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Vancouver Island Water

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Implementing the Water Balance Approach on Vancouver Island: Desired policy outcomes in transitioning drainage practice from “voodoo hydrology” to the Water Balance Methodolgy would be less flooding, less stream erosion, more streamflow when needed most ….and reduced life-cycle costs and risks!


Andy Reese coined the term Voodoo Hydrology in 2006 to describe drainage engineering and stormwater management practice. “We have for years relied upon common design methodologies and trusted their results. But, should we? It is an inexact science at best. We rely on judgment and guesswork,” states Andy Reese. He is an American water resources engineer & textbook author. “Perhaps, if we make enough estimates of enough factors, the errors will average out to the right answer. This is where voodoo really comes in handy.”

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Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: “The BC Framework makes the link between local government services, the infrastructure that supports the delivery of those services, and the health of watershed systems,” observes Wally Wells, Executive Director, Asset Management BC


“Asset management is a continuous process, not a discrete task,” states Wally Wells. “Too much emphasis is too often placed on the ‘Asset Management Plan.’ The PLAN is only a part of the overall process. The asset management process is a continuum. The process starts with the engineered assets that local governments provide. Communities will progress along the continuum incrementally as their understanding grows. By also accounting for and integrating the services that nature provides, over time communities can achieve the goal of Sustainable Service Delivery for watershed systems.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2007: “It`s all about people, and most of all, it`s about involving the right people at the start,” stated Rob Lawrance, City of Nanaimo Environmental Planner, at the launch event in the Showcasing Green Infrastructure Series on Vancouver Island


In 2007, Rob Lawrance set the context and introduced the unifying themes for the three City of Nanaimo presentations. “Our participation in the 2007 Showcasing Innovation Series served as a catalyst for the City of Nanaimo to evaluate our progress to that date, and reflect on lessons learned from our experience in piloting innovation,” recalled Rob Lawrance. “The City of Nanaimo showcasing focus was on three policies that each addressed public concerns on different scales. A decade ago, each policy and application represented a ‘first’ for either the region or the City of Nanaimo.”

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Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate: “In British Columbia, we are being challenged to re-assess our thinking regarding how we practice water management in the 21st century,” stated Eric Bonham, a founding member of the Partnership for Water Sustainability


“Future planners, engineers, scientists, politicians and citizens alike will be called upon to demonstrate both vision and pragmatism, working as a team towards consensus, commitment and collaboration for the common good. Such collaboration is essential and must cross all political and community boundaries given that climate change is no respecter of such creations. The Partnership has accepted this challenge and its implementation,” stated Eric Bonham.

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CHANGE THE WAY WE DRAIN LAND ON VANCOUVER ISLAND: “The survival of Coho salmon in the Englishman River depends on a healthy Shelly Creek,” states Peter Law, Vice-President, Mid Vancouver Island Enhancement Society


“Community stewardship volunteers are demonstrating what it means to embrace ‘shared responsibility’ and take the initiative to lead by example. MVIHES secured funding from multiple agencies and developed the Shelly Creek Water Balance & Sediment Reduction Plan,” stated Peter Law. “The challenge for MVIHES is to facilitate the community’s journey from awareness to action, expressed as follows: Once a community as a whole acknowledges that there is a problem, and also understands why there is a problem, what will the community do about it?”

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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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