CHAMPION SUPPORTER: recognition of the City of Abbotsford (October 2021)

Mayor Henry Braun, City of Abbotsford, and Ted van der Gulik, President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC (October 2021)

City of Abbotsford is a Champion Supporter of the Partnership for Water Sustainability

The Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia is a non-profit society that delivers services in collaboration with government. . Operationally, however, the Partnership functions as the hub for a network that is guided by the collaborative leadership model. This approach reflects the Partnership genesis, first as a technical committee and then as a roundtable. The Partnership is growing the network rather than  building a conventional organization.

The Champion Supporter designation is the Partnership’s way of formally recognizing organizations whose enduring commitment enables the Partnership to foster and support collaborative leadership in the local government setting by “convening for action” in the interests of the common good.

“The City of Abbotsford was a founding member of the original inter-governmental Water Balance Model Partnership that morphed into the Partnership, a legal entity, more than a decade ago. Beginning in 2002, a succession of City staff has supported and/or contributed to the work of the Partnership. For some time, Stella Chiu and Amy Peters have been steadfast in their support,” stated Ted van der Gulik, Partnership President, when he presented Champion Supporter certificate of recognition to Mayor Henry Braun.

“Most recently, the City of Abbotsford stepped up to be in the first cohort of local government partners to operationalize the BC Landscape Water Calculator in three regions (Okanagan, Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island). With each application, there is a new twist. Each time, we evolve the tool to meet the needs of our partners. Everyone benefits.”

“This is the power of the collaborative approach. The Abbotsford contribution was a database of common water-wise plants that can be used towards the City’s Water Wise Landscape Rebate Program. An important feature of the BC Landscape Water Calculator is how the dropdown settings guide the user selection of native and water efficient plants depending on whether planting locations are in the sun, shade, or a combination.”

Outdoor Water Use in Balance with a Changing Water Cycle

“I started with the City of Abbotsford in 2010 at a time when water conservation was really ramping up because of high peak demands in the late 2000s,” recalled Amy Peters. She coordinates the City’s water conservation program.

A regional bulk water supply system serves the City of Abbotsford (south side of Fraser River) and District of Mission (north side of the river). The principal supply source is Norrish Creek/Dickson Lake.

Context for Water Use Efficiency

“Because the Fraser Valley’s population had been (and still is) growing so fast, our peak demands were getting quite high a decade ago. In addition to looking for a new water source, the City’s immediate priority was to target peak demands to reduce total water use.”

“In 2011, Abbotsford became the first municipality in Canada to implement Advanced Metering Infrastructure (smart meters). Soon after, the City switched from an annual water billing to bi-monthly billing.”

“We were really lucky. Implementation of the smart meters combined with the changes in billing made a massive difference. We saw a 20 to 30 percent drop in peak demand! This level has held steady over the past decade and bought us time to explore different source options.”

You Manage What You Can Measure

“In 2011, the City looked at options to reduce peak water demands due to the high cost of a new water source. This included conservation, optimizing existing sources and system efficiencies. Several different conservation programs were explored, one of the programs implemented was a voluntary program for irrigation and landscape water efficiency,” continued Amy Peters.


“This program involved doing assessments of individual properties. Because they were in-depth, the assessments took a lot of time. We did not know whether the impact was great or small. Our rationale was that it is more about building awareness.”

“These assessments led homeowners to ask for incentives. In turn, this led to the rebate program. And so, we wanted to find a way to evaluate the program and demonstrate that there were water savings.”

“The solution to our need was the BC Landscape Water Calculator. The value of the calculator is that homeowners can now provide us with a report that shows how their choice of water efficient plants and landscape design meets their water budget.  The report is the basis for payment of a rebate.”


“The City sees the BC Landscape Water Calculator in helping us manage our peak demand. It really is about building the awareness through education. I like that the calculator will be able to show people just how much they can reduce their water use.”

“Many homeowners are now familiar with how much they are using because the number is on their utility bill. It really is important that they be able to see how much outdoor water use contributes to their total water demand. The BC Landscape Water Calculator does this.”


“I have been looking at different ways to market water conservation. It is something that I really want to focus on. We already have sprinkler patrols, the main purpose of which is education. The patrol members also talk to homeowners about the Irrigation and Landscape Program.”

“We are encouraging people to transform their front yards by replacing grass with water efficient plants. We are promoting both water efficient and native plants. The BC Landscape Water Calculator provides them with choices for both. An unintended outcome of customizing the tool for Abbotsford is in the way it gives homeowners direction for plant selection. This is powerful.”