by providing sufficient hydraulic capacity to ‘contain and convey’

    Defining rainfall tiers simply enabled a systematic approach to data processing and identification of rainfall patterns, distributions and frequencies. A key message is that ‘light showers’ account for most of the annual rainfall volume; and therefore ‘green’ or landscape-based solutions will achieve a variety of objectives encompassing both the site and watershed scales in the urban environment.

    Volume-based thinking leads directly into landscape architecture, green roofs, urban reforestation, groundwater recharge, and rainwater harvesting.

    Setting Performance Targets

    Building on the concept of tiers, the Guidebook developed a 6-step methodology for setting performance targets and site design guidelines. The Guidebook emphasis, however, is on the last two steps in the 6-step methodology, namely:

    • Evaluate source control options through continuous simulation water balance modeling (Step #5) – because continuous simulation provides a tool to evaluate site design options under a full range of operating conditions (i.e. the complete rainfall spectrum).
    • Optimize rainwater system design through adaptive management – ‘learning by doing’ – (Step #6) – because performance monitoring would be expected to confirm that initial assumptions based on the Water Balance Methodology are conservative; and if so, this would provide the certainty needed to reduce the size of facilities installed in subsequent developments.

    Rainwater runoff capture targets provide a starting point to guide the actions of local government and the development community in the right direction.

    To Learn More:

    For the complete story on the 6-step methodology, click on the link to Chapter 6 from Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia.

    Learning by Doing

    The goal of adaptive management is to learn from experience and constantly improve rainwater management practices.

    When Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia was published in 2002, its success and acceptance were keyed to the fact that the water balance methodology had been vetted through the case study experience of local governments and the development community.

    The concepts and methodologies in the Guidebook were intended to stimulate a change in the mindset of practitioners and others, rather than cast in stone a set of prescriptive rules.

    The Guidebook emphasizes that rainfall capture targets will depend on site and watershed-specific conditions.

    Implicit in an adaptive management approach is recognition of the need to both accept and manage risk if the state-of-the-practice is to be advanced. Accepting risk opens the door to engineering creativity and resulting innovation.

     

    Building on Experience

    Major projects lend themselves to adaptive management when they are implemented in phases over a multi-year period. Phasing creates opportunities to monitor performance of rainwater capture facilities, assess effectiveness over time, and refine design criteria as may be needed or desired in subsequent phases.

    During the period 2002 through 2007, experience has shown that landscape-based measures for rainfall capture are typically low risk, especially when they reflect an understanding of how to employ soil depth and planting coverage to best advantage. This experience has set the stage for the next leap forward – which is to apply a ‘runoff-based approach’ to rainwater management at a watershed scale.

    Beyond the Guidebook is an initiative that builds on the Guidebook foundation by advancing a runoff-based approach and tool – the ‘Water Balance Model powered by QUALHYMO’ – to help local governments achieve desired urban stream health and environmental protection outcomes at a watershed scale.

     

     

  6. YOUTUBE VIDEO: “An educational goal is that those who are involved in municipal land use and drainage would understand the vision for ‘Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management’,” stated Kim Stephens, keynote speaker at the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium (April 2018)

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    Note to Reader:

    At the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium in April 2018, Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, asked the audience to reflect on this question when he delivered the keynote presentation: 

    How will communities ‘get it right’ through collaboration as land develops and redevelops?

    The Symposium provided a platform for a call for action because adapting to climate change requires transformation in how we value nature and service land.

    Sponge Communities: A Water-Resilient Future Despite Floods and Droughts?

    “Other regions are also on a journey where the destination is a water resilient future. Consider that, in 2013, President Xi Jinping injected a new term into the global urban design vocabulary when he proclaimed that cities should ‘act like sponges’ and launched China’s Sponge City program, stated Kim Stephens.

    “The common guiding philosophy? Mimic nature, restore the water balance, adapt to a changing climate. The ‘sponge city’ metaphor is powerful and inspirational. As such, China, Berlin and Philadelphia are demonstrating that when there is a will, there is a way. Still, take a moment to reflect upon their drivers for action – floods and droughts!

    “They have learned the hard way that what happens on the land matters. And now, the ‘new normal’ of frequently recurring extremes has forced them to tackle the consequences of not respecting the water cycle.”

    Moving Towards a Water-Resilient Future

    “In 2015, the Partnership released Beyond the Guidebook 2015, the third in a series that has built upon Sormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia,” continued Kim Stephens.

