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Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia

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


“Published in 2002, ‘Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia’ was a catalyst for change that resulted in BC achieving international recognition as a leader in implementing a natural systems approach to rainwater management,” stated Kim Stephens. In addition to Adaptive Management, the Guidebook introduced two innovations. The first was the concept of an Integrated Strategy for managing all the ‘rainfall-days’ that occur each year. The second innovation was the concept of performance targets for managing the rainfall spectrum.

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DOWNLOAD: Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia


“Released in 2002, the Guidebook provides a framework for effective rainwater management throughout the province. This tool for local governments presents a methodology for moving from planning to action that focuses on implementing early action where it is most needed,” states Laura Maclean. “The Guidebook approach is designed to eliminate the root cause of negative ecological and property impacts of rainwater runoff by addressing the complete spectrum of rainfall events. The Guidebook approach contrasts with conventional ‘flows-and-pipes’ stormwater management.”

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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


“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. “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. 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.”

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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


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,” stated Dipak Basu.

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FLASHBACK TO 2003: “The new Stormwater Planning Guidebook for BC gives municipal land planners and engineers a tool to help make land development compatible with stream protection,” wrote Geoff Gilliard in an article published by Input Magazine


“Many local governments are under pressure to protect streamside property that is threatened by stormwater development,” wrote Geoff Gilliard. “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.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2002: Build a Vision, Create a Legacy – which is the Tenth Paradigm on Andy Reese’s Stormwater Management Continuum – is the guiding philosophy for "Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia"


“We can begin to think about the Tenth Paradigm as one involving making decisions aimed at achieving healthy urban watersheds,” wrote Robert Hicks. “Deciding what we want means we start with a common understanding and a shared vision of the future Target Condition for a healthy watershed. Having a Target Condition provides a direction for the long-term processes of change. An Action Plan then provides a ‘road map’ for getting there over time. This ‘road map’ approach addresses the goal of protecting people, natural systems and property; and then over time striving to move impacted watersheds towards a healthier condition.”

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MILESTONE RECOGNITION – ‘Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia’ has proven to be a catalyst for action over the past decade


“The Guidebook applied a science-based understanding, developed the water balance methodology to establish performance targets, and demonstrated that urban watershed restoration could be accomplished over a 50-year timeframe as and when communities redevelop,” states Peter Law, Guidebook Chair (2000 – 2002). A decade ago, looking at rainfall differently led the Province of BC to develop the Water Balance Methodology, and initiate a paradigm-shift in the way rainwater is managed. BC was the first provincial or state government in North America to implement the Water Balance Methodology.

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Rainwater Management: An Introduction to the Guidebook for British Columbia


Written for both expert and non-expert audiences, the document explains how the Guidebook provides a transition into ‘Beyond the Guidebook: The New Business As Usual’. “We are using the slogan The New Business As Usual to convey the message that, for change to really occur, practices that until now have been viewed as the exception must become the norm moving forward. We have to build regulatory models and develop models of practice and expertise,” stated Dale Wall, Deputy Minister

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Watershed / Landscape-based Approach to Community Planning


Published in March 2002 by the Greater Vancouver Regional District, the “Watershed / Landscape-Based Approach to Community Planning” was developed by an interdisciplinary working group. “At the heart of the approach is an adaptable 10-step methodology that facilitates planning with reference to watershed-based features,” reports Erik Karlsen, a primary author of the document. ‘Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia’ is a prime application of the watershed / landscape-based approach. In the Guidebook context, what happens at the scale of the individual parcel and street affects what happens at the watershed scale.

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Metro Vancouver Develops Design Guidelines to Complement Water Balance Model


“Our focus was on the technical details of practices in landscape areas that treat rainwater through plant materials and soils by infiltration, retention, detention and evapotranspiration”, states Ed von Euw. “The objective of this project was to reduce information barriers that previously stood in the way of effective implementation of rainwater source controls.”

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