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Look At Rainfall Differently

HOW WATER REACHES A STREAM: “The ‘Water Balance’ – what do urban drainage practitioners mean, really, when they use that phrase,” asks Jim Dumont rhetorically


“The ‘Water Balance is a term that has been widely adopted by many; however, there are also many different meanings and methods for its application. In this article, I describe four different approaches to a so-called ‘water balance approach’,” stated Jim Dumont. “For each approach, I provide a very simple introduction so that the reader will have a sense of what each approach involves. My purpose is to provide a contrast with the approach we have been developing and adopting in British Columbia.”

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“Nothing will provide 100 per cent protection against the potential losses from urban floods, but planning ahead reduces the odds that you will be flooded and may reduce your costs when a flood does occur,” says Michael Drescher, University of Waterloo


“Wild weather seems increasingly widespread these days. Cities are especially vulnerable to extreme weather, meaning that many of us will end up paying for the damage it can cause. But how much we pay — and when — is largely up to us. We could, for example, pay now to prepare ourselves and limit future damage, or we can pay later to repair our properties and restore the environment,” wrote Michael Drescher.

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EDITORIAL: When does a road become a river? Why hydrologists and water planners need to move beyond averages – Australasian Journal of Water Resources (July 2018)


A river can be defined as ‘A large natural stream of water flowing in a channel to the sea, a lake or another river’ or more simply as ‘A large quantity of a flowing substance’. Obviously, under the second definition a road could be defined as a river and potentially under the first if again our interpretation of ‘natural’ is as flexible as current common usage! Why is such a seemingly silly and perhaps confusing question important?” stated Katherine Daniell.

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Restore Watershed Hydrology and Re-Set the Ecological Baseline: “A goal of the IREI program is to embed state-of-the-art hydrology in engineering ‘standard practice’,” says Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability


“Among land and drainage practitioners, how water gets to a stream and how long it takes is not well understood. Unintended consequences of this failure to ‘get it right’ include degraded urban streams, more flooding, more stream erosion, less streamflow when needed most, and an unfunded infrastructure liability,” states Kim Stephens. “In 2006, American engineer and textbook author Andy Reese coined the term voodoo hydrology to both describe drainage practice and draw attention to the need for changing the way drainage engineers practice their trade.”

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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


Kongjian Yu 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. “The mottos of the sponge city are: Retain, adapt, slow down and reuse,” stated Kongjian Yu. “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.” Yu’s designs aim to build resilience in cities faced with rising sea levels, droughts and floods.

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FLASHBACK TO 2010: “Beyond the Guidebook 2010 showcases how a ‘convening for action’ culture has taken root in British Columbia. Bringing together local government practitioners in neutral forums has enabled implementers to collaborate as regional teams,” observed Glen Brown


“In 2005, we said that the Guidebook would be the ‘telling of the stories’ of how change is being implemented on-the-ground in BC. Before the chapters could be written, however, the regional case studies had to run their course,” stated Glen Brown. “Five years later, this is the story of how we got to here and where we are going next. Similar to the way the 2002 Guidebook is structured, Beyond the Guidebook 2010 is written in a way that provides the whole story for those that want it, or just key tidbits for others.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2016: “By contrasting two watersheds, we were aiming to demonstrate that there is still time to get it right on the less developed watershed,” said Nancy Gothard, City of Courtenay Environmental Planner


We all learn from stories and the most compelling ones are based on the experiences of those who are leading in their communities. Local government champions on the east coast of Vancouver Island are sharing and learning from each other through inter-regional collaboration. “We wanted to tell a story of the continuum of watershed health, and for people to understand the role that riparian cover plays,” stated Nancy Gothard.

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Embracing Shared Responsibility & Leading Change on Vancouver Island: “A paramount goal is to ‘get it right’ in the stream channel,” reports Peter Law, Vice-President, Mid Vancouver Island Enhancement Society


“MVIHES has morphed from ‘Stewards of the Englishman River Recovery Plan’ to ‘Stewards of the Watershed’. The Shelly Creek Plan is a provincial precedent. Community-driven action can restore watershed hydrology, prevent erosion and ensure fish survival,” stated Peter Law. “The challenge for MVIHES is to facilitate the community’s journey from awareness to action, expressed as follows: Once a community as a whole acknowledges that there is a problem, and also understands why there is a problem, what will the community do about it?”

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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


In British Columbia, three landmark provincial initiatives came to fruition in 2014. All embody the enabling philosophy. “Looking into the future, collaboratively developed Water Sustainability Plans can integrate water and land use planning and can be combined with other local, regional or provincial planning processes to address water-related issues. “The scale and scope of each plan – and the process used to develop it – would be unique, and would reflect the needs and interests of the watersheds affected,” states Jennifer Vigano.

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Why it is Necessary to Understand Relevance and Value of the Water Balance Methodology: "Watershed objectives start with the stream and end with the stream – because protection of streams and fish has become an important public expectation,” says Jim Dumont, the Partnership for Water Sustainability’s Engineering Applications Authority


“The Water Balance Methodology is based upon watershed and stream function and operation. Understanding how precipitation makes its way to the stream allow us to assess how a watershed and stream operates and to analytically demonstrate impacts of development and the effectiveness of any mitigation works,” states Jim Dumont. “The Methodology provides solutions with verifiable results and where mitigation systems optimized for cost and function.”

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