    “An educational goal is that those who are involved in municipal land use and drainage would understand the vision for ‘Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management’. It is an educational goal. Part of that is the paradigm-shift to recognize watersheds as infrastructure assets.

    “The significance there is that people in local government get it, in terms of whether you use the word deficit or liability, that we don’t have the money to refinance or replace our existing core infrastructure such as water, sewer or roads. So, a simple challenge to a municipal councillor or regional board member is:

    Why would you take on another unfunded liability called drainage – which is what you have been doing for a lifetime!

    “But once you begin to think of a watershed as an asset which you have to manage as you would any of your other assets, it then changes the way you think.

    “The watershed is a system. It is an integrated system. Think of each of the three pathways, by which rain reaches a stream, as infrastructure assets. Each of those pathways provides a water balance service.”

    To Learn More:

    Watch the YouTube video and download a PDF copy of Sponge Communities: A Water-Resilient Future Despite Floods and Droughts?

    Download a copy of Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate: Convening for Action at the 2018 Nanaimo Water Symposium

     

     

  7. YOUTUBE VIDEO: “Hydrology is the engine that powers ecological services,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair, Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) Initiative, at the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium (April 2018)

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    Note to Reader:

    EAP, the acronym for Ecological Accounting Processis one of three streams of deliverables flowing from Sustainable Watershed System, through Asset ManagementFunded by the governments of Canada and British Columbia, this initiative is led by the Partnership for Water Sustainability.

    The EAP approach is being demonstrated through two case study applications on Vancouver Island – one in the Cowichan Valley (Busy Place Creek) and the other in the Comox Valley (Brooklyn Creek).

    At the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium in April 2018, EAP Chair Tim Pringle distilled what has been learned from the EAP case studies. The Symposium provided a platform for a call for action because adapting to climate change requires transformation in how we value nature and service land.

    What We Have Learned from the Vancouver Island Demonstration Applications

    “The worth of a creekshed is a package of ecological services made possible by the hydrology,” emphasized Tim Pringle.

    “These inter-dependent ecological systems provide uses we call nature; examples are wetlands, ponds, riparian areas, woodlands, habitat for flora and fauna, etc. These systems add appeal and quality to parks, greenways, trails, as well as opportunities to focus on natural processes such as salmon spawning and nesting sites.

    “By providing a value for the land underlying the stream and riparian zone, stakeholders have a much more realistic idea of the worth of the ecological services supplied by environmental assets.

    “This form of financial information can be used for asset management strategies related to Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework. This guidance document sets a strategic direction that refocuses local government business processes on outcomes that reduce life-cycle costs and risks.”

    What Next

    “The next step is doing. A strategy is the path to success, and becomes our primary interface with the world. Find the leadership and opportunity within a creekshed to adopt a strategy, devise an implementation plan, and confirm the worth of undertaking enhancement and management,” confirms Tim Pringle.

    To Learn More:

    Download a copy of Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) for Watershed Assessment, released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC at the Nanaimo Symposium.

     

     

     

  8. SPONGE CITIES: “It’s important to make friends with water. We can make a water protection system a living system,” stated Kongjian Yu, the landscape architect who is famous for being the man who reintroduced ancient Chinese water systems to modern design

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    Note to Reader:

    Generally recognized as one of the world’s leading landscape architects, Kongjian Yu is famous for being the man who reintroduced ancient Chinese water systems to modern design. He is best known for his “sponge cities”. President Xi Jinping and his government have adopted sponge cities as an urban planning and eco-city template.

    He is professor of urban and regional planning, and founder and dean of the Graduate School of Landscape Architecture, at PekingUniversity. He received his Doctor of Design degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1995.

    Professor Yu has been keynote speaker for three International Federation of Landscape Architects world congresses and two ASLA annual conferences, and has been invited to lecture and design critique at more than 30 universities worldwide, and is visiting professor of landscape architecture and urban planning and design at Harvard Graduate School of Design. 

    Kongjian Yu’s first project, Zhongshan Shipyard Park, blends “rustic landscapes and urban industry”

     

    “Sponge Cities” – a catchy way to describe the goal in restoring the capacity of the urban landscape to absorb water and release it naturally

    In 2013, at China’s Central Government Conference on Urbanization, President Xi Jinping injected a new term into the global urban design vocabulary when he proclaimed that cities should “act like sponges” and launched China’s Sponge City program. His proclamation came with substantial funding to experiment with ways cities can absorb precipitation.

