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Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative

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


Five provincial guidance documents formed the curriculum backbone for the 2008 series. Local case study experience informed the program design. 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. “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,” recalls John Finnie.

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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 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,” stated Kim Stephens. “The Partnership develops and mainstreams approaches, tools and resources that advance ‘design with nature’ outcomes.”

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GEORGIA BASIN INTER-REGIONAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE: “The IREI helps the champions in each region understand what the other regions are doing, what works and what does not,” stated Mike Tanner, Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia


“We are working with practitioners involved in water resources functions to foster integrated protection and management strategies through enhancement of practitioner expertise (i.e. “developing talent”), and through further evolution and delivery of program elements developed under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia,” stated Mike Tanner. “The IREI provides local governments with a mechanism for sharing and learning from each other through collaborative processes.”

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GEORGIA BASIN INTER-REGIONAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE: "Deployment of Water Balance family of online tools would help local governments bring state-of-the-art-hydrology into engineering standard practice," wrote Kim Stephens, in an article for Asset Management BC


“The paradigm-shift is that watersheds are managed as ‘infrastructure assets’ that provide ‘water balance services’,” states Kim Stephens. The driver for using the Water Balance family of tools is this desired outcome: restore watershed hydrology and re-set the ecological baseline.” Adopted by the Province in 2002, the Water Balance Methodology is the hydrology foundation for development of tools for different users at different scales and purposes.

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Governments of Canada and British Columbia fund Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative


“The BC Framework encourages local governments to manage their natural assets in the same way they manage their hard engineered assets. The program goals for the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative are aligned with this strategic direction. Successful implementation provincewide of ‘Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management’, would represent an evolution in how infrastructure is planned, financed, implemented and maintained in British Columbia,” stated Minister Fassbender.

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GEORGIA BASIN INTER-REGIONAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE: “Collaboration is leading to precedents for integrating watershed systems with land use and infrastructure decisions,” stated Jon Lefebure, Chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District


“The CVRD has been an active partner for over ten years and has benefited from the tools, professional development and working relationships made possible through our membership in the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC,” stated Jon Lefebure. “The IREI enables local governments to leverage resources for common activities such as education, research and policy development.”

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GEORGIA BASIN INTER-REGIONAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE: “Understanding leads to action. Getting there is a step-by-step process," stated Ted van der Gulik, President, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC


“The IREI was launched in 2012. A year ago regional district partners recommitted through 2021. The current IREI program focus and goal is: Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management,” stated Ted van der Gulik. “Presently, we are creating awareness. Early uptake of the vision for Sustainable Watershed Systems has exceeded our expectations. There is clearly interest and an appetite to learn more. It is an idea whose time has come.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2009: "Living Water Smart is about motivating and inspiring everyone to embrace shared responsibility," stated the Ministry of Environment's Lynn Kriwoken at the 2009 Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series (Sept-Oct-Nov) on Getting Ahead of the Wave


Provincial programs provide direction as to where the Province wants to go with Living Water Smart and the Green Communities Initiative. “While legislative reform is a foundation piece, collaboration takes place outside the legislative framework. At the end of the day, planners and engineers and other disciplines must come together to determine the issues and solutions. No statute will help them do that. Influencing behaviour and attitudes is at the heart of moving from awareness to action,” stated Lynn Kriwoken.

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FLASHBACK TO 2012: “Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative” launched at inter-regional Water Balance Forum hosted by Cowichan Valley Regional District (March 2012)


“The Water Balance Forum was the kick-off for an inter-regional education initiative to be implemented in four regions over several years. Sharing of experiences, collaboration, alignment and a consistent approach on Vancouver Island will allow everyone to go farther, more efficiently and effectively,” stated Kate Miller. “Our emphasis will be on “targets and criteria”, lessons learned, and practices necessary to protect stream health.”

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Georgia Basin IREI: Okanagan audience introduced to drivers for "Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management" at FLOWnGROW Workshop (Nov 2016)


“The twin pillars of the IREI are the Water Balance Methodology and Ecological Accounting Protocol,” stated Kim Stephens. “The Methodology links actions at the site scale with desired outcomes at a watershed scale. The new paradigm is that watersheds are infrastructure assets. Local governments would use the Ecological Accounting Protocol to develop a more complete financial picture. It is a method of ascertaining economic value of services drawn from natural assets.”

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