Author Archives: Partnership for Water Sustainability

  1. FLASHBACK TO 2015: Release of “Beyond the Guidebook 2015” drew attention to what Watershed Health issue means in practice and provincial game-changers that enable local government action in British Columbia

    Comments Off on FLASHBACK TO 2015: Release of “Beyond the Guidebook 2015” drew attention to what Watershed Health issue means in practice and provincial game-changers that enable local government action in British Columbia

    Note to Reader:

    Five regional districts representing 75% of BC’s population are partners in the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative (IREI). Released last November, Beyond the Guidebook 2015 is a program deliverable. Structured in four parts, it provides guidance for moving towards watershed sustainability. Part B is written for those who wish to understand the regulatory context in BC. It describes provincial game-changers for achieving the Watershed Health Goal. The purpose in featuring Part B is to draw attention to “the province’s story”.

    BC’s progression: from teachable year (2003) to call to action (2008) to game-changers (2014)

    The collaborative process that culminated in Beyond the Guidebook 2015: Moving Towards “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management” commenced in June 2013. The Capital Regional District hosted the inaugural meeting of the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Leadership Team, representing five regional districts.

    Then, in October 2013, the provincial government hosted a working session with the local government leadership team that set in motion the 2014 Inter-Regional Collaboration Series. These “sharing & learning” workshops addressed Watershed Health, and what local governments are doing to achieve it.

    To Learn More:

    Visit the homepage for Beyond the Guidebook 2015: Moving Towards “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management” athttp://waterbucket.ca/rm/category/beyond-the-guidebook-2015/

    BYGB 2015_Campbell_call to action

    Showcasing the Province’s Story

    There is a provincial story. But nobody has been telling it. Or is it more a matter of nobody connecting the dots? Part B of Beyond the Guidebook 2015 is intended to fill that gap. It connects the dots. It does this by linking the landmark initiatives that have been spearheaded by different divisions within different ministries. This should help convey how mandates, roles and responsibilities are aligned to achieve the Watershed Health Goal.

    Part B is a synthesis of work by provincial government champions that is truly ground-breaking in scope and desired outcome. Part B is in their words. Accomplished through an interview process, the objective in crafting Part B was to be succinct. The challenge to the storytellers was that we would tell each of their stories in two pages maximum, including images.

    BYGB 2015_provincial team

    Framing the Provincial Storyline

    Interview emphasis was on identifying Key Messages – in other words, each storyteller was asked to be clear on what it is that land and water practitioners really need to take away from each story within Part B. So read the quotable quotes – they are revealing.

    A breakthrough in how to communicate the Province’s story was framing the progression from “teachable year” (2003) to “call to action” (2008) to “game-changers” (2014). Things don’t just happen. It takes hard work by champions over a long period of time. Also, three game-changers (Water Sustainability Act, Develop with Care 2014, and Asset Management Framework) that came to fruition in 2014 are the outcomes of adaptive processes, as those leading change have learned by doing and made adjustments along the way.

    Branding the Game-Changers

    We needed a visual to communicate the message that “what happens on the land matters”, and to brand the three 2014 game-changers as a mutually-reinforcing package. Once we had created the visual, we coupled it with the WHAT-SO WHAT-THEN WHAT mind-map to create a storyline.Implemented in concert, the three game-changers will enable collaborative and integrated actions by local governments to achieve the Watershed Health Goal.
    BYGB 2015_Figure 12 from Part B
  2. Watershed Case Profile Series: “Water Balance Approach on Vancouver Island” (released January 2018)

    Comments Off on Watershed Case Profile Series: “Water Balance Approach on Vancouver Island” (released January 2018)

    Note to Reader:

    In January 2018,  the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia released the 7th in the Watershed Case Profile Series. 

    Water Balance Approach on Vancouver Island is the first in a set of two parallel Watershed Case Profiles. The storyline is built around three regional Water Balance demonstration applications. The second in the set, scheduled for release in April, will feature four demonstration applications in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

    The Watershed Case Profile Series is unique. The series showcases and celebrates successes and long-term ‘good work’ in the local government setting in British Columbia. Our spotlight is on champions in communities which are breaking new ground and establishing replicable precedents.

    Storylines touch lightly on technical matters, yet are grounded in a technical foundation. The objective in ‘telling a story’ is to engage, inform and educate multiple audiences – whether elected, administrative, technical or stewardship. Stories in the series are presented in a magazine style to make it easier to read, comprehend and absorb technical information. Stories are designed to connect dots.

    DOWNLOAD: http://waterbucket.ca/rm/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2018/01/Water-Balance-Approach-on-Vancouver-Island_Jan2018.pdf

    British Columbia is at a tipping point: The time has come to transition drainage practice from “voodoo hydrology” to a water balance approach branded as “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management”

    “Regulatory objectives linked to Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework would make it possible to transform drainage engineering practice at the site scale,” states Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC. “The BC Framework sets a strategic direction that refocuses business processes on outcomes that reduce life-cycle costs and risks.”