    And then, in August 2017, the Senate of Berlin released its Sponge City Strategy. It is designed to tackle two issues – heat and flooding – by imitating nature and capturing rainwater where it falls. “During the past 12 years we made quite good progress to install the ‘sponge-city concept’ or ‘decentralized stormwater management’ as we call it in Germany in the daily planning process,” states Dr. Heiko Sieker, urban hydologist.

    Meanwhile, the City of Philadelphia is in Year 7 of a 25-year program to implement its Green City, Clean Waters program to create a citywide mosaic of green infrastructure and restore the water balance. Howard Neukrug fundamentally changed Philadelphia’s relationship with nature. “Changing the world—or even one small piece of it—requires a lot of trial and error. We divide the city into communities, needs, types, gradients, opportunities, public, private and quasi-government,” stated Howard Neukrug.

    Designed Technologies – The Landscape Architecture of Kongjian Yu

    As an outcome of reintroducing ancient Chinese water systems to modern design, Kongjian Yu has transformed some of China’s most industrialized cities into standard bearers of green architecture. Yu’s designs aim to build resilience in cities faced with rising sea levels, droughts, floods and so-called “once in a lifetime” storms.

    “In order to increase the resilience of a natural system, it is important to find solutions beyond the level of the city and even nation. I’m talking about a whole global system, in which we think globally but must act locally,” states Kongjian  Yu. 

    “And at this local scale we have design, which is a meeting point between technology and art where Western systematic thinking is grafted together with traditional Chinese wisdom.

    “The mottos of the sponge city are: Retain, adapt, slow down and reuse.

    “Based on thousands of years of Chinese wisdom, the first strategy is to contain water at the origin, when the rain falls from the sky on the ground. We have to keep the water. The water captured by the sponge can be used for irrigation, for recharging the aquifer, for cleansing the soil and for productive use.

    “It’s important to make friends with water.  We can make a water protection system a living system,” concludes Kongjian Yu.

    To Learn More:

    Read Turning cities into sponges: how Chinese ancient wisdom is taking on climate change

    Read Sponge City: Solutions for China’s Thirsty and Flooded Cities

    Rethinking our relationship with nature is necessary because…

    The warming of the planet’s atmosphere is causing water to move more quickly and disruptively through the global water cycle. Flood, drought, fire, wind and cold – extreme events are becoming the norm. Instabilities in the water cycle are increasingly apparent.

    All one need do is reflect on what British Columbia has experienced in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Impacts are magnified by human interventions. We have arrived at a fork in the road.

    “The situation calls for a whole-systems approach to managing the water balance distribution where people live,” states Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

    “The risks are too high, and the margins for error too small, to view water and watersheds only through narrow technical lenses. Adapting to changes in the water cycle and restoring the water balance starts with rethinking our relationship with nature.”

    Whole-System, Water Balance Approach

    “The need to protect headwater streams and groundwater resources in British Columbia requires that communities expand their view – from one that looks at a site in isolation – to one that considers HOW all sites, the watershed landscape, streams and foreshores, groundwater aquifers, and PEOPLE function as a whole system” continues Kim Stephens.

    “Inter-governmental collaboration and funding enable the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia to develop approaches, tools and resources; as well as provide teaching, training and mentoring.

    “Our educational goal is to build practitioner capacity within the local government setting to implement a whole-system, water balance approach branded as Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management.”

    And be sure to apply tools and resources!

    “The ‘sponge city’ metaphor is powerful and inspirational,” observes Kim Stephens. “As such, China, Berlin and Philadelphia are demonstrating that when there is a will, there is a way. Still, we urge the reader to take a moment to reflect upon their drivers for action – floods and droughts! They have learned the hard way that what happens on the land matters. And now, the ‘new normal’ of frequently recurring extremes has forced them to tackle the consequences of not respecting the water cycle.”

    The Challenge

    “Opportunities for land use and infrastructure servicing practitioners to make a difference are at the time of (re)development. To those folks we say: share and learn from those who are leading change; design with nature; ‘get it right’ at the front-end of the project; build-in ‘water resilience’; create a lasting legacy.

    “Many land and infrastructure professionals in this province do know in principle what they ought to do. However, there is still a gap between UNDERSTANDING and IMPLEMENTATION.

    “This results in a capacity-building challenge: It is one thing to provide practitioners with tools and resources, It is another matter for them to apply the tools, and use them correctly.”

    Mission Possible

    “Yes, British Columbia is progressing,” concludes Kim Stephens. “Yet communities could do so much more if they would capitalize on rather than miss opportunities. Apply the tools. Do what is right. Learn from experience. Adapt. Pass the baton.

