"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".
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.
“The St. Mary Lake Integrated Watershed Management Plan is a result of involvement and participation of residents, stakeholders, and community organizations who care about the long-term health of our precious watersheds,” says George Grams. “The Plan gives us the blueprint for the future, including regulations, legislation, research strategies and actions to help us meet our primary objective of improving raw lake water quality."
"The drought that extended this past winter, spring and summer from Vancouver Island to Manitoba and from Mexico to the Yukon suggests that Western North America may be crossing an invisible threshold into a different hydro-meteorological regime," stated Kim Stephens. "Lessons learned will inform how local governments move forward with a 'water balance' approach."
"For British Columbia, this was the year of the great drought, dwindling snow packs, melting glaciers, beleaguered salmon runs and a costly forest fire season, followed by windstorms and heavy rains. Launched from a powerful El Nino, storms caused the single largest electrical outage in the province's history," wrote the Vancouver Sun editorial board (chaired by Harold Munro) in a year-ending editorial.
“There have been many changes in our approach to urban water management in Australia since the establishment of the centralised and separate water supply, stormwater and wastewater paradigm in the 1800s," stated Peter Coombes. "Urban water cycle management starts with the integration of land and water planning across time horizons and spatial scales. It must be cognisant of likely advances in science and professional practice over the next 30 years."
“The ‘new normal’ in British Columbia is drought and flooding. The summer dry season has extended on both ends and communities can no longer count on a predictable snowpack and reliable rain to maintain a healthy water balance in their watersheds. This is putting water supply systems and ecosystems under extreme stress,” says Kim Stephens. “What you do on the land or how you treat the land has direct implications and consequences for water use."
"Within municipalities, drinking water, wastewater and stormwater are often treated as if they were completely different things. If we want to find the solution, we have to start understanding them as part of the same cycle," says John Jackson. "We need to be planning all components of the cycle at once.Are we conveying stormwater into a pipe that is going off to a river or a lake, when it could be going back to recharge the groundwater aquifer from which we source our drinking water?"
“In other regions, notably California, they think of droughts in terms of number of years. In Southwest BC, we measure droughts in terms of number of months. Three months versus either four or five months of essentially rain-free weather makes a material difference from a water supply perspective. The reason is that we are storage-constrained in BC. There are relatively few locations to provide seasonal storage," stated Kim Stephens.
"The Water Sustainability Act has much to offer, but there are still ongoing concerns," says Rosie Simms."While the drought of summer 2015 may now seem a distant memory with November’s torrential downpours and fresh snowfalls, B.C. must prepare for long-term future water uncertainties. Following through on implementing the Water Sustainability Act is a critical step to ensure future water challenges do not become debilitating water crises."
"The workshop was about solutions and tools that are being developed in BC in response to a changing climate. Through collaboration, the Partnership mission is to support and enable practitioners and decision makers so that they can take action at a local level. The ultimate goal is to redistribute the annual water balance by protecting and/or restoring the three pathways by which rainfall reaches streams," explains Peter Law.