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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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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Integration of Stream Systems into Sustainable Drainage Service Delivery” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in May 2022


The BC Framework establishes expectations; it does not prescribe solutions. It is a game-changer because it redefines the context for deciding how infrastructure is planned, financed, implemented, and maintained. “It is all about building trust between Council and staff, keeping in mind what can realistically be accomplished by an organization, and being clear about the limitations of the current state-of-practice and knowledge and our ability to explain what the numbers mean in that context,” stated David Allen.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Natural asset management… cutting through the rhetoric” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in May 2022


“In 2015, the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) was an idea. The methodology and metrics recognize the importance of the stream in the landscape. It has been a 6-year journey to test, refine and mainstream the EAP methodology and metrics through a building blocks program of applied research. EAP is one of the ‘twin pillars’ for Asset Management for Sustainable Drainage Service Delivery. Water Balance Accounting, pillar number one, addresses changes on the land draining to the stream. Ecological Accounting, pillar number two, addresses changes within a stream corridor. Integration of the two is the goal,” stated Tim Pringle.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Role of the Community Leader as Catalyst” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC in May 2022


“Municipal parks tend to be manicured settings. However, there is an increasing recognition of the value of nature within cities as well. Bowker Creek is an example of where, over time, communities can create an ‘emerald necklace’ running through the urban Greater Victoria region. Imagine if kids could once again touch the creek and walk through it in their bare feet. And all within walking distance! The daylighting feasibility study shows what is technically possible in creating the emerald necklace,” stated Ian Graeme, founder of the Friends of Bowker Creek Society.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British  Columbia: Asset management is an awkward term and confuses everyone” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in April 2022


By focusing on the distinction between a “plan” and a “strategy”, the article by Wally Wells goes to the heart of OUTPUT-oriented versus OUTCOME-oriented approaches. That is the takeaway message. He has drawn attention to the need to retrain elected representatives to look at “plans” differently and think about risks and consequences for the community because of a Council doing or not doing things. “For decades we have trained our elected officials how to think and what to do with a plan. But now, with the Asset Management Plan, we want them to do something completely different,” stated Wally Wells.

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WHAT’S IN A WORD: “Choice of words can make or break one’s ability to open minds to a new or different way of thinking,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC


“By focusing on the distinction between a PLAN and a STRATEGY, the article by Wally Wells goes to the heart of output-oriented versus outcome-oriented approaches. The issue of ‘output versus outcome’ is one that the provincial government first identified two decades ago when it released Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia. The Guidebook premise is that a focus on desired outcomes would lead to action, whereas a focus on output leads to ‘analysis paralysis’. Living Water Smart in British Columbia is outcome oriented,” stated Kim Stephens.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Touching the past can connect us to the future” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in April 2022


“Empathy evolved as one of humans’ vital survival skills. It is only through our foray into the modern world that we have lost touch with our evolutionary empathy. Deeply empathic people tend to be environmentally responsible, but our caring instincts are short-sighted and dissolve across space and time, making it harder for us to deal with things that haven’t happened yet. Touching the past can connect us to the future, especially when we look back fondly. Gratitude toward the past might empower us to help those who come after — a kind of golden rule across time,” stated Jamil Zaki.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: A Once-in-a-Decade Opportunity to Strengthen the Foundation for Water Law” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in April 2022


“In a nutshell, ‘vesting’ is the legal concept that has historically been used to establish the government’s authority to write the laws that govern water use in BC. This means that any use of water that is unvested remains outside of those provincial laws. Vesting all water does not mean the use of every drop will or needs to be regulated. That concern is a red herring. The real issue centres on what government cannot do when the water use involves unvested water,” stated Mike Wei.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Moving Towards Water Sustainability Act 2.0” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in April 2022


“Mike Wei and I were part of the team that drafted the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) and regulations – we were “in the room” when the WSA was drafted. We have intimate knowledge of the WSA and understood that the current WSA represents the first, highest initial priorities written into law and was only the first step in modernising BC’s water legislation. We are therefore very aware that “certain things were left behind” in the first round and still need to be addressed,” stated Donna Forsyth.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Local Governments Need Real Numbers to Deliver Green Infrastructure Outcomes” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in March 2022


“The message about ‘getting it right’ is a good summary of the green infrastructure goal of EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process. But it goes far beyond that thought. Not only do local governments have to make the financial case for stream restoration, they also actually now have to do it! But, the Partnership team wondered, what is the look ahead for readers of Construction Business magazine? The editorial challenge was to make a bridge from the regular construction world to the Partnership’s watershed world. An invitation to the reader of the article became a desired goal,” stated Ray Fung.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Sustainable Service Delivery for Watershed Systems” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in March 2022


“At the Workshop, I explained that implementation of asset management along with the associated evolution of local government thinking is a continuous process, not a discrete task. Some local governments are advanced. Some are just starting out. Over time, capacity and expertise will increase for asset management. We are saying the same thing for integration of natural assets. Local governments, over time, will progress. A desired outcome is that they will eventually incorporate natural capital into their asset management processes,” stated Glen Brown.

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