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Convening for Action in British Columbia

What happens on the land matters. Apply ‘cathedral thinking’ – a far-reaching vision, a well thought-out blueprint, and a shared commitment to inter-generational implementation – to create a lasting water sustainability legacy. Convening for Action is a British Columbia process that is about moving from defining the problems (the ‘what’), to determining options (the ‘so what’), to taking action to achieve results (the ‘now what’), and after that, to replicating in other communities (the ‘then what’).

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WATER SUSTAINABILITY ACTION PLAN: Community-of-practice for ‘Convening for Action in British Columbia’ – “Having the waterbucket.ca website as a communication platform allows the Action Plan partners to ‘tell our story’ and ‘record our history’ as a work-in-progress,” stated Ray Fung (2006)


“Convening for Action is a provincial initiative that supports innovation on-the-ground. From the perspective of those leading and/or participating in regional programs, having this community-of-interest provides the opportunity to ‘tell our story’ and ‘record our history’ as a work-in-progress,” states Ray Fung. “It will turn ideas into action by building capacity and understanding regarding integration of long-term, strategic planning and the implementation of physical infrastructure.”

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DOWNLOADABLE RESOURCE: The Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia – Our Story (March 2018)


“Future planners, engineers, scientists, politicians and citizens alike will be called upon to demonstrate both vision and pragmatism, working as a team towards consensus, commitment and collaboration for the common good. Such collaboration is essential and must cross all political and community boundaries given that climate change is no respecter of such creations. The Partnership has accepted this challenge and its implementation,” stated Eric Bonham.

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Green, Heal and Restore the Earth: Ian McHarg’s “Design with Nature” vision has influenced implementation of British Columbia’s Water Sustainability Action Plan


In his 1969 book, Design With Nature, Ian McHarg pioneered the concept of environmental planning. “So, I commend Design with Nature to your sympathetic consideration. The title contains a gradient of meaning. It can be interpreted as simply descriptive of a planning method, deferential to places and peoples, it can invoke the Grand Design, it can emphasize the conjunction with and, finally it can be read as an imperative. DESIGN WITH NATURE!,” wrote Ian McHarg.

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ARTICLE: Resiliency Planning During a Pandemic – perspectives from Gibsons on a local government response (Asset Management BC Newsletter, Summer 2020)


“On the Sunshine Coast, we have benefited from the existence of a plan and structure to help the region manage its response to the pandemic. The coordinated response, via an Emergency Operations Centre set-up for that purpose, has been particularly helpful in ensuring unified communications and action planning. Municipal leaders and staff from various communities actively participated in the different roles and as a result, we have increased our region’s capacity to support the work now and in future events,” stated Emanuel Machado.

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ARTICLE: Infrastructure Management in British Columbia – Glen Brown has provided leadership at a provincial scale to transform the phrase ‘sustainable service delivery’ into an actionable vision for local government (Asset Management BC Newsletter, Summer 2020)


The 20/80 Rule refers to the initial capital cost of municipal infrastructure being about 20% of the ultimate total cost, with the other 80% being an unfunded liability. This is a driver for doing business differently. “Tackling the unfunded infrastructure liability involves a life-cycle way of thinking about infrastructure needs and how to pay for those needs over time. This holistic approach is described as Sustainable Service Delivery. The link between infrastructure asset management and the protection of a community’s natural resources is an important piece in Sustainable Service Delivery,” stated Glen Brown.

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PICI, PORTAGE INLET CUTTHROAT INITIATIVE, IS A LEADING EXAMPLE OF CITIZEN SCIENCE IN ACTION IN ON VANCOUVER ISLAND: “Partnerships have been essential to all we have accomplished through PICI and will continue to be as we progress into the future. Each partnership we have has brought something to the table, be it money, expertise or that one connection we were missing to get the job done,” stated Heather Wright, Research Coordinator, World Fisheries Trust (June 2020)


The catalyst for grass-roots action in Portage Inlet was the continuing decline in cutthroat and coho numbers in the Colquitz River and Craigflower Creek. Both systems flow into Portage Inlet and Gorge Waterway in the heart of Victoria. The geographical scope of PICI expanded to two entire watersheds in a three- step systematic process. First, raise seed money through an alliance of like- minded angling groups. Secondly, create a ‘consortium’ of non-profit, corporate and small business organizations to plan a comprehensive science- based program and secure grants. Thirdly, work with all levels of government towards a clear goal.

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USING SCIENCE TO ESTABLISH A LANDSCAPE WATER BUDGET: “The BC Landscape Water Calculator is linked to a 500 metre gridded climate data set covering the entire province. The tool allows any property owner in BC to zoom in to their property and quantify their landscape water needs based on climate, soil, plant type and irrigation system,” stated Ted van der Gulik, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, when he announced that the online calculator is now live


“A platform re-build for the BC Agriculture Water Calculator was the opportunity to spin-off the BC Landscape Water Calculator as a stand-alone tool for use by local governments and their residents. At the same time, the City of Kelowna was implementing a landscape bylaw that established an allowable water budget at the individual property scale. Therefore, it was a natural fit for the Partnership and City to collaborate in the development of the BC Landscape Water Calculator,” stated Ted van der Gulik.