    “The Partnership spotlight is on how to ‘bridge the gap’ between talk and action. As champions for the Whole-System, Water Balance Approach, we are developing tools and resources for use by local governments.”

    The physics are straightforward: 7% additional water volume for each degree of temperature rise. This is the global part. If communities are serious about ensuring RESILIENCY, then the critical strategies and actions are those that relate to water.

  9. FLASHBACK TO 2003: “To provide a feedback loop for the Stormwater Planning Guidebook, the Regional District of Nanaimo developed and applied the At-Risk Methodology through a knowledge-based approach,” stated John Finnie, former General Manager of Environmental Services

    Comments Off on FLASHBACK TO 2003: “To provide a feedback loop for the Stormwater Planning Guidebook, the Regional District of Nanaimo developed and applied the At-Risk Methodology through a knowledge-based approach,” stated John Finnie, former General Manager of Environmental Services

    Note to Reader:

    In 2002, the provincial government released Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British ColumbiaThis established a new direction for urban hydrology and drainage engineering:

    If we manage the runoff volume, and if we mimic the natural flow pattern in streams, then we can… prevent increased stream erosion, prevent increased risk of flooding, and protect aquatic habitat.

    One of the early articles written about the Guidebook was by Geoff Gilliard. In 2003, he described how the work of two local governments had provided case study content for the Guidebook. The contribution by the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) is described below.

    Eliminate the Root Cause of Impacts

    “For most of the last century, land development in our communities has followed the same general pattern: clear the trees, put in roads and subdivisions, and direct the runoff into the nearest stream or storm sewer. But pipes carrying runoff speed the flow of stormwater, often creating erosion and downstream flooding,” wrote Geoff Gilliard in an article published in Spring 2003.

    “Many local governments are under pressure to protect streamside property that is threatened by stormwater development. The new Stormwater Planning Guidebook for BC gives municipal land planners and engineers a tool to help make land development compatible with stream protection.”

    “The Guidebook offers a new approach to stormwater management that eliminates the root cause of ecological and property impacts by designing for the complete spectrum of rainfall events.”

    “The Stormwater Planning Guidebook uses a series of case studies to illustrate solutions to stormater problems.”

    To Learn More:

    To read the complete article written by Geoff Gilliard in Spring 2003, and published in Input Magazine by the Real Estate Institute of BC, download A recipe for stormwater management – The Stormwater Planning Guidebook helps make land develolpment compatible with stream protection

    Reference: Chapter 5, Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia

    Setting Priorities for Early Action

    The Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) undertook a watershed assessment process that provided the Guidebook process with a feedback loop. The RDN case study experience was then incorporated in the Guidebook as two chapters:

    The RDN was the demonstration region for applying a Knowledge-Based Approach and testing a methodology for prioritizing action that focuses on low-cost results by getting the right people together in working sessions.

    “The most effective and affordable way to identify at-risk watersheds for priority action is to tap the knowledge of people within any regional district or municipality who have the necessary planning, ecology and engineering knowledge,” stated John  Finnie in 2002. In his capacity as General Manager of Environmental Services for the RDN, he led the RDN process and was a member of the Stormwater Guidebook Steering Committee.

    “The knowledge-based mapping products from three focused working sessions (land use, ecology and engineering) fed into an interdisciplinary roundtable.  This roundtable is where representatives from the three focused working sessions overlaid key information on future land use, aquatic resources and drainage problems to identify at-risk drainage catchments and prioritize action.

    “The interdisciplinary roundtable was especially appropriate for a jurisdiction such as the RDN that has multiple watersheds.  It need not be, and should not be, a lengthy process, especially if the goal is to achieve early action.  The objective is to make initial decisions based on informed judgement.”

    At-Risk Methodology

    “If the right people with the right knowledge are involved at the start, a knowledge-based approach will be both time-efficient and cost-effective,” continued John Finnie.

    “Priority action should be focused in at-risk drainage catchments where there is both high pressure for land use change and a driver for action.  The latter can be either:

    • a high-value ecological resource that is threatened, or
    • an unacceptable drainage problem

    “It is important to focus on areas of land use change because this is where problems can be turned into opportunities.  Land use change is the root cause of stormwater’s ecological and property impacts, and this root cause can be eliminated through land development practices that reduce the volume and rate of runoff at the source.  Local governments also usually have jurisdiction over, and focus their attention on, areas experiencing land use change.”

    “To support the Guidebook process, the RDN took the lead in developing and applying the At-Risk Methodology. Through a workshop process, we integrated knowledge from each of the engineering, planning and ecological perspectives. The process identified 12 priority catchment as candidate areas for future integrated stormwater planning initiatives.”

