“The book ‘downstream: reimagining water’ is an anthology,” explains Michael Blackstock. “It brings together the perspectives of artists, writers, scientists, scholars, environmentalists, and activists. It does this by exploring the key roles that culture, arts, and the humanities play in supporting healthy water-based ecology. My chapter is titled Interweaving Water. It outlines four steps toward transforming sovereign knowledge into collaborative knowledge: (1) humility, (2) transcending, (3) interweaving, and finally (4) transformation. I illustrate this process using the theory of Blue Ecology. Curiosity about other cultures draws us into a better understanding, and allows us to contrast and compare two worlds. The product of curiosity is an analysis whereby comparison and contrast enable the interweaving process.”
A group of British Columbia’s largest conservation and recreation groups have come together to ask all provincial political parties to develop policies and positions relating to rivers as part of their election platform. The election is in May. Among those leading the campaign are the 100,000 member Outdoor Recreation Council. Mark Angelo is the Council’s rivers chair. “British Columbia is blessed with a river heritage that is among the finest in the world and yet, our waterways continue to face an array of pressures,” states Mark Angelo. “The goal in bringing together a coalition of conservation and recreation groups is to generate a greater public awareness of the importance of these issues and persuade all political parties to take in-depth positions on these matters.”
EAP, the acronym for Ecological Accounting Protocol, is one of the twin technical pillars for the whole-system, water balance approach that would refocus business processes to properly manage watershed systems within the built environment. The thinking behind EAP is that it will help focus local governments on measuring what matters. “The EAP approach begins by first recognizing the importance of a stream in a natural state and then asking: how can we maintain those ecological values while allowing the stream to be used for drainage,” states Jim Dumont. Benefits of the whole-system approach would include less flooding, less stream erosion, and more streamflow during dry weather when needed most.
“The ultimate objective of the workshop is to support fish populations – good habitat is a key element and sustainable watersheds are part of the big picture,” states Glen Parker. "Public awareness and support is essential to achieving this objective. So we need to draw community attention to the tangible things that all residents can do to support sustainable watersheds. Their cumulative beneficial actions will lead to good habitat and fish will thrive, if given a chance. We cannot overlook the political nature of decisions in our communities. The workshop, kicked off by political representatives, helps reinforce the belief with our leaders that watersheds matter. Also, though much of the drainage system is hidden, it does matter; and resources need to be directed to the system and to restoration of watershed health.”
“In community drinking watersheds, logging is accelerated as harvest rotations shorten. The reduced ability of forests to capture winter rain and slow snowmelt leads to increased spring runoff, resulting in more flooding and source drinking water quality issues,” states Tim Ennis. “If the long-term value of forest ecosystem services was taken into account when community development is planned, more forested areas would be retained to capture rainwater. The pressure on drainage conveyance systems would then be reduced, natural streamflow patterns would be maintained, and water quality would be protected. The canopy of a mature douglas fir tree intercepts and transpires over 30% of winter rainfall most of the rest through infiltration. Removing trees to facilitate urban development is going to load up our stormwater systems, lead to increase flooding and sedimentation in streams."
Salmon enhancement stewardship groups were formed in the 1990s as a response to the Coho salmon crisis. These groups asked questions of their local governments about the linkages between small stream salmon demise and land developments, and this resulted in research and early action. More than two decades later, most community-based groups still exist, providing thousands of volunteer hours to restore aquatic habitats. Now, the scope of their involvement and influence is expanding beyond the creek channel. “The stewardship and conservation sector has traditionally focused on habitat restoration and protection of lands with high ecological values,” states David Stapley. “With cumulative impacts from climate change, urban and resource development escalating, these groups have now become community leaders in educating and supporting improved land use practices.”
“The editor of Australia’s most respected economic and business newspaper, the Financial Review, has questioned the wisdom of the arguments for sole reliance on large scale centralised water infrastructure, in particular desalination. This process motivated an article about competition across scales. This has resulted in a range of actions, including collaboration with our key federal regulator and discussions with a range of government leaders", wrote Peter Coombes. "The economic efficiency of Australia’s centralised water utilities is rapidly declining – and consumers are paying for it. The political drivers of this market failure are as much to blame as the economic drivers. State bureaucracies own the water monopolies, oversee the regulators, recommend executive appointments and decide membership of consultant panels."
In the June 2016 issue of Sitelines magazine, nine articles showcase the breadth of program elements delivered by the Partnership under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for BC. In 2016, the Partnership delivered the keynote address at the BCSLA Annual Conference and gave examples of How the Water Sustainability Act is Already Influencing Water Management in British Columbia. “The set of articles introduces readers to concepts such as ‘water as a form-maker’. This means watersheds are defining landscapes,” stated Tim Pringle. "In many ways, the built environment has to adapt to watershed features and water movements to maintain viable settlements.”
The Partnership for Water Sustainability is a champion for “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management”. This is a whole-system, water balance approach for restoration of watershed health within the built environment. It is based on this premise: natural watershed systems are infrastructure assets – we must manage and protect them as such. "Understanding leads to action. Getting to action is a step-by-step process to give practitioners the tools and experience to get the job done," stated Kim Stephens. "In addition, moving from understanding to implementation requires a sustaining commitment by local governments to implement ‘standards of practice’ that restore the desired watershed condition over time."
The International Association of Hydrological Sciences introduced Blue Ecology into mainstream science in 2008. Their peer review gave Blue Ecology credibility and profile, but there has been little awareness in British Columbia of what Michael Blackstock has accomplished. The essence of Michael’s vision is ‘embrace a water first approach’ because water is a living entity. It is the sacred centre from which all other activities radiate. “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 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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