Stay tuned for more details, in particular how to register, in the coming weeks and months!
For many years, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia has provided leadership for the “convening for action” initiative on Vancouver Island. It is noteworthy that this initiative had its genesis in the two Meeting of the Minds workshops that were held in Parksville in 2005 and 2006. Therefore, the “Parksville 2019” event is timely in terms of reminding us of this historical connection.
Nanaimo 2018 Symposium
Held in April 2018, Water Symposium #1 was a ‘call to action’. The theme? Build on the good outcomes that flow from local government and stewardship sector collaboration!
Symposium #1 introduced a vision for ‘restorative land development’ that would re-establish creekshed function. And it energized the audience with this challenge: How will communities ‘get it right’ through collaboration as land develops and redevelops?
Water Symposium #2 will celebrate local government initiatives on Vancouver Island that are ‘getting it right’. These success stories are characterized by 3 attributes: commitment, collaboration and the ‘hard work of hope’.
A decade of effort, by partnerships of local governments and community stewards, is demonstrating success on the ground where it matters. They are on a pathway to reconnect hydrology and ecology. Follow the leaders!
Comments Off on Convening for Action in Shelly Creek: “Because the stream is pushing so much water through, the trees and land around the stream are eroding,” said Peter Law, Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society, in a newspaper interview (November 2017)
Note to Reader:
In October 2017, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia released the 6th in the Watershed Case Profile Series. It tells the story of how the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society is leading by example.
Shelly Creek, a tributary of the Englishman River flows through the City of Parksville, and is important to salmonids. MVIHES has established a provincial precedent with the Shelly Creek Water Balance & Sediment Reduction Plan; and this will have reverberations as the “Shelly Creek story” becomes well-known.
The Shelly Creek experience foreshadows that an informed stream stewardship sector may prove to be a difference-maker that accelerates implementation of the ‘whole-system, water balance’ approach in British Columbia.
Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society vice-president Peter Law, with his dog Bella, looks at some of the restoration work the society did on Shelly Creek in 2015. The rocks on either side of the creek are meant to deal with the erosion from the creek. — Lauren Collins photo
Parksville Qualicum Beach stream stewards working to restore Shelly Creek
The Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES) has spent recent years working to restore Shelly Creek, which runs through Parksville and Errington. Peter Law, MVIHES vice president, said the local stream stewards began surveying the creek in 2010.
What MVIHES found, Law said, was that the stream was putting more water through because of nearby developments. He said the creek now has five times more water running through it than what was originally flowing through the creekbed.
“You want to slow the water down, you want to put it back into that shallow groundwater to allow it to slowly work its way into this (creek) so Mother Nature can kind of take the water and not destroy the stream,” stated Peter Law.
Now the society’s goal is to educate people in the watershed surrounding Shelly Creek. Law said the group will be conducting “kitchen table talks” to educate people on the effects of excess water running through the stream.
Comments Off on DOWNLOAD: “The Story of the 2008 Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series” – demonstration applications in two regions pioneered a ‘regional team approach’ to aligning efforts to implement Living Water Smart, BC’s Water Plan
Breakout groups at Cowichan Valley Learning Lunch Seminar #1 – June 2008
Desired Outcome: All Land and Water Managers will Know What Makes a Stream Healthy
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?
A decade later, these are just some of the questions that guide the work of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.
The New Business As Usual
Looking back, launch of the Living Water Smart outreach program commenced with a precedent-setting approach to capacity-building in the local government sector.
“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 to support The New Business As Usual,” stated Dale Wall, former Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Community Development when he announced the Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series at the Gaining Ground Summit.
Both the Cowichan Valley Regional District and City of Courtenay stepped up to the plate and volunteered to host a regional seminar series.
“Each session in the Cowichan Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series started at 11:00am and ended at 2:30pm,” stated Peter Nilsen, former Deputy Engineer with the District of North Cowichan. “This was the right length of time to maintain the interest and energy level of participants. Three and a half hours sounds like a lot of time, but it goes quickly; and we were just scratching the surface in terms of the material that we presented.” Inter-departmental participation by all member local governments effectively meant closing front counters on three Fridays for most of the day so that planning, engineering, operations and building inspection staff could attend the Learning Lunch seminars.
The Comox Valley series benefited from the insights that were gained from the successful Busy Place Creek walkabout, which was the finale for the Cowichan Valley series.
