PENTICTON FORUM STORY #3: Doing Business Differently – Convening for Action in the Okanagan


Building Bridges and Breaking Barriers at the Penticton Forum – Teamwork for a WaterSmart World

The Penticton Forum will be held at the Penticton Trade & Convention Centre as an adjunct to the 2009 Annual Conference of the BC Water & Waste Association (BCWWA) on April 29.

  • The meet-and-greet is at 8:00am. The morning session commences at 8:30am; the afternoon session ends at 4:15pm. Lunch will be provided.
  • For a preview of the Agenda, click on  Lesson Plan – Draft Outline of What We Want to Achieve.
  • To download a report-style, PDF version of the following web story about the Penticton Forum, click on Doing Business Differently – Convening for Action in the Okanagan
  • This is the third in a series of weekly stories that progressively connect the dots and foreshadow what participants can expect on April 29.
  • The Forum will be of educational value to elected representatives. It is especially relevant to municipal administrators, municipal engineers, and municipal planners; water resource and land use planners; and water conservation, green infrastructure and drainage practitioners. The Forum will also be of value to those in the conservation and stewardship sector.

For information on how to register, go to or contact the BCWWA ofice at 604-433- 4389.

Create-Legacy-In- BC_New_Business_August-2009

Convening for Action in BC

How do we align our efforts at three scales – provincial, regional and local – to do business differently, prepare communities for change, and choose to be water smart?

Three provincial Ministries (Environment, Community Development, and Agriculture & Lands), the  Okanagan Basin Water Board, and the Water Sustainability Committee of the BC Water & Waste Association (BCWWA) are hosting a forum in Penticton on April 29 as an adjunct to the BCWWA Annual Conference.

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Regional Initiatives

The Province’s Living Water Smart and  Green Communities initiatives provide a framework and direction for convening for action in the Okanagan, on Vancouver Island and in Metro Vancouver.  Each regional initiative is developing a vision and road map for doing business differently in order to change the way that land is developed and water is used.

1. Forum Program – An Overview

Penticton forum - kim stephens (120p)“This is the third in a series of stories leading up to the Forum, explains Kim Stephens, Program Coordinator for the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia. “Their purpose is to progressively connect the dots and foreshadow what participants can expect on April 29th.”

“This Story #3 explains what it means to have a clear vision, what is possible when the vision is shared, and how ‘convening for action’ is taking place in the Okanagan.”

New Approaches and Tools

“The forum program is organized as four modules, and is built around two themes that are intertwined, namely: ‘creating our future’ and ‘doing business Penticton forum - glen brown (160p)differently’. While each module is stand-alone, they are linked,” states Glen Brown. He is an Executive Director with the Ministry of Community Development; and is Chair of the Water Sustainability Committee.

“First, we will define the challenge. Then we will tell the stories of what is already taking place on-the-ground in the Okanagan and Georgia basins. We will conclude by presenting a blueprint for action.”

“Regional leaders will elaborate on new approaches and tools that are changing the way land is developed so that we can achieve water sustainability.”

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2. Doing Business Differently in the Okanagan

Completed in late 2008, the Okanagan Sustainable Water Strategy  seeks to ensure water resources are managed in a broader sustainability framework – Penticton forum - okanagan water strategy cover (240p)working towards a future for the Okanagan where water quality or quantity does not compromise human health and well-being, the environment, or the economy.

“The Sustainable Water Strategy is designed to build on the 1974 Okanagan Basin Study, a joint Federal/Provincial initiative to develop a comprehensive plan for the development and management of water resources in the Basin. The 1974 study is the only Basin-wide study completed to date for the Okanagan,” states Anna Warwick Sears, Executive Director of the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

Framework for Grounded Action

“A subsequent Basin-wide study of surface water and groundwater resources – the Okanagan Water Supply and Demand Project – was initiated in 2004 and is expected to be completed in late 2009. Once complete, it will be complementary to tPenticton forum - anna warwick sears (160p)he Sustainable Water Strategy. The Strategy articulates the vision and provides direction whereas the Supply and Demand Project provides the data needed to develop and implement strong water management practices.”