    “We may have some challenges in selling the concepts to some stakeholders. We are trying to change the nature of the way people have done things for years. So we have to provide opportunities for people to understand what we are trying to do and why.”

    RDN Drinking Water & Watershed Protection Program

    “In February 2003, a staff report to the Board crystallized the Action for Water vision,” recalled John Finnie in the RDN section of Beyond the Guidebook 2015. “The 2003 report is a valuable historical document, and built on what the RDN had initiated through participation in the Guidebook development process. Not only did it consolidate various directives, it identified a strategy (and associated implications) for moving forward incrementally with the regional service area for the Drinking Water & Watershed Protection Program.

    “In 2008, and as the outcome of a successful referendum, the RDN became the first regional government to create a drinking water and watershed protection service area with taxation authority in an electoral area. This was the culmination of a 6-year effort. In 2012, the service area was expanded to include the municipalities within the regional district and they became active participants in the watershed function.

    “Looking back, the seeds for watershed-based action in the RDN were sown in the Guidebook process which unfolded during 2001 and 2002. For this reason, we say that the RDN’s‘Drinking Water & Watershed Protection Program’ had its genesis in Guidebook process, and those seeds have flowered over time.”

    To Learn More:

    Download Rainwater Management: An Introduction to the Guidebook for British Columbia

    To read the entire document, download  Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia.

    Read Convening for Action in the Regional District of Nanaimo: Charting a New Course to a Sustainable Water Future

     

  10. FLASHBACK TO 2003: “Chilliwack’s Design Criteria Manual for Surface Water Management was a feedback loop for the province’s Stormwater Guidebook,” said Dipak Basu, Land Development Engineer

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    Note to Reader:

    The City of Chilliwack’s Policy and Design Criteria Manual for Surface Water Management, released in 2002, serves two purposes:

    • provide a comprehensive framework that will guide the development of individual Master Drainage Plans over a multi-year period
    • provide land developers with specific direction in undertaking the stormwater component of sustainable urban design.

    The driver for the Manual was large-scale land development planned for the City’s Eastern Hillsides.

    Surface Water Management in Chilliwack

    The City of Chillwack’s Manual was developed through an inter-departmental and inter-agency process that also included community participation.

    “Through this process, the group developed a common understanding regarding core concepts. This resulted in consensus on the vision and the direction of the Manual, particularly with respect to the framework that the Manual provides for future rainwater-related action in the City of Chilliwack. The Manual replaced the drainage section of the Subdivision and Development Control Bylaw,” stated Dipak Basu, Land Development Engineer, in 2002.

    “The process went on for two years. The realtors, developers, engineers and surveyors were all invited to participate and make their comments known.

    “We showed the benefits of maintaining the water table, the watercourse, the habitat and allowing the fish to survive and flourish. By the time the document was finalized, the developers were quite knowledgeable about it and were willing to give it a try to see how the system worked.”

    To Learn More:

    Download Policy and Design Criteria Manual for Surface Water Management

    Dipak Basu sets the context at the Chilliwack Water Balance Forum in Feb 2004

    Provincial Significance

    “The Manual was developed as a case study application of Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, a collaborative effort of an inter-governmental partnership that was initiated by local government,” added Kim Stephens, project manager and principal author of the Guidebook. Today, he is the Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.

    “Through interaction with the Chilliwack community during its development, the Manual also provided a feedback loop for the Guidebook process. The Manual incorporated the content of the Bylaw that it replaced, and is designed to manage both flood risk and environmental risk,” emphasized Dipak Basu.

    Stormwater Planing: A Guidebook for British Columbia

    In 2002, the provincial government released Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia. This established a new direction for urban hydrology and drainage engineering. Introduction of the Water Balance Methodology enabled the setting of performance targets for rainfall capture, runoff control and groundwater recharge:

    If we manage the runoff volume, and if we mimic the natural flow pattern in streams, then we can… prevent increased stream erosion, prevent increased risk of flooding, and protect aquatic habitat.

    The Guidebook introduced the Integrated Strategy for managing the complete spectrum of rainfall events (see image below). The Integrated Strategy expanded the scope and responsibility of drainage practice to include stream health.

    TO LEARN MORE:

    To read an article written by Geoff Gilliard in Spring 2003, and published in Input Magazine by the Real Estate Institute of BC, download A recipe for stormwater management – The Stormwater Planning Guidebook helps make land develolpment compatible with stream protection