“A Guide to Water-Wise Land Development in the Comox Valley” – Joint Staff Training Workshop initiates educational process for communicating ‘design with nature’ expectations in urban watersheds

"The passion of the regional team came through in their individual presentations. Their enthusiasm infected the audience in a good way. The moment everyone broke into discussion groups one could feel the energy in the room. At the workshop conclusion, it was clear that the session had achieved a transformative outcome," observed Kim Stephens, workshop facilitator.

YOU TUBE VIDEO: “The Joint Staff Workshop is intended to begin an ongoing dialogue/collaboration that will lead to healthy, resilient local natural infrastructure,” stated Kris La Rose, Chair of the Comox Valley regional team

“Healthier watersheds can handle high and low rainfall better, and are therefore more resilient to the coming changes," stated Kris La Rose. "From the regional perspective, mitigation of flood risk, water conservation and restoration and protection of our streams and rivers are all key priorities. The increase in extreme weather is highlighting the need to build better resiliency into the natural systems that we all rely so heavily upon."

YOU TUBE VIDEO: At Comox Valley Joint Staff Workshop, Jack Minard and David Stapley illustrated how analytical use of Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory provides a quantitative way to measure impacts of land use on ecosystem services

"This gave us a 20-year window to measure the impacts of land use on sensitive ecosystems that were intact in 1992," stated David Stapley. “So why does it matter? Our communities face the double whammy of aging infrastructure and climate change. Healthy watersheds naturally manage rainfall. Protecting and restoring streams and wetlands through water wise development has many benefits.”

YOU TUBE VIDEO: “The Water-Wise Guide is in essence both a call to action (for the community, but also for us) as well as a road map for that action,” said Nancy Gothard, City of Courtenay environmental planner

“So, our goal was to begin to brand the story and to make it visible in the various regulatory agencies in the Valley. To depict visually that we were developing a consistency in expectations in how development would address environmental concerns. Having it available on every front counter and every website is a first step," stated Nancy Gothard.

YOU TUBE VIDEO: “Soil is more than just dirt,” explained Nancy Gothard, City of Courtenay environmental planner

"Soil is alive. It does have value. It is a very important rainwater management asset when seen as a whole on the landscape scale," stated Nancy Gothard. "One person's yard may not seem to matter much. But when we look at all the yards adding up on a watershed scale, soil is very critically valuable. It is not we have a specific tool in each jurisdiction. Rather, it is a recognition that soil plays a valuable role in rainwater management."

YOU TUBE VIDEO: “Local governments can build a strong financial case for protecting, preserving and replanting trees as service providers,” stated Judith Walker, Village of Cumberland planner

Trees provide many benefits including beauty, shade, habitat and rainfall interception and storage. “We talk about Tree Protection Bylaws, but it really is about Tree Protection,” stated Judith Walker. "Only recently have we started to actually account for the economic value of the benefits provided by trees. Over the long term, the cost is significantly less than that for hard infrastructure, and with the added benefit of a much longer replacement cost cycle."

YOU TUBE VIDEO: Judy Walker, Village of Cumberland planner, explains how rain gardens help achieve watershed goals

When sites get the topsoil part right, other parts of the water sustainability equation are easier to attain. "One tool that we hear a lot about is rain gardens. Topsoil and/or amended soil is key for water retention, and that is one feature of rain gardens that makes them so effective for water storage," stated Judith Walker. "Soil depth creates a sponge which can limit runoff during wet weather; and reduce water need during dry weather."

YOU TUBE VIDEO: “The Water Balance Express provide us with a means to engage and educate homeowners and the development community on what is possible,” concluded Glenn Westendorp, Town of Comox works superintendent

“Slow it – Sink it – Spread it. This simple saying summarizes the means by which we can manage Rain Water to alleviate both drought and flooding. This saying also summarizes the purpose behind the Water Balance Model Express,” stated Glenn Westendorp. "The Express allows home owners and small developers the ability to explore the means by which they can compensate for their effects on the environment and our aging infrastructure."

YOU TUBE VIDEO: “Comox Vally will be our demonstration region for Water Balance Methodology accreditation,” stated Kim Stephens at Joint Staff Workshop

“We see there is a gap in practitioner education and professional development. Our objective is to create a pool of trained and qualified practitioners of the Water Balance Methodology. From a local government perspective, you have to know what it is you want so that you know that you are getting the right stuff. And you need that assurance that what you are getting in the way of analyses is being completed correctly," stated Kim Stephens.

YOU TUBE VIDEOS: Comox Valley Joint Staff Workshop generated an abundance of ideas for “continuing the conversation”, reports Alexandra Hitchcock

“The workshop concluded with a group activity which provided everyone with the chance to brainstorm about they had learned from a series of presentations by members of the Comox Valley-CAVI regional team,” explains Alexandra Hitchcock. “Out of this process came a selection of ideas and suggestions to implement ‘collaboration communication’ sessions.