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Nanaimo Water Symposium

Towards Watershed Sustainability in British Columbia: Water Sustainability Act is a game-changer because it connects land and water; and also enables tools which will help decision makers to better manage the impacts of land use on water


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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RESTORATIVE DEVELOPMENT: “The process of restoring our planet and revitalizing our communities is finally becoming a rigorous discipline, with the proper education and tools,” stated Storm Cunningham, author & futurist (2010 TEDTalk)


Storm Cunningham has been called the world’s thought leader on community revitalization and natural resource restoration. There are three types of wealth creation in this world, says Storm Cunningham. Destructive wealth, or “dewealth” is derived from depleting the earth’s resources and ecosystems and replacing them with such transitory assets. Preservative wealth is derived from preserving assets and maintaining systems. Regenerative wealth, or “reWealth,” is derived from replenishing natural and cultural resources, by restoring, reusing, renovating, regenerating the built environment.

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Moving Towards Sustainable Watershed Systems: Beyond the Guidebook 2015 showcased “The Story of Convening for Action in the Nanaimo Region”


In February 2003, a staff report to the Board crystallized the Action for Water vision. “In 2008, and as the outcome of a successful referendum, the RDN became the first regional government to create a drinking water and watershed protection service area with taxation authority in an electoral area. This was the culmination of a 6-year effort. In 2012, the service area was expanded to include the municipalities within the regional district and they became active participants in the watershed function,” reports John Finnie.

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Moving Towards Sustainable Watershed Systems: Time-Line in Beyond the Guidebook 2015 highlighted milestones for “watershed-based approach” in Nanaimo Region


The RDN established a provincial precedent when it started the Drinking Water & Watershed Protection service in 2008. Funded through a parcel tax, the stable revenue source enables strong long-term continuity of the program. The RDN’s contribution to inter-regional “sharing and learning” is the experience it has gained over the past decade in first developing and then implementing the program. “A growing population combined with known negative impacts created the need to tackle issues of groundwater depletion, stream degradation, surface water contamination and the changes climate change will bring,” stated Mike Donnelly.

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Moving Towards Sustainable Watershed Systems: In Beyond the Guidebook 2015, Julie Pisani of the Regional District of Nanaimo described how the ‘regional team approach’ is founded on ‘sustainable partnerships’


“Among the many partners it takes to tackle these issues, the First Nations in our region are likely the most important. The traditional knowledge and indigenous value of the land and the water is a realm of knowing that our scientific method does not touch,” wrote Julie Pisani. “We have started building relationships in an effort to foster trust and collaboration, and it always starts with stories. Conversations about what we care about, stories about the past which help us understand the present, and dialogue about the future and positive vision about what that may look like.”

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Moving Towards Sustainable Watershed Systems: Beyond the Guidebook 2015 introduced Daniel Pauly’s “Shifting Baseline Syndrome” to demonstrate how communities can turn the clock back to replicate desired conditions


Shifting Baseline Syndrome refers to a gradual change in the accepted norm for ecological conditions. “Every generation will use the images that they got at the beginning of their conscious lives as a standard and will extrapolate forward. And the difference then, they perceive as a loss. But they don’t perceive what happened before as a loss. You can have a succession of changes. At the end you want to sustain miserable leftovers. And the question is, why do people accept this?,” stated Daniel Pauly.

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THE HARD WORK OF HOPE: On April 11-12 in Nanaimo, you will learn that “changing the way we do business” in urban watersheds requires that local governments partner with the stewardship sector to “get it right”


“Community members caring for waterways are the key to making a difference in restoring naturally functioning watersheds over time,” says Zo Ann Morten. “The stewardship community can work with local governments to inform the broader community. We can open eyes and minds. We can open doors so that together we can make the changes necessary to achieve a vision for a watershed. It is the streamkeepers who have the on-the-ground knowledge needed to establish restoration priorities within a watershed.”

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NANAIMO WATER SYMPOSIUM: Public Lecture by Bob Sandford on “Moving Towards Restorative Development – The Hard Work of Hope” (April 11, 2018 at the Coast Bastion Hotel)


“If we are to achieve any meaningful level of sustainability, all development has to be not only sustainable, but restorative. We can no longer simply aim to slow or stop damage to the Earth system; we have to restore declining Earth system function,” wrote Bob Sandford. “Canada, and British Columbia in particular, are in a good position to make sustainability possible. Though our society is powered by petroleum and lubricated by oil, it floats on water.”

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CONTEXT FOR NANAIMO WATER SYMPOSIUM: “The Hard Work of Hope – Climate Change in the Age of Trump” – a book by Bob Sanford and Jon O’Riordan


“Though contemporary politics and the state of the environment seem grim in this ‘post-truth world’, there will always be hope. But that hope will require hard work by everyone if our planet is to remain a desirable place to live in a warming world,” wrote Jon O’Riordan (left) and Bob Sandford in their latest co-authored manifesto. “A top-down approach, by governments alone, cannot achieve the transition outlined in this book.”

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REGISTER HERE for Nanaimo Water Symposium on Watershed Stewardship in a Changing Environment (April 11-12, 2018)


The role of the stewardship sector in the Nanaimo region has been evolving over the past two decades. Beginning in 1997, Gail Adrienne led Project 2000, which jump-started stewardship activities and projects in the Nanaimo region. Looking ahead, Gail sees the current resurgence of community interest in caring for waterways as key to making a difference in restoring naturally functioning watersheds over time. “On April 11-12, 2018, join us in Nanaimo for a symposium on watershed stewardship, the water balance and restorative development,” she states.

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