Moving Toward a Water Balance Way-of-Thinking and Acting in British Columbia: Points of Reference for the BCWWA Water Sustainability Committee

Note to Reader:

Incorporated in November 2010, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia is an autononous society that metamorphosed from the Water Sustainability Committee (WSC) of the BC Water & Waste Association.

Ted van der gulik (120p) - 2005 photo“The Partnership is helping the Province implement the Living Water Smart and Green Communities initiatives. We are doing that through shared responsibility in delivering the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia,” states Ted van der Gulik, a member of the Partnership’s Board of Directors.

The article below is reproduced from the community-of-interest that the Water Bucket previously hosted for the former WSC. The article was written in 2005, and therefore provides relevant historical context on how the WSC has evolved from technical committee to stand-alone entity.

Partnership for water sustainability in bc - logo (360p)

About the wsc

WSC Membership

The former Water Sustainability Committee was a broadly based roundtable of organizations that had a specific interest or mission in implementing the Water Sustainability Action Plan. The roundtable encompassed government organizations, non-government associations, the private sector and universities.

Invitation Criteria:

  1. When individuals were invited to join the Water Sustainability Committee, it was because there was ‘a job to be done’; and
  2. Invitations were restricted to individuals who would provide energy and commitment to implement the Water Sustainability Action Plan

Representation Criteria:

  1. Individuals will represent an organization that has a specific interest or mission in implementing the Water Sustainability Action Plan; and
  2. Individuals will feed back the WSC outcomes into their organizations.

Build a Vision, Create a Legacy

By drawing its members from a wide range of organizations and disciplines, the former Water Sustainability Committee worked across the “boundaries” and beyond the “limits” or “constraints” of the mandates, knowledge and expertise found in individual organizations.

Offsetting this “wealth of diversity” were very real limits on time and funds. Also, having chosen a role that involved influencing and facilitating action, the Water Sustainability Committee focused its efforts by:

  • Advocating more sustainable approaches where these already exist, but are not being implemented.
  • Developing and advocating new approaches where these are needed.
  • Informing and training people to pursue these approaches.

Build a vision, create a legacy

Achieving the Goal

The goal_towards a water balance

Adaptive Management

To achieve the goal of a fully integrated Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, the Water Sustainability Committee also promoted Adaptive Management as an essential part of the implementation strategy. This means:

  • Use best available science to set performance objectives.
  • Define decision-making criteria and accountabilities.
  • Define operational responsibilities.
  • Monitor and report effectiveness in achieving outcomes.
  • Revise performance objectives and approaches where necessary to achieve the intended outcomes.

Action plan partnerships

WSC Points of Reference

As context for facilitating more sustainable approaches to water resources at all levels and in all sectors, the Water Sustainability Committee used the following reference points:

  1. Water use by people involves the consumption* of, contact with and/or discharge to water with reference to quantity, quality and where appropriate, temporal considerations.
  2. Water use from an ecosystem perspective involves hydrological considerations in relation to the ecosystem features and functions that support the life stages of a particular species or interacting group of species in a particular watershed, a sub-drainage, a watercourse, or a site.
  3. Focus efforts on influencing choices made by individual and organizational water users.
  4. The term “sustainability” is used as a lens for considering approaches to influencing these choices. This means that consideration will be given to environmental, social, and economic as well as governance factors in developing, advocating and implementing approaches to water use now and in the future.
  5. Attention will be given to influences ranging from voluntary, to regulatory and financial incentives/disincentives or any combination of these.
  6. Using existing and where known, emerging government policies, legislation and programs as fundamental starting points and building on these

Creating a legacy

* The term consumption when applied to human use of water involves both allocation and flow-through. For instance where water use is licensed this involves an allocation (which may or may not be used, but is reserved for the licensee’s use), or where water is metered for domestic consumption the amount of water flowing through the meter is considered to be consumed by the domestic user.


Written in 2005. Re-posted in May 2011.