“Walkabouts facilitate conversations and on-the-ground learning. This approach proved especially successful when we hosted the Showcasing Innovation series,” stated Kevin Lagan, former Director of Operational Services with the City of Courtenay. “We decided to feature the east Courtenay area in Seminar #1 because this part of the city has evolved from fields and forest over the past two decades, and so has our approach to rainwater / stormwater management. “Placing the spotlight on the east Courtenay area helped seminar participants understand why drainage practices comprise a continuum of paradigms.
A decade later we celebrate Cowichan Valey and Comox Valley leadership as early adopters; and we reflect on what their efforts set in motion, and what comes next in the capacity-building process.
Comments Off on LIVING WATER SMART ON VANCOUVER ISLAND: Cowichan Water Use Plan Unveiled for Cowichan Region
Note to Reader:
A public planning process to develop a Cowichan Water Use Plan is underway with residents, businesses and community groups in the Cowichan Valley. The planning process has explored opportunities to better ensure water resources are sustainable and available to meet future water needs. The initiative is a partnership of the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD), Cowichan Tribes, the Cowichan Watershed Board and Catalyst Paper.
Adapting to a Changing Climate
After months of deliberation, the Cowichan Water Use planning process has resulted in recommendations for water supply and storage options for the Cowichan Lake and River system. Recommendations were presented during a public meeting held in the Town of Lake Cowichan on June 11, 2018.
Water use and supply in the Cowichan Lake and Cowichan River system has long been a source of concern for residents of the Cowichan region. The impacts of climate change, including hotter, drier summers and lower snowpacks, have already resulted in one-third less water flowing into Cowichan Lake than when the weir was originally constructed in the 1950’s.
“During many years, there has no longer been enough water to support the varied needs of fish, local residents, industry and other users. By 2050 critical snow pack is projected to decrease by 85%, reducing lake inflows in the spring and early summer. This will be compounded by a reduction in summer rainfall of 17%,” said Jon Lefebure, Cowichan Valley Regional District Board Chair. “Further, water storage to support continued flow in most years will not be possible in the future without additional storage and adjusted management regimes.”
Assessment of Alternatives
A community planning process to explore options was initiated by a partnership of the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD), Cowichan Tribes, the Cowichan Watershed Board and Catalyst Paper.
Further, a 19 member Public Advisory Group (PAG) that includes representatives from local, provincial and federal governments, First Nations, industry, local community and interest groups and area residents has been meeting since November to evaluate potential water supply and storage options for the Cowichan Lake and River system.
The PAG carefully assessed the alternatives and the tradeoffs for ensuring adequate flows and water levels for fish and other aquatic species, avoiding flood risk for lakefront property owners, and minimizing impacts on water users on the lake and river.
At its final meeting in May 2018, the PAG reached consensus on a preferred water use alternative, presenting its proposed recommendations during the public information session on June 11, 2018.
To Learn More:
More information on the Cowichan Water Use planning process can be found at cowichanwup.ca
About the Water Supply System
The current Cowichan water management system and weir – implemented and constructed in the 1950s – no longer has the capability to reliably support the varied water uses that have come to be expected in the region. Three out of the last four summers have been droughts; in 2016, lake levels were so low in September that pumps were installed with the anticipation of pumping lake water to increase flows to the river. These events will be much more common in the future!
Climate change is the key driver that has resulted in a third less water coming into Cowichan Lake since the 1960s. This drying trend is only expected to worsen in coming years with longer drier summers (with about 17% less rain in the summers and 85% decrease in snowpack depth by the 2050s) and warmer water temperatures.
Comments Off on LOOK BACK TO LOOK FORWARD: Experience and relationships flowing from the precedent-setting 2008 Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series ultimately led to the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative (IREI), recalls John Finnie, CAVI Chair during the period 2006 through 2011
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.
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)
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
Comments Off on GEORGIA BASIN INTER-REGIONAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE: “B.C. communities can adapt to the New Normal. They can create a water-resilient future where flood and drought risks are reduced,” wrote Kim Stephens in an op-ed published in the Vancouver Sun (June 2, 2018)
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!
Comments Off on CONVENING FOR ACTION ON VANCOUVER ISLAND: “Our group is like a sponge with all that we are absorbing and then releasing to others in our community,” says Lynne Smith, Chairperson, Saltair Water Advisory Committee
Note to Readers:
Saltair is a unique coastal community of 1800 nestled between the urban centres of Ladysmith and Chemainus on the east coast of Vancouver Island. People are attracted to Saltair because of the panoramic ocean and mountain views and rural ambience.
The source of water supply is Stocking Lake. The water system is operated by the Cowichan Valley Regional District. In 2012, a $4.5M-over-15-years program for system upgrading resulted in formation of the Saltair Water Advisory Committee (SWAC) three years later in 2015 to create a “voice for the community”. This is their story.