    Voodoo Hydrology:

    Andy Reese coined the term Voodoo Hydrology in 2006 to describe drainage engineering and stormwater management practice.

    “We have for years relied upon common design methodologies and trusted their results. But, should we? It is an inexact science at best. We rely on judgment and guesswork,” states Andy Reese. He is an American water resources engineer, writer, speaker & textbook author. “Perhaps, if we make enough estimates of enough factors, the errors will average out to the right answer. This is where voodoo really comes in handy.”

    What the reader will learn from this Watershed Case Profile

    A watershed is an integrated system – with three types of flows, each with a different time scale. Yet long-standing drainage engineering practices for servicing of land ignore, overlook or eliminate two of the three. Such practices are the root cause of stream and aquatic habitat degradation, with these impacts:
    • more flooding;
    • more stream erosion; and
    • less streamflow when needed most.

    Why is this still happening 16 years after the provincial government introduced the Water Balance Methodology, and set a whole-system direction for urban hydrology and drainage engineering in this province, with release of Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia?

    Context for Action: 

    Among land and drainage practitioners, how water gets to a stream and how long it takes, is not well understood. There is a growing awareness of what ought to be done differently. But missed opportunities “to get it right” persist. Opening minds to accept changes in practice is a challenge.

    British Columbia is at a tipping point. A provincial policy, program and regulatory framework is in place to help local governments bridge the gap between policy and action (i.e. a new standard of practice). The first step is to acknowledge that there is a problem with standard practice, and recognize that immediate action is required to remedy the problem.

    From Awareness to Action:

    The process to adopt, change or evolve standards of practice is slow. Bridging the gap between policy and action relies on local governments that lead by example and undertake how-to-do-it demonstration applications. On Vancouver Island, applications of the Water Balance Methodology have been completed in three regional districts along the east coast of the Island. These have proven out how to:
    • apply science-based understanding;
    • establish watershed-based performance targets; and
    • downscale those performance targets to the site scale.

    This Watershed Case Profile presents capsule summaries of each demonstration application. But it does more than that. It provides an explanation of the problem and the solution. It then closes with an overview of Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management. The latter foreshadows a potentially powerful regulatory driver for transforming drainage engineering practice at the site scale.

    The table below  is a synopsis. It distills the essence of each section into a succinct statement. These create a storyline. Readers should pause and reflect on them before reading the story itself.

     

  3. YEAR IN REVIEW: “In 2017. the Partnership for Water Sustainability greatly enhanced the capabilities of the Water Balance family of tools to make real the vision for the ‘BC Framework’ for sustainable service delivery,” stated Ted van der Gulik, President, when reflecting on program accomplishments

    Comments Off on YEAR IN REVIEW: “In 2017. the Partnership for Water Sustainability greatly enhanced the capabilities of the Water Balance family of tools to make real the vision for the ‘BC Framework’ for sustainable service delivery,” stated Ted van der Gulik, President, when reflecting on program accomplishments

    Note to Reader:

    No longer is asset management only about hard engineered assets – watermains, sewers, roads. Watershed systems are also “infrastructure assets”.

    Already facing a $200 billion challenge for renewal of hard infrastructure, Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework provides a financial driver for local governments in British Columbia to integrate a whole-system, water balance approach and climate adaptation into asset management.

    The BC Framework sets a strategic direction that would refocus business processes on outcomes that reduce life-cycle costs and risks. Use less water. Mimic natural flows in streams. Preserve the natural pathways by which water reaches streams. Slow, spread and absorb runoff. Benefits include less flooding, less stream erosion, more streamflow when needed most.

    Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management

    Financial support from three levels of government makes it possible for the Partnership for Water Sustainability to develop tools, resources and programs. The collaborative process benefits all local government partners in British Columbia.

    In 2017, membership fees supplemented by financial contributions from five regional districts allowed the Partnership to secure a substantial grant from the governments of Canada and British Columbia under the Clean Water & Wastewater Fund.

    To Learn More:

    Download Governments of Canada and British Columbia fund Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative – Moving Towards “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management”

    Program Accomplishments

    The outcome? The Partnership is spearheading an initiative branded as Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management. Under this program, the Partnership has in 2017:

    Rebuilt both the waterbalance.ca and waterbucket.ca websites. The new look-and-feel for each is described as clean, crisp and contemporary.

    Implemented the Water Balance Express Cost-Sharing Incentive Program. The goal is to double the number of applications from 5 to 10 by the end of 2018.

    Proceeded with two demonstration applications of the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) on Vancouver Island. The EAP whole-system view of watersheds assesses the hydrology in order to accurately describe the ecological services made possible by the hydrology.

    Developed the Water Balance Model Desktop. This downloadable interface enables the expert user to better utilize the power of the QUALHYMO engine.