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DEMONSTRATION APPLICATION OF EAP, THE ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: “The once-in-a-lifetime redevelopment of the Argyle high school site in North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley is an opportunity for stream restoration in one of the older urban areas. Application of the EAP methodology and metrics enabled us to quantify how streams influence neighbourhoods and property values, and thus inform the Kilmer Creek daylighting decision process,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair (June 2020)


“Two school frontages abut the stream. They account for 55% of the channel length through the area developed prior to streamside regulation. Thus, culvert daylighting plus channel realignment through school lands represent the single, most favourable opportunity to achieve stream restoration in the context of redevelopment. Stream restoration would enable the school district to fulfill a compelling social obligation, and that is, to recognize its responsibility to support maintenance and management of Kilmer Creek as a natural commons,” stated Tim Pringle.

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REPORT ON: “Kilmer Creek Re-Alignment in the District of North Vancouver: Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process for Financial Valuation” (Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC; released June 2020)


“EAP addresses this question: How do communities decide how much to invest in the natural commons? The EAP methodology and metrics enable a local government to determine the WORTH of the natural commons, with ‘worth’ being the foundation for an annual budget for maintenance and maintenance of ecological assets. EAP considers the system as a whole, takes into account social values, and is guided by how the community uses the natural commons, including influences on nearby parcel values,” stated Kim Stephens.

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FLASHBACK TO 2006: “Our program emphasis shifted from ‘informing and educating’ to ‘showcasing and sharing’. We witnessed the motivational power of celebrating successes. We also recognized the need to get the story out about the leadership being shown by local government,” stated Ray Fung, Chair, when the Green Infrastructure Partnership released a report on conversations with a mayors and chairs focus group (September 2006)


“In 2005, the Green Infrastructure Partnership decided to consult with a number of Mayors and Chairs from the Okanagan, Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island. We formed an ad hoc focus group to help us. We had it in our minds to write a ‘Communication Guide for Elected Officials’. We saw this filling a gap. A distinguishing feature of the focus group was that everyone had thought about how to achieve environmental, economic and social objectives through a community’s infrastructure choices,” stated Ray Fung.

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LOCAL GOVERNMENT & STEWARDSHIP SECTOR COLLABORATION IN THE CITY OF DELTA: “The success of Delta’s rain garden program is largely thanks to the leadership and committed involvement of the Cougar Creek Streamkeepers,” stated Dr. Sarah Howie, Office of Climate Change & Environment (June 2020)


“The ‘pioneering’ days of Delta’s rain garden program were a great time of trial and error. We enjoyed the creative challenges of figuring out ways to work around underground utilities, move water across sidewalks and down slopes, deal with unexpected high water tables and poor drainage, and predict which plants would survive the particular site conditions of each garden. The most interesting part of designing rain gardens was that every single garden was unique to the site, so there were no cookie-cutter designs. We always got to try something new,” stated Sarah Howie.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: Delta’s Rain Garden Program for Urban Landscape Enhancement – Sustaining the Legacy through the Second Decade and Beyond (released June 2020) – “Like any good relationship, successful collaboration thrives on long-term commitment, by both local government and citizen volunteers,” stated Deborah Jones, Rain Gardens Coordinator, Cougar Creek Streamkeepers


The City of Delta is midway through the second decade of its rain garden program. Thus, Deborah Jones has the perspective of time as she looks back in order to look ahead. Her reflections are NOT about the technical details of creating rain gardens. Of far more value, her reflections transcend the ‘technical’ by focusing on the social (that is, people) dimension. The latter ultimately determines the long-term success (or failure) of any program. Download a copy of the document that builds on Deborah’s reflections and celebrates ‘the story behind the story’ of Delta’s rain garden program.

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IN MEMORIAM: “Erik Karlsen was a ‘change agent’ in every sense of the word, made his mark on so many fronts, and was respected throughout,” stated Eric Bonham, a former colleague in the BC provincial government, when he reflected on the influence and impact of Erik Karlsen in bringing people with different perspectives together to find common ground


“Erik Karlsen reflected the very best qualities of a dedicated civil servant, committed to outcomes that served the common interests of the province, building partnerships that resulted in creative yet practical policies, and endlessly thinking ‘outside the box’ that oftentimes made his colleagues’ heads spin! Erik built many connections throughout his extraordinary career that included contacts within the three levels of government, the academic sector and community stewardship groups. His broad range of interests allowed him to move comfortably from one discipline to another,” stated Eric Bonham.

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