“The Sustainable Water Strategy is grounded in action. Twelve high-level Guiding Principles for water management and policy provide a framework for the Strategy. The key action items in the Strategy were developed respecting these Guiding Principles.”

Penticton forum - program modules

Convening for Action

In Module B, Anna Warwick Sears and Ted van der Gulik will tell the story of Convening for Action in the Okanagan and thereby set the scene for a town hall sharing session: What does ‘Living Water Smart’ Now Mean to You?

Anna Warwick Sears will start by providing an Okanagan context for implementing Living Water Smart, BCs Water Plan. She will connect the dots between Living Water Smart and the Okanagan Sustainable Water Strategy.

Then Ted van der Gulik, Senior Engineer with the Ministry of Agricultural & Lands, will demonstrate two online tools that are intended to influence behaviour at the individual property level: Irrigation Water Demand Model and Irrigation Scheduling Calculator.

Surrey wbm forum - living water smart_v2

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3. Convening for Action Explained

“The Penticton Forum is organized under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan. This is a partnership umbrella for an array of on-the-ground initiatives that promote a ‘water-centric’ approach to community planning and development,” explains Kim Stephens. “The Action Plan program elements that give local governments and practitioners the tools and experience that will enable them to better manage land and water resources.”

A Made in BC Approach

Ray Fung (120p)“The BCWWA Water Sustainability Committee is the managing partner and is responsible for Action Plan program delivery,” states Raymond Fung, Past-Chair. “Convening for Action is our mantra. When we gather, it is for a purpose. There must be an action item or an outcome. Our aim is to move from talk to action by developing tools, building capacity, and providing training.”

“Since 2004, Convening for Action in British Columbia has evolved into a ‘made in BC’ approach and process for moving from awareness to action. The Convening for Action vision is that water sustainability in British Columbia will be achieved through implementation of green infrastructure policies, practices and standards.”

Penticton Forum - Convening for Action mind map

Okanagan Genesis

“Convening for Action in British Columbia was formally launched at the Okanagan Conference on the Future for Water, held in Kelowna in February 2005. Our participation in this regional event provided the first opportunity to publicly unveil the What-SoWhat-NowWhat mind-map. It also enabled us to present the vision for Water OUT = Water IN,” reports Kim Stephens.

“The Kelowna Conference was followed by the Penticton Water OUT = Water IN Workshop in April 2005, the first event to be organized under the Convening for Action banner. The workshop was an important first step in changing the way practitioners approach water supply planning. We introduced a number of key concepts that we continue to build upon.”

It Started in the South Okanagan:

Penticton forum - south okanagan rgs (240p)“Commencing in October 2005, the Action Plan partnered with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen to undertake the first Convening for Action pilot at a sub-regional scale. The South Okanagan Regional Growth Strategy established a provincial precedent in that the strategy is water-centric. The innovation is the toolkit that follows policy, and which leads to benchmarking and monitoring / measuring what matters.”

“Commencing in September 2006, we then applied the experience gained and the lessons learned in the South Okanagan to successfully implement Convening for Action on Vancouver Island. Branded as CAVI, this 3-year pilot program is facilitating change at a regional scale.”

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4. What ‘Convening for Action in the Okanagan’ Means

“In the Okanagan, we are ‘convening for action’ at four levels to facilitate valley-wide change,” states Anna Warwick Sears. She identifies these levels as follows:

  1. Inter-jurisdictional elected officials convening as  Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) directors
  2. Key partner positions that have been added to the Board
  3. The Okanagan Water Stewardship Council
  4. The way the OBWB does business

Penticton forum - okanagan topography (240p)“The Convening for Action concept can be expanded to encompass all our activities,” continues Anna Warwick Sears. “The Okanagan Basin Water Board is the hub for people to convene around when the topic is water. Our mandate is to communicate and coordinate. In the process, we are tapping into a huge reservoir of volunteers. This is what creates the energy, the will and the momentum to do business differently in the valley.”

“The OBWB does not have regulatory authority, but has taxation powers to support its activities, the only example of its kind in the province. Because everyone in the watershed contributes, we focus on projects where everybody benefits.”

Okanagan Basin Water Board

The Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) was established in 1969 to provide leadership for defining and solving water resource problems in the valley.

