Beyond the Guidebook 2010: Paradigm-shift from ISMP to ‘Integrated Rainwater Management Plan’


Note to Reader:

The following story is extracted from Chapter 7 of Beyond the Guidebook 2010, released in June 2010. This water-centric guidance document tells the stories of how change is being implemented on the ground in British Columbia.

from Stormwater to RAINwater_March2010

From Stormwater to RAINwater

The graphic above is reproduced and updated from Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, released in 2002. The comparison and contrast of ‘traditional’ versus ‘integrated’ captures the evolution of drainage planning in British Columbia over the past 30 years.

The Guidebook elaborates on how to develop and implement an ISMP – that is, an Integrated Stormwater Management Plan.

“The time is now right to make the break from ‘ISMP’ and instead use ‘IRMP’ – that is, Integrated Rainwater Management Plan,” states Peter Law, Chair of the original Guidebook Steering Committee.

Historical Context

Beyond the Guidebook 2007 initiated the paradigm-shift from the single-function view of traditional ‘stormwater management’ to the holistic, integrated and landscape-based perspective that is captured by the term ‘RAINwater Management’.

Peter law (120p)“When we were developing the Guidebook a decade ago, Ted van der Gulik coined the line on the first page that says ‘stormwater is the component of runoff that is generated by human activities’. We considered the distinction important,” recalls Peter Law.

“We also weighed whether the title should be ‘stormwater’ or ‘watershed-based’ planning. To provide practitioners with a point of departure that they understood in 2002, we opted for ‘stormwater’ in the Guidebook title.”

Beyond the Guidebook 2010 describes the evolution of an integrated approach, one that envisions achieving water sustainability through implementation of green infrastructure policies and practices.

ISMP Explained

Use of the ISMP term is unique to British Columbia. The City of Kelowna first used the term in 1998 to make a clear distinction between ‘suburban watershed management’ and the Province’s ‘integrated watershed management’ process for natural resource management in wilderness watersheds. This is an important distinction.

The intent of an ISMP is two-fold in scope: integrate engineering, planning and environmental perspectives; and facilitate holistic solutions to protect natural resources that are at risk. The unintended consequences of ISMPs completed to date have informed the course correction described in Beyond the Guidebook 2010.

The ‘unintended consequences’ revolve around application of the ISMP Terms of Reference Template.

Unintended Consequences

“The District of North Vancouver has observed the experience of other municipalities that have applied the ISMP Template. They have spent a lot of money to get reports that say spend more money. The District simply cannot afford to go down a path that leads to engineering solutions that are unaffordable and Richard boase (120p) - september 2010unrealistic,” states Richard Boase, Environmental Protection Officer.

Richard Boase is also Co-Chair of the Inter-Governmental Partnership that developed and is responsible for the Water Balance Model, a web-based decision support for evaluating the effectiveness of water-centric green infrastructure in reducing the ‘hydrologic footprint’ of urban development.

“So many of us in local government are still searching for the magical ‘silver bullet’ that with the stroke of a pen will resolve all our watershed issues and challenges while at the same time stimulate economic activity and accommodate growth.  While the search continues it is important to note that the practical solution is around us everywhere staring right at us: soil, vegetation and trees can do more for our watersheds than decades of planning, consulting and complicated engineering design will ever achieve,” concludes Richard Boase.

To learn more:

To download a copy, click on Beyond the Guidebook 2010: Implementing a New Culture for Urban Watershed Protection and Restoration in British Columbia


Click on Developing Outcome-Oriented Watershed Plans for a synopsis of the ‘unintended consequences’  that are informing the ‘course correction’ in Metro Vancouver and in the Capital Regional District.

Strategies and actions in ISMPs will impact on Metro Vancouver’s sustainability for generations to come. Hence, it is important to link those actions to a picture of a desired outcome. To understand what this means, click on Re-Focus Integrated Stormwater Management Plans on outcomes, recommends Metro Vancouver Reference Panel

The recent experience of the Capital Regional District is synthesized in the graphic below. This was part of the reporting out at the Bowker Creek Forum in February 2010:

Bowker creek - letting go of the template

Posted September 2010