Water Stewardship & Sustainability in the South Okanagan





Water Sustainability Action Plan

Droughts, forest fires and floos in 2003 combined to create a ‘teachable moment’ for change in British Columbia, and especially in the Okanagan. Under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, the BCWWA Water Sustainability Committee is informing governments and others by engaging with ‘communities-of-interest and place’ on the topic of water stewardship and sustainability.


Convening for Action in the South Okanagan

CONVENING FOR ACTION IN THE SOUTH OKANAGAN is a provincial pilot for planning with a view to water. An over-arching goal is to establish a precedent at the sub-basin (or sub-regional) scale for implementation of a ‘water-centric’ approach to community planning. At the core of the approach is a water balance way of thinking and acting. This is very much a bottom-up approach that seeks to understand through active listening.

According to Raymond Fung, Chair of the Water Sustainability Committee, “We build capacity through a 3-step process. First, we challenge practitioners and others to step back Ray fung (160 pixels)from their existing paradigms. Then we inform our audiences regarding alternatives. Finally, we provide the tools and experience to do things differently. The desired outcome is to turn ideas into action on-the-ground. Over time, we will achieve this through consistent messaging and the combination of partnership-building, outreach presentations, regional events, and product development.”


BCWWA hosts Mini-Summit on Water for Life and Livelihoods

A ‘Min-Summit’ was organized as part of the 2006 Annual Conference of the BC Water & Waste Association (BCWWA) that was held at Whistler. This precedent-setting approach to audience participation accomplished several objectives. First, the fact that the conference was a provincial forum raised the profile of the South Okanagan as a provincial pilot for water-centric planning. Secondly, it provided the Convening for Action team with a focus group opportunity to test an approach to engaging an audience in a dialogue. Over 100 people attended the half-day mini-summit, of which approximately 40 participated in the interactive portion.

A SUMMIT TYPICALLY INVOLVES HEADS OF ORGANIZATIONS who convene to discuss, agree on and make commitments to address issues. A summit takes from one to several days.  Presentations are made to describe issues, break-out sessions are held to focus on responses and a closing plenary is used to ratify a communiqué that briefly summarizes the issues, discussion and commitments to follow-up actions by participating organizations.  Normally, this communiqué would be drafted in advance, modified through discussion and reported at the closure of the event.

THIS APPROACH WAS ADAPTED for use at the BCWWA Annual Conference, with significant differences: it did not involve heads of organizations, it took place during a morning, it did not focus on a pre-written draft communiqué.   To view the program outline, including a set of mini-abstracts, click on  Program for BCWWA Mini-Summit Held at Whistler 

According to Erik Karlsen, Mini-Summit moderator and the co-lead for the Convening for Action initiative, “Despite these points of departure from a typical summit, the summit model was used because it focused on issues and responses and has resulted in an outline for action that follows from presentations on key water management themes in the South Okanagan and dialogue between presenters, panelists and participants.” This adapted or mini-summit approach was structured in two parts:


Cascading Presentations

Part 1 was moderated by Kim Stephens, Program Coordinator for the Water Sustainability Action Plan. Representatives of organizations involved in water stewardship and sustainability who work provincially and in the South Okanagan delivered a set of cascading presentations:


The ACTION in Convening for Action:

The leadoff presentation by Erik Karlsen and Raymond Fung introduced the partnership framework for the Water Sustainabaility Action Plan. To access the PowerPoint presentation, click on this link The ACTION in Convening for Action: (pdf version)


Balancing settlement and ecology:

A presentation by Tim Pringle , Executive Director of the Real Estate Foundation of BC, then provided context for settlement, economic growth and water supply pressures in the South Okanagan. Click on this link Water Sustainability in the South Okanagan: Balancing Settlement and Ecology (pdf version)to download his PowerPoint presentation.

Tim  Pringle introduced the “settlement in balance with ecology” principle in order to focus attention on these fundamental questions: how does the community weigh the benefits and liabilities of change driven by the demand for land?; and what will determine long-term wellbeing for a community or region? For a full explanation, refer to A Paper by Tim Pringle on Balancing Settlement with Ecology


Regional Growth Strategy for the South Okanagan:

The third in the set of three presentations described the program that is a work-in-the-progress to develop a Regional Growth Strategy for the South Okanagan. This was a co-presentation by Meggin Messenger (Ministry of Community Services) and David Arsenault (Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen). To download their PowerPoint presentation, click on this link Regional Growth Strategy for the South Okanagan: Context for Water Stewardship & Sustainability


Audience Interaction

In Part 2, a panel was formed to engage in a dialogue with the audience. To view the framework for the interactive session, click on Water for Life and Livelihoods. The communique arising from the Mini-Summit can be downloaded by clicking on this link to the Report on a Mini-Summit Dealing with Water Stewardship & Sustainability in the South Okanagan


Posted May 2006