Penticton forum - anna warwick sears (160p)“The OBWB is a unique form of inter-regional government,” explains Anna Warwick Sears. “The OBWB was designated to implement the recommendations of the 1974 Okanagan Basin Study, and to take on a range of responsibilities for Basin water management.”

“Our jurisdiction is defined by the geographic borders of the Okanagan Basin rather than political boundaries. In 2006, the OBWB took on a Water Management Initiative and a more active leadership role in the valley. This brought the OBWB closer to its original 1969 mandate.”

Board of Directors:

Nine of the twelve Directors are elected officials appointed by the three Okanagan regional districts, and (since 2006) the Okanagan Nation Alliance, the Water Supply Association of BC, and the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council each appoint an additional Director.

“From the ‘convening for action’ perspective, the OBWB provides a forum for the member local governments to address regional service delivery matters and issues; and to collaborate with key stakeholders in determining how best to do business differently in order to create our future.”

Penticton forum - obwb logo (360p)

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Okanagan Water Stewardship Council

Penticton forum - tom siddon (160p)“The Okanagan Water Stewardship Council was established in 2006 as part of the Water Management Initiative, but authority to convene an advisory Liaison Committee dates back to the 1970s,” states the Hon. Tom Siddon, Chair. “The goal of forming the Council was to capitalize on local water expertise and improve long-term decision making.  The Council is a broad-based body of water stakeholder groups and technical experts that provides independent advice and policy recommendations to support sustainable water management.”

Penticton forum - ted van der gulik (160p)“The Council’s Vision is that the Basin will have clean and healthy water in sufficient abundance to support the Okanagan’s natural ecosystems, agricultural lands and high quality of life for perpetuity,” adds Ted van der Gulik, Vice-Chair. “Accurate, up-to-date water information and scientific knowledge will support community and regional planning. Water will be managed in a spirit of cooperation, and a valley-wide ethic of conservation will create a lasting legacy of sustainable water resources for future generations.”

Okanagan Sustainable Water Strategy:

The Okanagan Sustainable Water Strategy was developed by the Council. “This document sets out a long range vision and twelve Guiding Principles to manage water, in both quantity and quality, for decades to come,” continues Dr. Tom Siddon. “The Council has devoted several thousands of hours over the past thirty months in preparation of this important work. Our findings, conclusions, and recommended Actions are based on a remarkable degree of consensus among all participants.”

Guiding Values when Convening for Action:

Five guiding values provide a framework within which the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council evaluates specific water management policies or proposals, and when convening for action:

“The Council, comprised of more than two dozen water management experts, representatives of user groups, and concerned community leaders, has tendrils that extend throughout the Okanagan Valley community,” observes Anna Warwick Sears. “Council products include a shared understanding of issues and concerns. This understanding is then fed back to the Water Board.

Penticton forum - okanagan council - guiding values

Collaborative Governance

Penticton forum - anna sears“When you think about it, the story of Convening for Action in the Okanagan is really about putting collaborative governance to work. At all levels of convening, we are actively and proactively undertaking collaboration for action,” reflects Anna Warwick Sears. “In short, ‘convening for action’ equals the synergy that results when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”

“The shared problems in the Okanagan are not radical. They are fundamental things that everyone agrees on, in particular protecting quality of life. The way the OBWB does business is collaborative. Through our grant programs, we are able to maximize partnerships; and in turn increase the convening of the community by bringing together the resources to make things happen.”

Penticton forum - collaborative governance

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5. Shift from Supply-Side to Demand-Side Management

“I was raised in the Okanagan on an orchard and as a youngster I remember the summers being very hot and dry. As a young boy my job was to change the Penticton forum - ted van der gulik (160p)sprinklers every evening and I remember marvelling how irrigation could convert the dry landscape into lush green orchards,” recalls Ted van der Gulik.

“The valley was very rural and except for a few small cities it seemed that orchards, vineyards and the lakes defined the valley, much like what citizens want to define the valley as today. The world seemed a much simpler place then, where climate change was a storm passing through and competition for water was getting your favourite spot on the beach.”

