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Jim Dumont & Natural Systems Approach

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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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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GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE INNOVATION IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: As understanding has grown, the Water Balance Methodology has evolved; and this is reflected in the successive rainwater management plans for the Routley, Yorkson and Northeast Gordon neighbourhoods in the Township of Langley


A decade ago, three neighbourhood developments in Langley established successive provincial precedents that informed the evolution of the Water Balance Methodology. “Langley is unique in that DFO approved the water balance strategy at a neighbourhood scale for each of Routley, Yorkson and Northeast Gordon,” stated Jim Dumont. “DFO approval meant that design standards were applied uniformly across each neighbourhood. This was a time-saver for everyone. The approach resulted in consistency of implementation.”

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Governments of Canada and British Columbia fund water balance tools and resources for climate adaptation action: “Real-world success would be defined as reduced stream erosion during wet weather, and sustained ‘environmental flows’ during dry weather,” stated Jim Dumont


Flood, drought, fire, wind and cold – because extreme events are becoming the norm…..As communities face the increasing impacts of climate change, there is an unfunded liability – the cost to restore watershed hydrology and water resilience in the built environment. “The Partnership for Water Sustainability is evolving, online tools that support implementation of the whole-system, water balance approach. British Columbia, Washington State and California are leaders. We are moving forward in parallel on this journey,” states Jim Dumont.

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Forester University Webcast on Protecting Urban Watersheds and Stream Health in British Columbia (May 2017): “The whole-system, water balance approach simplifies things down to an understanding of the consequences of changes in duration of flow. It is very much about the total numbers of hours per year that streams are subjected to particular streamflow rates,” explained Jim Dumont


The Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia partnered with Forester University to share, via webcast, the British Columbia innovation and experience that has resulted in the whole-system, water balance approach. “We are delighted to have Kim Stephens and Jim Dumont share British Columbia’s cutting-edge continuous simulation model, known as the Water Balance Methodology,” stated Emily Shine. “At Forester University, we aim to position ourselves at the forefront of innovation in rainwater management and green infrastructure, and that is why we are calling Water Balance Methodology a webinar that cannot be missed.”

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British Columbia’s Partnership for Water Sustainability and the United States Urban Watersheds Research Institute have an agreement to collaborate: "The Water Balance Model’s QUALHYMO engine is now linkable with SWMM," stated Jim Dumont, the Partnership’s Engineering Applications Authority


The agreement is to collaborate regarding reciprocal benefits and joint actions related to water resources research and practice in North America. The focal point for cross-border collaboration is the new US-based Center for Infrastructure Modelling & Management, the new home for SWMM. “Tools like SWMM and QUALHYMO can enable the hydrologic computations; it is up to us to recognize the need, and to deliver tools that facilitate the analysis. I expect that discussions about methodology will be as much a part of the Centre as the development of new code,” states Jim Dumont.

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SUSTAINABLE WATERSHED SYSTEMS, THROUGH ASSET MANAGEMENT: “We have a drainage standard-of-practice that is generally accepted as not achieving what is best for the environment,” stated Jim Dumont at the Comox Valley Eco-Asset Symposium (March 2017)


“So what is the nub of the issue? In standard practice, only surface runoff is considered, and this has led to degraded streams. If communities are to truly benefit from use of nature’s assets to provide vital community infrastructure services, then two issues must first be recognized as being impediment to changes in practice,” stated Jim Dumont. “Issue #1 is widespread lack of understanding of the relationship between flow-duration and stream (watershed) health. Issue #2 is widespread application of a standard of practice that has little connection to real-world hydrology.”

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Solution for stream stability and restoration is found in the duration of flow in the stream: “The objectives of the Water Balance Methodology start with the stream and end with the stream, providing a true measure of success in achieving environmental protection,” emphasized Jim Dumont in an interview conducted by James Careless


James Careless had an assignment to look into stormwater modelling tools (for projecting flow and other patterns); both to determine the most common tools used, and some of the most innovative approaches that are coming into use. His research into BC’s water balance approach led him to switch gears from an examination of modelling tools to learning what ‘establishing watershed objectives for stormwater management’ means in practice. What makes BC’s stormwater approach different than other jurisdictions; particularly the U.S., he wondered?

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PROTECTING WATERSHED HEALTH: “The Water Balance Methodology examines the flow paths of water in the watershed, and the flow in streams. The innovation is in the integration and application of proven scientific and engineering principles,” stated Jim Dumont when the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia released the ‘WBM Primer’ (Feb 2014)


“Breakthroughs in science-based understanding occurred in the mid-1990s. Yet engineering practice generally did not incorporate this understanding. The Water Balance Methodology has addressed this historical oversight and is being enhanced over time to incorporate fresh insights,” stated Jim Dumont. “If the stream flows and durations of flow can be maintained without increasing the magnitude and duration of above average stream discharges, then success can be demonstrated.”

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LEADING CHANGE IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Jim Dumont has played an important role in defining a vision of what can be. His pragmatic contributions to the Water Balance Model mission are rippling through time,” stated Ted van der Gulik, President, when the Partnership for Water Sustainability recognized Jim Dumont as a ‘Champion Supporter’ (Dec 2013)


By 2002, looking at rainfall differently led the Province to adopt the Water Balance Methodology, initiate a performance target approach to capturing rain where it falls, and initiate changes in the ways rainwater runoff is returned to streams. A year later, this led to development of the Water Balance Model as a scenario comparison and decision support tool. “When Jim Dumont joined the WBM team as Engineering Applications Authority in 2005, it was indeed a milestone moment,” stated Ted van der Gulik. “Year after year, his in-kind contributions are consistent, substantial and invaluable,”

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