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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’).

Latest Posts

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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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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DOWNLOAD: “Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia: Framework for Building Partnerships” – released in February 2004


“A roundtable of land and water champions created the Water Sustainability Action Plan. Timing is everything – a successful outcome requires that the right people be in the right place at the right time. Producing an Action Plan that was credible was made possible through a precedent-setting approach to collaboration that involved representatives of multiple  provincial government ministries. This helped us get the attention and blessing of Premier Gordon Campbell. Our approach recognized that the greatest impact on water and water resources occurs through our individual values, choices and behaviour,” stated Kim Stephens.

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IN MEMORIAM: Erik Karlsen (1945-2020) has a special place in the history of the Partnership for Water Sustainability. He was the ‘eminence grise’ during development and early years of implementing the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia


Over the course of his career in government, Erik Karlsen bridged the worlds of municipal affairs and environmental stewardship. For a generation of elected representatives, his was a familiar face in the local government setting. He was indeed one of a kind, and his ability to envision the big picture, yet identify practical steps going forward, was what made him stand out from the crowd and earned him much respect from his colleagues. Erik served the public interest – the public hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow, for the environment, for human communities, and for future generations – almost without equal.

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IN MEMORIAM: “Erik Karlsen had a long and unique career in the public service. He served the public interest almost without equal, with a style likely not to be seen again for a very long time. The Georgia Basin Initiative was so indicative of who Eric was and how he operated,” stated Joan Sawicki, a former BC Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks (during the period 1996 through 2000)


“I first met Erik in action when we were assigned to work together, from mid-1994 to 1996. I had just been appointed parliamentary secretary to Minister of Municipal Affairs, Darlene Marzari. So, she put us together – and the Georgia Basin Initiative was born. We were a very small staff at GBI – Judith Cullington, Charmaine Hall, and Brent Mueller. We were a small group but, with Erik’s energy and access to just about everybody everywhere, he created the illusion of something much larger,” stated Joan Sawicki.

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