“But times change and the burgeoning development taking place in the valley, both for urban growth and agricultural production requires that we assess how we are going to manage water. A water strategy needs to take into account ecological, domestic and agricultural needs and consider the impacts of a changing climate on the region’s hydrology. The Okanagan Sustainable Water Strategy starts the process and has been developed with input from many water professionals. To achieve fruition, the plan will need a coordinated effort from law makers and practitioners and buy in from residents to ensure that changes are made on the ground.”

“It is important to remember that the Okanagan Valley is a headwater region and all we have to work with is the moisture that falls from the sky, which makes this strategy imperative. We cannot get water from anywhere else.”

Legacy of the 1987 Drought

“In 1987, a drought resulted in an unprecedented province-wide test of the capacities of water supply sources to provide for existing regional populations. This raised concerns regarding the possible consequences of continued growth in the Okanagan, Greater Vancouver and elsewhere,” continues Ted van der Gulik. “The 1987 drought followed a relatively benign period of almost half a century, and is one of the most extreme on record.”

“The legacy of the 1987 drought was to trigger two landmark water resource studies in 1988, one for Greater Vancouver and the other for the Okanagan. These focused attention on the need for a water conservation strategy for British Columbia. The urgency of this need was further underscored by the severity of conditions in 1992.”

“In 1988, my Ministry and the Association of BC Irrigation Districts commissioned a comprehensive study that assessed the potential for water conservation in the Okanagan Valley. The study was finalized in early 1990, with the objective that it would be the catalyst for moving from a supply-side to demand-side management way of doing business. For the last two decades we have been systematically building on that foundation to change the way we supply and use water.”

Penticton forum - 1990 demand management study

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Okanagan Agricultural Strategy

“The 1990 report was the genesis for development of an Okanagan Agricultural Strategy that took shape over the following 15 years,” explains Ted van der Gulik. Penticton forum - ted van der gulik (96p)“Over 85% of the total Okanagan water supply is used for outdoor purposes in the urban and agricultural sectors. Because agricultural irrigation accounts for more than 70% of total water use, it holds the key to a water balance strategy which revolves around how water is applied to the land.”

“Over the years, two questions have shaped my thinking and my Ministry’s approach to developing practical tools. First, how will we preserve water for agriculture while meeting other needs; and secondly, how can agriculture become more water efficient? To answer these questions, we need to be able to monitor water use and report out.”

Universal Metering of Water Use:

“The 1990 study led to the Okanagan Valley Meter Demonstration Program. This helped to create early momentum for universal water metering and a change in Okanagan water use practices. By 2004, the National Water Supply Expansion Program for Agriculture provided a source of funding for implementation of universal agricultural metering with willing Okanagan municipalities and irrigation districts.”

Penticton forum - okanagan water use

Water Requirements Reporting:

The Ministry of Agriculture has collaborated with Okanagan communities to implement a GIS-based land-use information system:

  • The strategy is founded on a water balance way-of-thinking.
  • The outcome is a database that covers the entire Okanagan Basin.
  • The goal is to know what is happening on the ground, property-by-property.
  • The system means farmers can make informed decisions on how to manage their irrigation systems properly to save water.
  • The result is a planning tool that benefits both the agricultural and urban sectors.

“The pilot for this program was the Southeast Kelowna Irrigation District (SEKID), the first Okanagan jurisdiction to implement universal agricultural metering after experiencing repeated water shortages during the period 1987 though 1992,” continues Ted van der Gulik.

“The combination of universal metering plus a land use database means a comprehensive Water Requirements Report can be generated for each property. This compares property-specific needs with actual metered use and water use on other properties that have the same soil conditions, crop types and irrigation systems.”

Penticton forum - okanagan agricultural strategy

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6. Online Tools Facilitate Efficient Water Use

At the Penticton Forum in April 2009, the unifying theme for the presentation by Ted van der Gulik will be “this is how we can and will use web-based tools to generate answers that will help us influence behaviour on the ground.” The desired outcome is agricultural water use efficiency.

Irrigation Scheduling Calculator

“The first web-based tool that we developed to change the way we apply water to the Penticton forum - scheduling calculator - 2205 (240p)land was the Landscape Irrigation Scheduling Calculator,” states Ted van der Gulik. “The first-generation version was completed in 2005. This tool helps turf designers and managers determine when and how much to irrigate. The Calculator is integrated with climate information. It can also be used by residential homeowners to achieve more efficient outdoor water use.”

