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Water-Centric Planning

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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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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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