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Water-Centric Planning

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SHIFTING CURRENTS: How the Water Sustainability Act is Already Influencing Water Management in British Columbia (Keynote Address by Partnership for Water Sustainability at Landscape Architects Annual Conference, April 2016)


Kim Stephens and Ted van der Gulik of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC co-presented the keynote. “Licensing 20,000 wells initially seemed daunting when a provincial group met to brainstorm an approach to this immense task. The team had to solve the challenge of HOW to help groundwater users reliably quantify their annual water licence volumes. Suffice to say, the brainstorming resulted in a solution,” stated Ted van der Gulik.

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“Recently identified (climate change) phenomena such as atmospheric rivers demand our full attention,” stated Bob Sandford – EPCOR Chair for Water & Climate Security, United Nations University Institute – in his call to action at FLOWnGROW workshop (Nov 2016)


“We have known for more than a century that for every degree Celsius of warming we can expect the atmosphere to carry 7% more water vapour,” stated Bob Sandford. “Storms are now occurring that feature higher relative humidity than ever experienced before. This in combination with rising sea surface temperatures allows for extreme cloud bursts and storms with greater power that last longer and carry more punch.”

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“I created Blue Ecology, by interweaving the best threads of Indigenous and Western Science, to lay a new foundation, to make water-first decisions,” stated Michael Blackstock at the FLOWnGROW workshop (Nov 2016)


“Hydrologists are encouraged to embrace the companion Blue Ecology water cycle that is meant to enhance Western science’s hydrological cycle by providing a holistic cultural context,” stated Michael Blackstock. “Hydrologists and water managers could also communicate complex climate change impacts to the public, using common sense terms. Hydrologists and water managers can use the hydrological and Blue Ecology cycles to help explain how and why the climate is changing.”

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OP-ED ARTICLE: Hope for BC’s Water – despite gloomy 2016, there is optimism for 2017, write Rosie Simms & Natasha Overduin


“From communities and local government, all the way to provincial and federal government, we must accelerate efforts to build resilience to the changing climate and increasingly unpredictable hydrological cycle,” wrote Natasha Overduin. “The new provincial Water Sustainability Act provides much-improved tools to meet today’s pressing water challenges. The legislation, however, remains only a framework of promise and potential.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2010: “The way we see the world is shaped by our vocabulary,” observed Metro Vancouver’s Robert Hicks when commenting on ‘what is an appropriate term to use’ for different uses of water in different languages


“Other languages like French and German often use more exact terms than English for 'stormwater' and 'wastewater', and this changes how relationships and worth are perceived,” states Robert Hicks. “The reason why other languages use more exact terms relates to the structural nature of those languages.

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“We can start back down the river of time – this time together – with a full understanding of the importance of embracing a water-first approach,” stated Bob Sandford, water champion & author, at FLOWnGROW workshop (November 2016)


Bob Sandford has a natural ability to ‘cut to the essence’ of issues. “This conference underscored the great benefit of focusing on the interweaving of western science and traditional teaching and local knowledge,” wrote Bob Sandford. “What we essentially talked about is reconciliation: going back to the headwaters of where we got our relationships with water and with one another wrong so that we can start back down the river of time.”

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Dealing with Climate Uncertainty and Managing Risk: “The disconnect in thought between retirement planning and water management is a conundrum,” observed Metro Vancouver’s Robert Hicks in 2005


Robert Hicks has thought hard about how to connect the dots between water resource planning, climate variability and risk management. “Retirement planning is something that most people understand and do intuitively,” asked Robert Hicks rhetorically. “So why is it that when it comes to community and/or resource planning, we are seemingly incapable of overcoming the gap between long-term and short-term thinking?”

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“The challenge of climate change now demands a level of collaboration and commitment heretofore unseen,” stated Eric Bonham at the conclusion of the FLOWnGROW workshop on water sustainability in BC (Nov 2016)


“Bob McDonald’s opening keynote reminded us all, in no uncertain terms, that we all live on one fragile planet that demands our collective respect. When Bob shared the first photograph of earth taken in 1972, it put things in perspective.Bob Sandford – the other keynote – also gave a very powerful presentation. He reminded us of the cause and effect of changing climate conditions that is, in his opinion, taking on the semblance of a ‘run-away train’.”

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Living Water Smart: Op-Ed by Kim Stephens urges communities to integrate “water balance solutions” into land use decisions (published by the Vancouver Sun, Oct 2016)


“Local governments are rising to the challenges posed by a changing climate and urban growth. 2003, 2009 and 2015 were teachable years. Droughts, forest fires, wind storms and floods became catalysts for action,” wrote Kim Stephens. “No longer is asset management only about hard engineered assets – watermains, sewers, roads. The new paradigm is that watersheds are infrastructure assets, and therefore they should be protected and managed as such.”

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Maude Barlow: Boiling Mad Over Canada’s Water Woes


Maude Barlow has chosen to focus on Canada’s looming water crisis in her latest book, Boiling Point. While her main focus is on national problems, there is, much that specifically concerns British Columbia. The belief that Canada has an abundance of water is dangerously misleading, she writes. “We face serious issues of water contamination … overextraction, glacial melt, and climate change.”

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