British Columbia Invests in Water Planning for Communities
Minister of Environment announces grant to BCWWA Water Sustainability Committee
VICTORIA – The Ministry of Environment is providing $50,000 to the Water Sustainability Committee of the British Columbia Water and Waste Association (BCWWA) so that it can continue to develop and deliver the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, Environment Minister Barry Penner announced on March 28, 2007.
“As Minister responsible for Water Stewardship and Sustainable Communities, I place a high priority on fostering water stewardship and individual responsibility,” said Penner. “By sharing information, promoting water awareness and supporting communities to integrate sustainable water management practices with local land-use planning and development, I believe we can develop a culture of water conservation across the province.”
As part of this initiative, the BCWWA through the Water Sustainability Committee has established the Water Bucket website (www.waterbucket.ca), a resource-rich, interactive location for information about water sustainability in British Columbia. In addition, Convening for Action pilot programs in the South Okanagan, Vancouver Island and Greater Vancouver are promoting water-centric approaches to community planning and land development.
Water Sustainability Action Plan
“The Water Sustainability Action Plan meets the aims of BCWWA’s mission statement to share knowledge and experience in the water and wastewater industries,” said BCWWA president Jim Levin. “Ministry of Environment support of our activities in this area helps to safeguard public health, and the environment.”
“Since 2003, the ministry has provided $185,000 in funding (including this latest grant) to the 3,700 member non-profit professional organization so that the Water Sustainability Committee can manage development and implementation of the Water Sustainability Action Plan. The Action Plan provides an umbrella for a number of on-the-ground initiatives that BCWWA and an expanding network of partners, including the Ministry of Environment, are implementing to advance water stewardship in British Columbia.”
In 2007, the BCWWA Water Sustainability Committee and its roundtable of partners will continue to build on these and other successes. For example, case study experience gained through the pilot programs will be used to draft the proposed Water-Centric Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia.
Bridging to Innovation
The ultimate objective in Convening for Action is to build an informed ‘community of interest’ so that over time it will evolve into a ‘community of practice’. The challenge lies in moving from talk to action. Leading and implementing change requires bridging of the gap between talk (interest) and action (practice).
“Bridging the gap is primarily a people matter, not a technical one. Elected officials and others are already aware of the technical solutions, including the legislative and financial elements, that are part and parcel of moving forward with an approach that will achieve the vision for communities in balance with water”, observes Kim Stephens, Program Coordinator for the Water Sustainability Action Plan, “Bridging the gap between talk and action involves motivating people to engage in ways that are meaningful enough to them such that they will be inspired to and be capable of acting.”
The Convening for Action regional pilots can be viewed as bridge footings. They show what can be achieved by having conversations and creating a common language. Looking ahead, the focus of Convening for Action in British Columbia will be on what else needs to be in place in terms of awareness, commitment to act, partnerships and the like.
Convening for Action outcomes will be synthesized as chapters in Water-Centric Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia. “The Guidebook is how the bridging process will be achieved. The Guidebook will be the ‘telling of the stories’ of how change is being implemented on-the-ground in BC. Before the Guidebook chapters can be written, the regional Convening for Action case studies have to run their course”, adds Stephens.
The precedent for a transformational document which is founded on a bottom-up case study approach is Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, published in 2002. As the Stormwater Guidebook has demonstrated, the potential for creating change on the ground via a transformational guidance document revolves around four basic ingredients:
- Start with a unifying philosophy;
- Develop a science-based and pragmatic methodology for undertaking technical analyses;
- Create a web-based calculation tool that has a user-friendly interface; and
- Implement a multi-audience outreach and continuing education program (OCEP) that provides consistent messaging.
The unifying philosophy for the proposed Water-Centric Guidebook is captured as follows:
- Water OUT = Water IN means we must deal with uncertainty and manage risk to ensure a safe and adequate water supply.
Just as the Water Balance Model for British Columbia was developed as an extension of the Stormwater Guidebook, it is anticipated that the Water Conservation Calculator (developed by the Ministry of Community Services) will be the engine for an online tool that will be an extension of the Water-Centric Guidebook. According to Stephens, “The vision is that the Water Conservation Calculator will be combined with a ‘land use front-end’ to provide the missing link between how land is developed and how water is used.”
“The Stormwater Guidebook set in motion a chain of outcomes that has resulted in British Columbia being recognized internationally as a leader in implementing a natural systems approach to rainwater management in the urban environment”, concludes Stephens, “The Convening for Action initiative creates an opportunity to move beyond rainwater management to embrace all components of the water cycle through integrated water management. It will turn ideas into action.”