Panorama of Saltair looking inland at the mountains
Water is not just about taxation, but rather the very essence that sustains our existence!
The Saltair story has relevance and is of interest for several reasons. It showcases the potential for community-based action that is empowered by the Living Water Smart vision: “we take care of our water, our water takes care of us”.
It also validates the guiding philosophy of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in bringing together passionate people in forums where we introduce big ideas, participants share and learn from each other, and champions emerge who are inspired to make a difference in their communities through collaboration and commitment.
Engaging the community in both vision and task establishes a focus that commits to the long term water security for Saltair. This is the take-away message.
Sharing & Learning is Energizing!
“The Saltair Water Advisory Committee, or SWAC, was formed in 2015. The purpose was to be a bit of a watch dog to keep track of where our increased taxation funds were being spent for upgrades to our ageing distribution system,” states Lynne Smith, Chairperson.
“Within weeks of the formation of SWAC being announced, I was introduced to the work of the Partnership for Water Sustainability, and so I attended their Feast ‘n Famine Symposium, held in Richmond, in December 2015. How I view water was transformed by the experience. I was energized.
“It became clear to me that there was more to ‘water’ than just making sure it arrives in our pipes; and this realization has since guided us as a community group. Water is not just about taxation, but rather the very essence that sustains our existence!”
On being part of the “Convening for Action” network:
“Spending time around so many talented and qualified people was a huge eye-opener for me, to find this many people in one room that were there to talk about water,” adds Lynne Smith.
“Since that time I have had an opportunity to attend two more Symposiums – Courtenay 2017 and Nanaimo 2018. After these events I always feel so energized. And I have brought what I learned back to SWAC.”
Sphere of Interest is Expanding
“As a group, SWAC started out with the focussed objective of keeping track of our fellow Saltair citizens tax dollars going into upgrades to our leaky aging pipes,” continues Lynne Smith.
“Working with the Engineering Department at the CVRD (Cowichan Valley Regional District) at the beginning was a bit of a challenge as there were no other groups in the CVRD like ours; and so, over time we have worked at collaborating together.
“Our group brings concerns and questions from us and the community forward to the CVRD staff. It is a bottom-up approach.
“This past year has turned us in another direction as the CVRD is now exploring groundwater as a water source for our community. This created a whole new line of thinking and investigating for our group.”
Saltair is grappling with a Conundrum
“We needed to find out what was occurring in other areas with groundwater,” reports Lynne Smith.
“We reached out to other areas beyond the CVRD borders and went in search of data and climate change impacts on groundwater. The more we dug the more we realized there is minimal data out there on groundwater.
“The impetus for this research is that the Vancouver Island Health Authority has mandated that a filtration system, at a cost of $5M, be placed on our water supply. And why? Because it is an open water source. Yet we currently have an amazing water source with Stocking Lake, and Saltair has been using it for many years.”
Reflections on Saltair Community’s Ability to Pay:
“How can small communities have such a huge financial burden dropped on them without any financial assistance from the Provincial Government?
“As a group we continue to pursue an equitable solution for all mandated filtration systems, be they small or large. Some systems have received grants but others are left without any financial assistance. We have met with the Vancouver Island MLA’s that have this same problem in their areas to have our concerns heard.”
“Being a very small community of approximately 850 parcels, another $5M is beyond us with our current commitment of $4.5M/15 year towards our aging distribution infrastructure.”
Building Capacity within the Saltair Community
“Over time we have expanded our knowledge with leaps and bounds from groundwater, filtration systems, watersheds, streams, fish, Water Sustainability Act, Forestry Act and the list goes on and on. We work with other groups on Vancouver Island,” states a reflective Lynne Smith.
“We send out updates to our email list and we are now holding annual Community Meetings to bring our community up to date on our water system and other water information. As a group we started to keep an eye on taxation funds but within no time we realized it was water that had the most value to us all.
“Our group is a bit like a watershed with a drop of rain or snowflake starting the process of bringing water from the watershed to our taps. A very slow journey but in continuous motion. Our group is like a sponge with all that we are absorbing and then releasing to others in our community.
“Education, communication, collaboration and constantly digging for facts is a huge part of how our group works and continues to work.”
Importance of Team & the Team Approach:
“The Saltair Water Advisory Committee comprises Jim Whittaker, Stan Piper, Dick Graham and me. We are a team of volunteers that is working together for the common good of the community. I am very proud of all that we have managed to accomplish with a small group and within a couple of years. Many people thank us for keeping them up to date through our ongoing communication.”
