"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.
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".
“Recurring region-wide consequences of water-related challenges have also prompted regional action to develop governance structures and processes to make the connections between high-level decision making and actions on the ground. The Regional Surface and Ground Water Management and Governance Study identified co-governance with First Nations as a primary condition for success in managing regional water resources,” stated Keith Lawrence.
The ‘new normal’ in British Columbia is floods and droughts. What is changing is how and when water arrives. “After a period of relative hydro-climatic stability, changes in the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere have resulted in the acceleration of the global hydrologic cycle with huge implications for every region of the world and every sector of the global economy,” states Bob Sandford.
“Climate models predict warmer, longer, and drier summers. This means that farms within the Lower Fraser River will require more irrigation water in the future. Local sea level is predicted to rise and may contribute to an increasing quantity of salt water pushing up the river. In addition, changes to river hydrology may occur due to the removal of the George Massey Tunnel, possibly further increasing salinity levels,” states John ter Borg.
“It’s my job to urge people to be cautious. I’m encouraging people to balance all these competing demands and be as conservative as possible. We can have fun in the lake and grow our crops and do what we want, but I don’t know why the lawn out here is being watered. In a drought, we should be cutting out our discretionary needs. There is now concern about how much water is in the lake and how much will be available for releases," states Anna Warwick Sears.
The Cowichan River is the lifeblood of the surrounding area of Vancouver Island, but it has been diminished by six dry summers in 12 years. The prospect of summers like 2015 becoming the norm is of deep concern to Rodger Hunter. He is Chair of the Cowichan Valley Watershed Board, which brought together politicians from local governments, First Nations and volunteers to collaborate in developing a plan with clear targets.
"California is now facing a historic drought and the consequences of decades of lacklustre follow-through on groundwater management. BC could be in a multi-year drought like California. However, BC does not have to follow this same path. It can learn from the best examples of California’s new regime and, by employing a precautionary and proactive approach, can avoid the situation that California is currently facing," says Randy Christensen.
Some scientists are advising regional planners to start thinking desert rather than dahlias and delphiniums. “I don’t think the public fully gets how serious this is. … This is not about not watering lawns. This is far more serious. We have got to understand how precious water is. This is not a temporary change,” says Vicky Husband
Rivers in the Peace Region are divided between those fed by high-mountain snows and those that are tied more to the vagaries of seasonal precipitation. "Residents are staring down a potentially massive ramp-up of drilling and gas production using the controversial, and thirsty, technique of hydraulic fracturing — if the provincial government’s ambitions to build a liquefied natural gas export industry come to pass," wrote Derrick Penner.
"The problem is that the Nicola Valley is a semi-arid environment on the lee side of the mountains where forage crops require irrigation. When ranchers suck out too much water, the river system becomes too shallow and too warm for salmon to migrate upstream and spawn," wrote Larry Pynn.
“A history of top down management of water in Australia was challenged by drought. Concerned citizens called for implementation of bottom up strategies and inclusion in the decision making process. It was an emerging insight that there were no ‘silver bullet’ single solutions for water management. Both bottom-up and top-down approaches were needed," wrote Peter Coombes.