From Stormwater Management to RAINwater Management: Implementing a Course Correction in Metro Vancouver

Note to Readers:

The purpose of Day 2 of the ‘From Rain to Resource Workshop on October 29 in Kelowna is to integrate the perspectives of the people working on-the-ground and those developing and adopting policy. A presentation on the Metro Vancouver policy framework for integration of liquid waste and resource management, and how it is influencing a ‘course correction’, will be delivered by Kim Stephens.

Kim Stephens is Chair of the Metro Vancouver Reference Panel, the advisory group that reports directly to the regional politicians on sewage treatment and rainwater management. Kim Stephens is also Program Coordinator for the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia. His career accomplishments include being project manager and principal author of Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, released in 2002.

2010_Kim Stephens_Kelowna_Elephant in the room

Metro Vancouver’s Comprehensive Framework for Integrated Action

Kim stephens - 2010 (120p)“Two years in the making, Metro Vancouver’s Integrated Liquid Waste & Resource Management Plan establishes the framework for moving beyond regulatory compliance to transitioning Metro Vancouver to an approach that achieves the Sustainable Region Vision. The strategy for managing liquid discharges and rainwater as resources has two tracks: End-of-Pipe and At-the-Source,” states Kim Stephens.

“Comprehensive in scope, the Integrated Plan is aligned with Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan and other provincial initiatives, including the Green Communities Initiative.”

Align Goals, Strategies and Actions

Lois jackson - metro vancouver chair“When the Board met in March 2009, it approved realigning the goals, strategies and actions in the updated Liquid Waste Management Plan (LWMP) to keep current with senior government policies and positions, as well as ensure that Metro Vancouver’s and senior governments’ environmental and fiscal objectives and actions are mutually supportive and successful,” states Lois Jackson, Metro Vancouver Chair.

“The LWMP supports provincial government positions in many areas. Local watershed planning is supported and enhanced through completion and implementation of municipal Integrated Stormwater Management Plans required by the LWMP adopted in 2002,” adds Fred Nenninger (Division Manager, Metro Vancouver Policy & Planning).

To Learn More:

To download a copy of the May 2010 version that was adopted by the Regional Board and submitted to the Minister of Environment for approval, click on Integrated Liquid Waste & Resource Management Plan

Also, click on Metro Vancouver Board adopts precedent-setting Integrated Liquid Waste & Resource Management Plan — “The centrepiece of the plan is the implementation strategy for replacing the ~50-year old Lions Gate and Iona Island primary sewage plants with advanced treatment facilities. The total cost for the two is an estimated $1.4 billion.”

Advisory Role of Reference Panel

“The Integrated Plan has been influenced for the better by the contributions of the 10-person advisory Reference Panel,” continues Johnny Carline, Metro Vancouver Chief Administrative Officer.Metro van - johnny carline (90p)

“Appointed in April 2008, the Reference Panel has reported directly to the regional politicians. The panel comprises non-government organizations, technical experts and practitioners. They have brought expert knowledge and relevant experience to the regional table.”

“Through reporting out and ongoing interaction with Metro Vancouver’s Waste Management and Finance committees, the Reference Panel has made an observable difference in stimulating informed discussion about liquid waste/resource and rainwater management issues.”

To Learn More:

Click on Final Report on A Liquid Resource Management Plan for Metro Vancouver“The Reference Panel has identified opportunities to create linkages among the different areas of action – natural environment, built environment, sewage treatment, financing and implementation – thereby helping to create a stronger plan.”

Outcome-Oriented Watershed Plans

“The Integrated Plan provides a framework for developing and implementing outcome-oriented watershed plans that have clear linkages with municipal land use planning and development approval processes. Local watershed planning and on-site rainwater management are plan requirements,” states Kim Stephens.

“The Integrated Plan is written as a regulatory document. This limits the extent to which it is able to ‘tell a story’ that will resonate with the public. Therefore, it is best read in tandem with the panel’s July 2009 Report to create a picture of a desired outcome that will inspire people to strive for constant improvement – this is what we want our region to look like, and this is how we will get there.”

Recommended Policy Framework

“The culmination of several thousand hours of volunteer time and effort, the panel’s report is succinct. At its heart is A Recommended Policy Framework for Liquid Resource Management in Metro Vancouver that has been generally embraced by regional politicians, reports Kim Stephens.

“The Policy Framework comprises five theme areas and 19 recommendations; it is keyed to an educationally-based ‘regional team approach’, one that develops a common understanding and results in consistent expectations region-wide.”

“The 19 recommendations are generally reflected in the comprehensive set of strategies and actions that constitute the regulatory document.,” states Johnny Carline.