“As a group we try to make a difference in our community by bringing forward facts that will give them a better understanding of ‘Water’. Over the past few years our group has taken on a huge challenge to make sure our community is well informed when it comes to our water system and the challenges that we will be facing as climate change has more impact on us all,” adds Jim Whittaker.
“As a group of volunteers we enjoy the interaction between our community and others.”
Stocking Lake – water supply source for the community of Saltair and the Town of Ladysmith
Comments Off on Eco-Asset Action in the Comox Valley: A community prepares to unpave a parking lot and put up a paradise
Note to Reader:
The Comox Valley on Vancouver Island is facing a long list of challenges as more frequent and intense winter storms and summer droughts overwhelm engineered infrastructure and natural systems. In March 2017, the stewardship sector hosted a transformational event, the Comox Valley Eco-Asset Symposium. Sponsored by the four local governments, the theme for this ‘watershed moment’ was Discovering Nature’s Infrastructure Potential.
The excitement and energy generated by the Symposium has helped to move forward the long-term vision for transforming a decommissioned sawmill site on the Courtenay River into a valuable habitat corridor that could also transform the city’s most troublesome flood liabilities into an eco-asset corridor for the whole community.
The salmon-bearing Courtenay River flows through the City of Courtenay into the K’omoks Estuary, Baynes Sound and the Salish Sea. Project Watershed’s inventory of more than 40 potential projects for the K’omoks Estuary identified the 3.5 hectare sawmill site as a key area of damage and top restoration priority. It is situated adjacent to the protected Hollyhock Marsh.
Project Watershed is leading the local community in a historic effort to restore this important ecological site and salmon habitat in partnership with the K’omoks First Nation and the City of Courtenay. Each project partner and the community at large has come together to learn and share the many benefits of watershed restoration.
Kus-kus-sum Restoration on the Courtenay River Connects Eco-Assets to the Power of Community Partnerships and Storytelling
As part of the Comox Valley Youth Media Project’s latest documentary series Food for Thought, 16-year-old filmmaker Jessica Speck created this short video exploring the many positive impacts of the groundbreaking Kus-kus-sum initiative to “unpave paradise”.
Tranformative Action Through Storytelling Galvanizes Community
“The Comox Valley is approaching a watershed moment in land restoration, and all of British Columbia can learn some important lessons here,” states Vanessa Scott, writer and community organizer volunteering with Project Watershed.
“Last fall, Project Watershed launched its public campaign to purchase and restore the sawmill site on the Courtenay River. Renamed Kus-kus-sum to honour K’omoks First Nation’s historic uses of the area, this is the most ambitious restoration initiative in the history of the Comox Valley. It showcases the combined efforts of many watershed champions.
“Whether motivated by the return of healthier salmon runs, the cultural and territorial recognition of the K’omoks First Nation, or the reduction of flood risks and preparation for climate change, everyone in the community has a story reflected in this inspiring project.”
The site when it was a sawmill operation (photo credit: Dan Bowen)
Collaborate, Connect Dots and Create Synergies
“At the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium in April 2018, an event which was inspired by the 2017 Comox Valley Eco-Asset Symposium, many critical themes emerged which the Kus-kus-sum story brings to life. The Nanaimo Symposium provided a platform and call for action that adapting to climate change requires transformation in how we value nature and relate to the land,” continues Vanessa Scott.
“If we are to achieve any meaningful level of sustainability, all development has to be not only sustainable, but restorative,” said keynote speaker and author Bob Sandford, who also headlined the Comox Valley event. “We face so many overlapping and intersecting crises we can no longer afford to fix them one at a time or in isolation of one another. All future development must seek double, triple, if not quadruple benefits in terms of the restoration….”
Pilot for a National Initiative:
“From the City of Courtenay’s perspective, Kus-kus-sum delivers exactly this convergence of multiple opportunities and risks to drive municipal interest in the project as an ‘eco-asset’ restoration,” observes Vanessa Scott. “Such a science-based and policy-driven conversation requires many parties and flows naturally from the successful Eco-Asset Management Symposium held last year in Courtenay in partnership with the Comox Valley Land Trust, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC and Project Watershed.
“As a feature of the City of Courtenay’s updated floodplain management plan, Kus-kus-sum has been selected as a pilot project in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Municipal Natural Asset Initiative (MNAI) as an innovative way to “address the twin problems of ageing infrastructure and ecosystem decline.” The sustainable service delivery implications of achieving flood attenuation, by using green infrastructure to protect private and public built infrastructure, is also a case study in providing a buffer for future extreme events and climate change.”