    Continued to profile the ‘good work’ of its partners in the Watershed Case Profile Series. Over time, a goal of the Partnership is to celebrate the accomplishments of every one of its partners.

    Undertaken a series of regional outreach and professional development events, starting with the Comox Valley Eco-Asset Symposium in March and concluding with the Blue Ecology Workshop in November (held in Richmond).

    To Learn More:

    Visit Water Balance Family of Tools + External Resources

     

  4. Voodoo Hydrology Annual Webinar Series (December 2017): Andy Reese explains the pitfalls of urban hydrology methods

    Leave a Comment

    Note to Reader:

    Andy Reese is a prominent and popular American water resources engineer, writer, speaker, and textbook author. In February 2013, he delivered a webinar for Forester University titled Voodoo Hydrology – Pitfalls of Urban Hydrology Methods & What You Need to Know. Response to the webinar was overwhelming and resulted in the Voodoo Hydrology Annual Webinar Series. On December  7, Forester University is hosting the 5th in the series.

    The webinar is relevant and timely in drawing attention to the need for fundamental changes in engineering practice. Simply put, drainage engineering practice is based on very simple formulas and methodologies to calculate peak flow rates. Only surface runoff is considered. The other two pathways by which rainfall reaches streams are ignored. This means that drainage engineering practice lags behind real-world hydrology, and as a consequence streams are eroding.

    Consequences are cascading – failure to protect the natural water balance creates and exacerbates risks; floods and droughts impact more often; unfunded liabilities grow over time. This legacy of ‘avoidable consequences’ has financial implications for taxpayers.

    “The rise of Green Infrastructure and Resilience Planning opens the door for newer Voodoo like never before,” observes Andy Reese, water resources engineer and author

    Andy Reese coined the term Voodoo Hydrology in 2006 to describe the misapplication of science that characterizes drainage engineering and stormwater management practice.

    Should We Trust the Results of Commonly Applied Methodologies?

    Protection of watershed health starts with an understanding of how water gets to a stream from individual sites, how long it takes, and whether there are impacts along the way. A lesson learned is: avoid the pitfalls of Voodoo Hydrology!

    An Inexact Science: 

    According to Andy Reese, “My old friend Dr. Tom Debo, late of Georgia Tech and co-author of our textbook Municipal Stormwater Management, is fond of saying, ‘I love urban hydrology. They can never prove you are wrong, only inconsistent.’ As a stormwater community, we have for years relied upon common urban stormwater hydrologic design methodologies and trusted their results. But, should we?

    He cautions that: “We must understand that urban hydrology, including newer Green Infrastructure sizing approaches, as commonly practiced, is an inexact science where we are simply trying to get close to the right answer. We are dealing with probabilities and risk, a changing land-use environment, and many real-world factors that can alter the answer. The applications we may encounter can vary radically.”

    “Perhaps, if we make enough estimates of enough factors, the errors in estimation, high and low, will average out to the right answer. This is where voodoo really comes in handy”

    Recognize the Unstated Assumptions:

    To ensure proper application, it is essential to understand the inner workings of the black box (maybe black magic) and unstated assumptions inherent in urban stormwater hydrology that we commonly use (e.g., computer packages),” concludes Andy Reese.

    Join Andy Reese as he exposes the black box of urban hydrology. He will explore the inner workings of some of the most popular urban stormwater methodologies, as well as their common misuse and misapplications. Through discussion of the associated elements and pitfalls, he will impart a comprehensive understanding of urban stormwater hydrologic methods and their proper application.

    Look at a Watershed as a Whole System

    Jim-Dumont1_June2015DSC_05358_120p

    “We need to look at the watershed as a whole, the flow paths and timing of flow, the total mass balance and effects of change before beginning to examine the design of mitigation strategies,” notes Jim Dumont in adding his voice of experience to that of Andy Reese. Jim Dumont is the Engineering Applications Authority for the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

    “Andy Reese strives to improve our development and engineering practice by providing thought provoking articles and insight into common practice”

    Apply the Water Balance Methodology: 

    The need to protect headwater streams and groundwater resources in British Columbia means communities must expand their view from one that looks at the site by itself, to one that considers the site, watershed, stream and aquifer as an integrated system.”

    “We cannot make the assumption that previous methods of analysis used for drainage design will be adequate; rather, we must utilize appropriate methods which include the streams that we are trying to protect,” concludes Jim Dumont.

    To Learn More:

    Click on  Voodoo Hydrology: Andy Reese on ‘Pitfalls of Urban Hydrology Methods & What You Need to Know’

    And then click on Primer on Water Balance Methodology for Protecting Watershed Health  because it provides guidance on how to apply the methodology to establish performance targets that link the site, watershed, stream and aquifer, namely: storage volume, infiltration area and flow release rate.

    Andy-Reese_Voodoo-Hydrology_Pitfalls-What-Need-to-Know_Feb-2013_cover