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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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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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Are cities ecosystems—analogous to natural ones—of nature, infrastructure and people?


“Cities are in fact ecosystems. But one key element—the dominance of humans—makes cities different from many other ecosystems. And that changes everything: composition, processes, dynamics, functions,” wrote Marina Alberti. “By building structure and infrastructure in cities to support their needs, humans redistribute organisms and the fluxes of energy and materials leading to a distinct biogeochemistry, biotic diversity, and energy and material cycles.”

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Los Angeles County’s Bold Plan for Safe, Clean Water: Collaborate at regional level and plan at watershed level to bring multi-benefit rainwater capture projects to communities


The county is currently developing a plan which would fund construction of cisterns, rain gardens, and other infrastructure to collect and store as much as 100 billion additional gallons of rainwater per year. That’s enough water to meet 20 percent of L.A.’s current demand. “When you look at what we are importing into L.A. County, it’s about 60 percent of our local supply,” Mark Pestrella said. “That’s a problem from an economic standpoint, and from a pollution standpoint.”

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Water Sustainability Action Plans in British Columbia: “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,” stated Jennifer Vigano, Ministry of Environment, in Beyond the Guidebook 2015


“Planning will be an effective tool where the need is great, and where other area-based management tools are not able to address the links between land use and watershed impacts,” stated Jennifer Vigano. The Water Sustainability Act allows for the development of Water Sustainability Plans. These collaboratively developed 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.

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THEME FOR WORLD WATER DAY 2018: World looks to nature-based solutions for urgent water challenges


“We need to deal with the water paradox,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, calling attention to the need to work together towards a solution for our water challenge. “Water is the essence of life, but we don’t save it enough. It’s time to change mindsets, it’s not about development versus the environment.” Nature-based solutions for water, demonstrates how nature-based solutions (NBS) offer a vital means of moving beyond business-as-usual to address many of the world’s water challenges.

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World Water Day 2018: “Streamkeepers is advocating for the introduction of municipal incentives for permeable – or ‘green’ – surfaces,” wrote Glen Parker, North Shore Streamkeepers, in an opinion piece about rainwater management and “changing the way we do business” in Metro Vancouver’s North Shore region


“While it’s customary here to lament the sheer amount of precipitation our city gets, the fact is that rain, and the waterways through which it flows, play an incredibly important role in our region’s beautiful and diverse ecosystem – an ecosystem that requires ongoing monitoring and maintenance to ensure the sustainability of the surrounding environment and wildlife,” wrote Glen Parker. “Perhaps because rain is thought of as a force of rejuvenation and renewal, we often neglect to think about how stormwater can actually endanger our ecosystems and fish populations.”

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The Answer is in Nature: “Water management in the Anthropocene will require smart combinations of green and grey infrastructure,” stated Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director, Stockholm International Water Institute


“Once on the ground, the fate of rainwater is largely determined by human activities, culture and infrastructure. Who gets how much water, and of what quality, often depends as much on human laws as it depends on the laws of nature,” stated Torgny Holgren. “There are two things to keep in mind. The first is that, in this era of ‘alternative truths’, nature is a fact. It doesn’t budge, scare or care. The second thing to remember is that nature’s solutions are tried and tested over thousands of years.”

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The Watershed Project (San Francisco): “We develop programs that make residents feel like they can be part of the solution,” stated Juliana Gonzalez, Executive Director


When Juliana Gonzalez explains to her neighbors what a watershed is, she’ll often crumple up a ball of paper and flatten it out with a little ridge running across the middle. Then she’ll dip the tip of her finger in a glass of water and let a single drop trickle down the page. “That ridge is called the water divide,” she says, “which means when it rains the water will go down one side or another. Wherever that water runs, collects and drains out is a watershed.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2016: “Our goal was to produce a publication that profiled the health of key streams and connected residents with the waterways in their neighbourhood,” stated Julie Pisani, Regional District of Nanaimo


We all learn from stories and the most compelling ones are based on the experiences of those who are leading in their communities. Local government champions on the east coast of Vancouver Island are sharing and learning from each other through inter-regional collaboration. “In the RDN, we have seven basin-scale ‘water region’ areas for planning and communication purposes,” reported Julie Pisani. “We profiled streams in each of those water regions, where stewardship groups have been collecting water quality data.”

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CASE FOR WHOLE-SYSTEM, WATER BALANCE APPROACH 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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