Course Correction for ISMPs

“Under the Built Environment theme, the panel recommended that Metro Vancouver municipalities re-focus Integrated RAINwater/Stormwater Management Plans (ISMPs) on watershed targets and outcomes,” states Kim Stephens.

This recommendation flowed from concerns of municipalities over the ‘unintended consequences’ resulting from ISMPs completed to date in the region. The July 2009 report from the Reference Panel provides this context:

  • “Unfortunately, ISMPs completed to date have tended to be engineering-centric, and in general can be described as ‘glorified’ master drainage plans. ISMPs that do not integrate land use and drainage planning are resulting in unaffordable multi-million dollar infrastructure budget items that become municipal liabilities, without providing offsetting stream health benefits.”

As part of the consultation and bridge-building process, the Reference Panel Chair and Co-Chair met with the Regional Engineers Advisory Committee.

“The REAC members were particularly interested to discuss the ‘elephant in the room’, namely ISMPs, and how the Reference Panel would address this issue in our reporting out to the politicians. REAC members provided us with valuable insights into the nature of their concerns. Their insights influenced how we framed the need for a course correction,” recalls Kim Stephens.

To Learn More:

Click on Metro Vancouver Reference Panel shares water-centric vision with Regional Engineers Advisory Committee

Beyond the Guidebook 2010

Released in June, Beyond the Guidebook 2010: Implementing a New Culture for Urban Watershed Protection and Restoration in British Columbia incorporates Metro Vancouver experience, lessons learned and insights gained. This includes the framework developed by the Green Infrastructure Partnership and Water Balance Model Partnership in conjunction with the consultation process for Metro Vancouver’s Integrated Liquid Waste & Resource Management Plan.Ted van der gulik (120p) - 2005 photo

“Beyond the Guidebook 2010 demonstrates that the practitioner culture is changing as an outcome of collaboration, partnerships and alignment; and provides local governments with ‘how to’ guidance for developing outcome-oriented urban watershed plans,” states Ted van der Gulik, Chair of the Water Balance Model Partnership.

To Learn More:

Click on Beyond the Guidebook 2010 Advances Runoff-Based Approach to Setting Watershed Performance Targets — “A framework for developing integrated and holistic plans is consolidated in a single table. This ‘mind-map’ lays out the cascading logic for establishing, evaluating and implementing watershed-specific runoff targets that will protect stream health.”

Watershed targets - three questions

Stay True to the Vision

“The panel Metro vancouver reference panel - christianne wilhelmsonalso recommended that an over-arching committee be established to steward the Integrated Plan, and ensure ongoing action implementation occurs and stays true to the vision. It is anticipated that the Integrated Utility Management Advisory Committee (IUMAC) will be based on the successful Reference Panel model,” states Christianne Wilhelmson, Reference Panel Co-Chair.

To Learn More:

click on Metro Vancouver Reference Panel recommends establishing a “stewarding committee” to ensure Liquid Resource Management Plan stays true to the vision — “There is a need for fresh, objective eyes bolstered by a strong political mandate to keep asking questions, prod Metro Vancouver and members toward the vision, and assist with the waste-to-resource paradigm-shift over time. A “stewarding committee” would play an expert and non-partisan role.”

Metro van reference panel - recommended policy framework

Metro Vancouver Perspective on the Reference Panel Process

“The Metro Vancouver Reference Panel process has demonstrated what can be accomplished when local government staff and community representatives respect each other, share a vision for the region, and are motivated by the common good. It is a powerful example of collaboration in action,” states Johnny Carline.

Trust and Respect

“Trust and respect is the foundation of a successful process,” adds Kim Stephens. “There was trust and respect among the Panel members; there was trust and respect between the Panel and Metro Vancouver.”

“Our ability to communicate directly with the Waste Management Committee was crucial. Our monthly meetings during May through July in 2009, for example, provided us with the platform to say: “We are not staff, we are not hired guns…..we live here, we are passionate about our region….and we will tell it like it is so that we can help you make the decisions that need to be made.”

To Learn More:

Click on The LWMP Reference Panel Process, and Why It Worked. This synopsis identifies and explains ten critical success factors.

Reference Panel ‘Home’ on Water Bucket

“To raise awareness of how liquid resource management in Metro Vancouver is Mike tanner(120p)changing to meet new expectations and requirements, the Water Bucket Website Partnership created a home on the Convening for Action community-of-interest to tell the story of the Liquid Waste Management Reference Panel,” states Mike Tanner, Water Bucket Chair.

A comprehensive set of stories is posted. These document the Reference Panel process, the informing and educating of regional elected representatives, and the evolution of Metro Vancouver’s Integrated Panel.

The Reference Panel has identified opportunities to create linkages among the different areas of action – natural environment, built environment, sewage treatment, financing and implementation – thereby helping to create a stronger plan.