The Story of the 2009 Penticton Forum: Showcasing Partnerships, Collaboration, Innovation and Integration


Note to Reader:

The original Water Sustainability Committee of the BC Water & Waste Association (BCWWA) organized the Penticton Forum in collaboration with the Okanagan Basin Water Board and three provincial Ministries, namely: Community Development, Agriculture & Lands, and Environment. BCWWA hosted the Forum on April 29 as an adjunct to the Annual Conference. In 2019, the Water Sustainability Committee morphed into the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

The Forum attracted close to 80 participants from communities around the province, including a contingent of Okanagan elected representatives. To download a PDF version of the following story, click on The Story of the 2009 Penticton Forum: Showcasing Partnerships, Collaboration, Innovation and Integration

Pathway to Water Sustainability

In February 2005, the BCWWA Water Sustainability Committee and the Province launched Convening for Action in British Columbia. This flagship program under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia has comprised three regional pilots: South Okanagan, Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver. Underpinning the Action Plan is this premise:

Achieving water sustainability depends on implementing green infrastructure practices that reflect a full and proper understanding of the relationship between land and water.

Convening for Action involves bringing together those who plan and regulate (local government), those who build (developers), those who provide the legislative framework (the Province), those who do research (universities and colleges), and those who advocate conservation of resources (the stewardship sector).

The Green Communities Initiative and Living Water Smart, BC’s Water Plan provide a provincial backdrop for a ‘regional team approach’ that, over time, will create liveable communities and protect stream health.

Forum Overview

According to Kim Stephens, who organized and facilitated the event, the Penticton Forum showcased three regions where communities are ‘convening for action’ and embracing a ‘regional team approach’ to make a difference. Each regional initiative is developing a vision and road map to change the way that land is developed and water is used. Each is responding to this challenge:

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?

The Penticton Forum also showcased web-based provincial tools that have been developed to help communities achieve water sustainability through truly green development. These tools include the Waterbucket Website, Water Balance Model, Water Conservation Calculator, Irrigation Scheduling Calculator, Irrigation Water Demand Model, and Okanagan Irrigation Management Tool.

The Penticton Forum program comprised four modules built around the creating our future theme:

Build a Vision, Create a Legacy

The Penticton Forum showcased how partnerships, collaboration, innovation and integration are helping local governments in three regions make the best choices for living water smart:

This is what we want to achieve, and this is how we will get there.

The Convening for Action vision is that the Penticton Forum will prove to be a transformational event that inspires participants to do better. Creating a lasting legacy requires sustained commitment to make things happen. The Penticton Forum is not the be-all and end-all; rather, it is an important milestone in advancing a regional team approach that aligns local actions with provincial goals for the common good.

Penticton forum - build a vision, create a legacy

Working Together – Encompassing Communities

The conference theme was Working Together – Encompassing Communities. So, Patrick Condon and Vic Derman, two respected British Columbians, were invited to share their sustainability visions with Forum participants. Both were compelling in addressing this question:

What do we want British Columbia to look like in 50 years and beyond?

Patrick Condon is the driving force behind the Design Centre for Sustainability at the University of BC; he was provocative in kicking-off the Forum with a call to action. Councillor Vic Derman, Vice-Chair of the Capital Region Water Commission, was equally rousing in closing the Forum with his Natural City vision for a paradigm-shift in urban design.

Town Hall Sharing Sessions

Each module included an audience interaction segment that was conducted as a Town Hall Sharing Session. Context presentations informed and simulated the audience. Three statements capture the essence of what participants said:

  • I am here to save the planet.
  • I will lead from where I stand.
  • I will be bold and take risks.

To get to the big picture, it starts with an understanding of the smallest pieces and how they fit together. The goal when ‘convening for action’ is to establish expectations that will, in turn, influence the form and function of the built environment.

On being a change agent

During the final sharing session, Ron Smith of the Water Sustainability Committee made these summary observations: “Every one of you is a change agent. That Penticton forum - ron smith (100p)is why you are here. If you take nothing else away from this day, please leave with this thought: you are a change agent. Hopefully the tools that have been developed over the past five years will help you take a complex picture and make it a little simpler to those who you wish to influence. If we work together, and show respect, we will make BC a better place.”

The Challenge: What Will You Do Differently After Today?

Participants were challenged to apply what they learned at the Penticton Forum; and to make ‘green choices’ that will ripple through time, and will be cumulative in creating liveable communities, reducing wasteful water use, and protecting stream health. Viewed in this context, the success of the Penticton Forum will ultimately be measured by what was set in motion on April 29.

Reflecting on the day

“Thank you ‘it was an EXCELLENT day!’ an extremely effective and efficient way to communicate,” stated Councillor Maria Besso of the District of Councillor maria besso - district of coldstreamColdstream. “I appreciated the great thought provoking presentations… This forum was very timely and the information and contacts made on this one day may ultimately have a significant influence on my ability to lead from a position of knowledge. I will try to embody the clear messages of the day, and further add this quote from JFK: Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

Stories Published Previously on Water Bucket

The story of the Forum is told in a series of six stories published weekly on the Water Bucket website. These describe the elements of the Forum program, and are consolidated in a stand-alone document titled Convening for Action and Making Green Choices in British Columbia: The Story of the 2009 Pentiction Forum. These stories progressively connected the dots to foreshadow what participants could expect at the Penticton