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Water-Centric Planning

Plan with a view to water – whether for a single site, a region or the entire province. Choose to live water smart. Prepare communities for a changing climate. What happens on the land matters – therefore, take into account potential impacts of land use and community design decisions on watershed function. Look at water through different lenses. When collaboration is a common or shared value, the right mix of people and perspectives will create the conditions for change.

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Water-Centric Planning Community-of-Interest


“Water-centric planning means planning with a view to water – whether for a single site or the entire province. At the core of the approach is a water balance way-of-thinking and acting. The underpinning premise is that resource, land use and community design decisions will be made with an eye towards their potential impact on the watershed,” explains Kim Stephens.

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“Watershed / Landscape-based Approach to Community Planning” – genesis of water-centric planning in BC


Published in March 2002 by the Greater Vancouver Regional District, the “Watershed / Landscape-Based Approach to Community Planning” was developed by an interdisciplinary working group and is the genesis of “water-centric planning”. “An important message is that planning and implementation involves cooperation among all orders of government as well as the non-government and private sectors,” stated Erik Karlsen.

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YOUTUBE VIDEO: “To say that we are not adequately dealing with the climate threat is an understatement,” stated Bob Sandford during the public lecture at the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium (April 2018)


“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,” stated Bob Sandford. “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 by 35%.”

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NEW REPORT ON THE IMPACT OF A CHANGING CLIMATE: “Addressing the New Normal: 21st Century Disaster Management in B.C.” (May 2018)


An independent review of British Columbia’s response to last year’s wildfires and flooding makes 108 recommendations and calls for an overhaul of disaster response practices. The review says there should be a partnership with First Nations, local, provincial and federal governments to better prepare for emergencies. “2017 was by no means an anomaly or a one-off,” George Abbott said. “It is something that we have to prepare for every year. There is a world of evidence that climate change is impacting us in profound ways.”

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YOUTUBE VIDEO: “Learn from the past, gain an understanding of tools to help guide new development and new processes for a future for streams, salmon and stewards,” stated Zo Ann Morten in her co-keynote call to action at the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium


“Each of us has helped to make change and pave the way for more people to join in, and for more people to be asked for their input and to have something worth saying,” stated Zo Ann Morten. “For those of us who started out ‘to save the world’, well it has been a tough slog, and we aren’t there as yet. But we can take pride in being in a better state then if we had all stayed home and ate bonbons on the couch. Ah, the hard work of hope! We do have the pieces to do better to embrace a water-first approach.

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DESIGN WITH NATURE: “In order to increase the resilience of a natural system, it is important to find solutions beyond the level of the city,” stated Kongjian Yu, the internationally renowned Chinese landscape architect who is best known for his “sponge cities”


Kongjian Yu is famous for being the man who reintroduced ancient Chinese water systems to modern design. President Xi Jinping and his government have adopted sponge cities as an urban planning and eco-city template. Yu’s designs aim to build resilience in cities faced with rising sea levels, droughts, floods and so-called “once in a lifetime” storms. “It’s important to make friends with water. We can make a water protection system a living system,” states Kongjian Yu. “The mottos of the sponge city are: Retain, adapt, slow down and reuse.”

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OUR CLIMATE IS CHANGING: “We are already noticing that big fires are influencing flooding, they go together,” said University of British Columbia forestry professor Lori Daniels


Not only are the trees destroyed, but depending on the intensity of a fire, a thick absorbent layer of organic matter may also have burned off. And if that isn’t bad enough, burned forest duff is full of fats and waxes that create a slick surface that allows water to bead, pool and run off. “That waxy film makes the soils hydrophobic, so they don’t absorb the water any more, they shed it,” explained Lori Daniels. “After a fire where there is white ash you can see rivulets of water forming little channels instead of soaking in.”

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YOUTUBE VIDEO: “Our water resources are impacted by climate and land-use change. What we do on the land matters for the water! And involves many parties,” stated Julie Pisani, at the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium (April 2018)


“The Regional District of Nanaimo demonstrates commitment to watershed initiatives and water sustainability by delivering the Drinking Water & Watershed Protection Service with a long-term reliable funding source,” stated Julie Pisani. “This allows us to effectively leverage support from partners, because we are in it for the long came and we are coming to the table with some resources to get started. Not fund the whole thing, but get it off the ground and generate collaboration.”

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RESTORATION OF WATERSHED FUNCTION: “Draw a distinction between maintenance and management. Understand that maintenance means preventing degradation, whereas management is about enhancement,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair, Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) Initiative (April 2018)


“Looking through the ‘worth lens’ has been transformational. We concluded that less emphasis should be placed on monetization of ecological services. It is more realistic to focus on investment of resources – that is, time and money – as well as aspirations of motivated stakeholders,” stated Tim Pringle. “For this reason, the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) examines the investment of resources already made by stakeholders, as well as their aspirations concerning the maintenance and management of ecological services.”

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“Communities can advance mitigation and adaptation agendas simultaneously through ‘Green Resilience’ strategies,” stated Deborah Harford, Executive Director, the Adaptation to Climate Change Team (ACT) at Simon Fraser University


“Climate change impacts such as flooding, drought, and other forms of extreme weather are projected to increase in frequency and severity in the future,” stated Deborah Harford. “Plans are now under consideration to create a cross-country dialogue regarding climate resilience and GHG mitigation and to form working groups to advance recommendations on research, capacity-building, and policies to support implementation of green resilience solutions.”

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KANAKA CREEK WATERSHED STEWARDSHIP CENTRE: Conserving nature is key to managing rainwater runoff and protecting Kanaka Creek watershed – an outdoor classroom, including ‘Roof to Creek’ water features and interpretive signage, is a powerful teaching environment


In the works for years, the Centre is intended as an immersive and highly engaging place for visitors with a strong connection to the natural environment. “As we celebrate 50 years of Metro Vancouver Regional Parks this year, we continue to enhance our expansive portfolio of parks, park reserves, greenways and ecological conservancy areas,” said Metro Vancouver Chair Greg Moore. “This addition will be a valuable hub for future generations to enjoy, connect with, and learn about nature.”

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THE SYSTEMS FRAMEWORK: “Revolutionary new bottom-up approach would transform the way we assess and manage our water resources,” stated Dr. Michael Barry


“One operational decision may create such substantial far-reaching benefits that it simply cannot be weighed against financial value alone, while another may produce unexpected costs across other sectors of society,” stated Dr. Michael Barry. “It is vital that regulators, governments, and business know about these trade-offs, which traditional analysis has limited ability to uncover, but which the Systems Framework exposes clearly.”

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