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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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Celebrating a Decade of Living Water Smart in British Columbia – Where To From Here?


“While legislative reform is a foundation piece, collaboration takes place outside the legislative framework,” Lynn Kriwoken stated in 2008. An Executive Director in the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, she personifies continuity, commitment and leadership in bringing the Living Water Smart vision to fruition. “This is why we constantly emphasize that Living Water Smart is about motivating and inspiring everyone to embrace shared responsibility. Influencing behaviour and attitudes is at the heart of moving from awareness to action,” added Kriwoken.

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WATER TREATMENT ON VANCOUVER ISLAND: “How can small communities have such a huge financial burden dropped on them without any financial assistance from the Provincial Government?” asks Lynne Smith, Chairperson, Saltair Water Advisory Committee


“Vancouver Island Health Authority has mandated that a filtration system, at a cost of $5M, be placed on our water supply. As a group we continue to pursue an equitable solution for all mandated filtration systems, be they small or large. Some systems have received grants but others are left without any financial assistance. Being a very small community of approximately 850 parcels, another $5M is beyond us with our current commitment of $4.5M/15 year towards our aging distribution infrastructure,” stated Lynne Smith.

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WATCH THE YOUTUBE VIDEO: “Keep working to make your world better. You are engaged with pride, and with joy, in the hard work of hope. And what you are doing offers hope to all,” stated Bob Sandford in his closing synthesis at the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium (April 2018)


“Streamkeepers and municipalities both have a great deal of unexercised power and capacity to collaborate in the interests of the common good. You have only started; and in so doing, you can move outside the limitations of formal, established governance structures,” stated Bob Sandford. “It is the way to move out from under that, to build new governance pathways. And pathways to real power that can allow you to make change possible in a much shorter period of time. You have proven that, if you change your attitudes, changes in practice follow almost immediately. So, I ask and urge you to carry on. Don’t just be satisfied with slowing and reversing past damage.”

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Kus-kus-sum Restoration of a Decommissioned Sawmill Site on the Courtenay River: A community prepares to unpave a parking lot and put up a paradise


“The long-term vision for transforming a sawmill site into a valuable habitat corridor could also transform the city’s most troublesome flood liabilities into an eco-asset corridor for the whole community,” wrote Vanessa Scott. “The Comox Valley is approaching a watershed moment in land restoration, and all of British Columbia can learn some important lessons here. Led by wild salmon and local passion, Kus-kus-sum highlights how public engagement and storytelling is a key driver underlying restoration.”

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NEW NORMAL IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “The impact of climate change is yet another thing to add to the list of worries for any finance minister,” wrote Keith Baldrey, Global BC political commentator


“As Mother Nature takes her toll on vast swaths of this province, one of the folks nervously watching those disasters unfold surely has to be B.C.’s finance minister,” wrote Keith Baldrey. “Weather patterns seem to be changing due to climate change with potentially dire consequences for the government treasury. Massive flooding and fires may become the norm going forward, and so future provincial budgets may have to deal with much bigger costs than in the past in terms of dealing with disasters.”

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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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