Moving Towards Restorative Development
“As we learned at the Nanaimo Water Symposium, anecdotal evidence suggests that BC is beginning to experience a public groundswell of heightened energy and awareness of the watershed context. Through flagship projects like Kus-kus-sum, we are learning how this awareness translates into greater public advocacy and empowerment.
“Projects like this which combine the ingredients for policy action with an inspiring community-led vision — create space and a mechanism to engage communities in big picture values. Led by wild salmon and local passion, Kus-kus-sum is advancing a common agenda with key partners and highlights how public engagement and storytelling is a key driver underlying restoration,” concludes Vanessa Scott.
What the sawmill site would look like after transformation into Kus-kus-mus (image credit: Robert Lundquist)
Comments Off on YOUTUBE VIDEO: “We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology,” quoted Bob Sandford during the public lecture at the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium (April 2018)
Note to Reader:
Renowned author and speaker Bob Sandford, EPCOR Chair for Water & Climate Security at the United Nations University, set the tone for the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium. At a public lecture on the evening of April 11, his inspirational message was a call to action.
The Social Conquest of Earth
“We are told that there are five fundamental instincts that appear in every culture and that all are tied to survival” stated Bob Sandford when he quoted Edward O. Wilson, author of The Social Conquest of Earth.
“The first is the instinct to nurture children and vulnerable people; the second, a strong demand for fairness and reciprocity; the third, loyalty to one’s group of origin which includes family, ethnicity and nationality; the fourth the desire to be able to move upward in one’s social hierarchy; and finally an instinct to cling to forms of purity defined by adherence to strict moral codes in the circles in which one belongs.
“Social scientists and big data analytics tell us that these five instincts can now be measured in every culture and that they know how to tap deep biological and often non-rational instincts through carefully constructed forms of communication through social and other media.
“They claim that if you know how these five instincts drive people you can engage with them more effectively, right down to the level of the individual. By identifying latent markers, such as the music you like, or the charities you support, you can predict people’s behaviour, with or without their permission, or them even knowing.
“More than that, if the story you can tell them can engage them at the level of their deepest instincts, you can move people beyond persuasion. We are also told that the goal of big data analytics is to map the entire world and to identify the differences in biologic markers sufficiently to allow more effective communication globally.”
Are We Too Late?
“But when those who wish to make the world a better place turn to big data and related breakthroughs in deeper communication in support of common understanding of issue such as water and water-related climate concerns, we find that we have arrived too late,” observed Bob Sandford.
“This space has already hijacked by the inevitable forces of power and greed. The public mind is already being heavily manipulated toward other ends and – get in line – that is why political populism is on the rise around the world; why to some extent Brexit happened; and why the U.S. elected Donald Trump.
“This is also why there has been a widespread resurgence of carefully orchestrated climate denial; why it is also then possible to sell more pick-up trucks; and in part why instead of remaining flat as they have for the last three years, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions globally did not go down as signatories to the Paris Climate Accord had hoped – but rose in 2017 to the highest levels in history.”
Why the Keeling Curve is Important
“While it seems sometimes that the only indicators of interest to our society are economic, the really important trend in my mind is the one being largely ignored: that is the Keeling Curve – the rise in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’ atmosphere,” continued Bob Sandford.
“When I was born – for all intents and purposes in 1950 – the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was around 300 parts per million. By the time I turned 20 its 320; when I turned 30 it was 330; and it was 350 parts per million when I turned 40. By the time I hit 50, the CO2 concentration was at 375 parts per million, up by 25 parts per million in only a decade and up 75 parts per million in the time since I was born. By the time I turned 60 it was at 390 parts per million. I am now 69 and the CO2 concentration is just under 410 parts per million.
“Unless you don’t believe in gravity and in the world you have created for yourself apples don’t fall from trees, the immutable laws of atmospheric physics point clearly in the direction climate disruption if not disaster.
“In one short human lifetime the concentration of one of the most critical greenhouse gases in the Earth’s fragile atmosphere has risen in concentration by 35%. To say that we are not adequately dealing with the climate threat is an understatement. So we appear to be back to where we started. If you want to have realistic hope for the future facts do, in fact, matter and so does science.
“It matters because it is from the science that we derive the urgency for meaningful action.”
Comments Off on YOUTUBE VIDEO: “Sponge Communities is a catchy way to describe the goal in restoring the capacity of the urban landscape to absorb water and release it naturally,” stated Kim Stephens, keynote speaker, when he set the context for a call to action to adapt to a changing climate
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.”