“The calculator will provide the irrigator with the number of days to water, the irrigation run time for each day and the maximum run time per cycle.”
“The Calculator has undergone a major upgrade, and now has the same type of web interface as the Water Balance Model. It has both landscape and agricultural applications. At the Penticton Forum, I will be doing a live online demonstration.”

Penticton forum - scheduling calculator - 2009 (360p)

Irrigation Water Demand Model

“A key message is that the Okanagan does not have as much water as in the past, and this is happening more often than not,” states Ted van der Gulik. “Warming trends means there is less snowpack in the uplands to re-fill water storage reservoirs; at the same time, the annual rainfall is decreasing. Another key message is that the combination of uncertainty and risk due to climate change is driving the need to use water more wisely and efficiently.”

“Yet agriculture will need more water in future, mainly because of a longer growing season due to a warmer climate. It was for this reason that in 2005 the Ministry launched its water balance approach to the Agricultural Component of the Okanagan Water Supply and Demand Project.”

Penticton forum - irrigation demand model (360p)

“The Irrigation Demand Model uses a 500 m x 500 m climate grid and GIS – 32,000 grid cells in total. The model calculates daily water use on a polygon basis and adds up polygons to determine water demand for each property. Climate Change scenarios enable the model to calculate present and future water demands in each grid.”

“The Okanagan Irrigation Management Tool links the Demand Model and meter information to provide farmers with an online tool that they can access to compare actual versus theoretical water use. This provides them with an informed basis for improving their water management practices.”

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7. Moving Forward

“Looking back, the lasting significance of our Convening for Action presentation at the 2005 Kelowna Conference is that it crystallized two core principles that represented a major evolution in thinking:

Penticton forum - guiding principles

“Until 2005, it was widely assumed that agricultural water savings could simply be used to support population growth. But what was the incentive for the farmer to reduce water use? There is a strong reluctance in the agricultural sector to conserve if the water savings are to be allocated to other water users. By reaching consensus on the two core principles, this has provided a pathway forward. These principles were subsequently adapted and incorporated in the South Okanagan Regional Growth Strategy,” reports Ted van der Gulik

Achieving the ‘Beneficial Balance’

The South Okanagan pilot produced the graphic below to help Okanagan communities visualize how to address challenging priorities for land and water. The three circles represent core concepts that emerged from the discussion of settlement, economic growth and water supply pressures.

Penticton forum - beneficial balance

One-on-One with the Premier

Ted van der Gulik is also Chair of the Inter-Governmental Partnership that developed and maintains the Water Balance Model. In February 2009, this web-Penticton forum - premiers award (240p)based tool received the Premier’s Award for Innovation and Excellence. At the conclusion of the awards ceremony, the Premier and Ted van der Gulik had a lengthy conversation.

The Premier’s Office has produced a 2-minute video that features Ted van der Gulik and Kim Stephens telling the story of what the tool means for British Columbia.

To Learn More:

To view the video and learn more about “the story of the Water Balance Model”, click on this link to Premier’s Award recognizes the Water Balance Model for its innovation and excellence.

Living Water Smart:

“As we talked, it became clear to me that WATER is high on the Premier’s agenda. He has a strong grasp of water-related issues and the long-term implications if we do not start doing business differently in BC. In a nutshell, he gets it.”

“The Premier clearly understands that the Okanagan is the ‘canary in the coal mine’ from a water resource management perspective. The Okanagan is the region of BC most impacted by climate change. This is due to the changing hydrology, from Surrey wbm forum - ted and the premier  (240p)snowpack-based to rainfall-based.

“The Premier expressed his personal commitment to making a difference because we have an obligation and a responsibility to act on behalf of our children and our grand-children so that we achieve the beneficial balance and leave them with a legacy.”

“On the matter of the Living Water Smart initiative, I came away from our conversation with a strong conviction that Premier Campbell means what he says about the province-wide importance of implementing BC’s Water Plan,” concludes Ted van der Gulik.

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Downloadable Version of this Story

To download a report-style, PDF version of the foregoing web story about the Penticton Forum, click on Doing Business Differently – Convening for Action in the Okanagan