Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia: Framework for Building Partnerships



Note to Reader:

Released in February 2004, the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia was developed through a partnership between the Province and the Water Sustainability Committee (WSC) of the BC Water & Waste Association. The WSC was then responsible for program delivery from 2004 through 2010.

At the end of 2010, the WSC membership metamorphosed into a stand-alone legal entity, namely: the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, The Partnership is an autonomous non-profit society; is responsible for building on the Action Plan foundation; and is the hub for the ‘Convening for Action in British Columbia’ network.

“The Action Plan was conceived as a partnership umbrella for on-the-ground initiatives that promote water stewardship across the province, and that also inform Provincial policy through shared  responsibility”, states Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership and principal author of the Action Plan guidance document. “The BC Water & Waste Association gave the Partnership strong roots. BCWWA can be proud of its contribution.”


Framework for Building Partnerships: Executive Summary

The Executive Summary is reproduced below. Alternatively, click here to download a PDF copy of a 2-page document.


Purpose and Scope

The main goal of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia (i.e. the ‘Action Plan’) is to encourage province-wide implementation of fully integrated water sustainability policies, plans and programs. The Action Plan:

  • Recognizes that the greatest impact on water, land and water resources occurs through our individual values, choices and behaviour.
  • Promotes and facilitates sustainable approaches to water use, land use and water resource management at all levels – from the province to the household; and in all sectors – from domestic, resource, industrial and commercial, to recreational and ecosystem support uses.

The purpose of this document is to ‘tell the Action Plan story’ succinctly and clearly. The focus is on the framework for building partnerships because:

  • The objective is to obtain funding for implementation of the initial Action Plan Elements.
  • The document is intended to be a communication tool – that is, it articulates the vision and the desired outcomes for a ‘watershed / landscape-based approach’ to development.
  • The target audience is comprised of those who share a vision for creating transformational change in the way water resources are valued and managed in British Columbia.

The Action Plan Elements are comprehensive in scope, ranging from ‘governance’ to ‘site design’. Element selection also reflects a guiding philosophy to concentrate efforts in those areas where there is the will, the energy and the long-term commitment to create change. Future elements and success will build on the foundation provided by the initial Action Plan Elements.


Integrated Water Management

Integrated water management involves consideration of land, water, air and living organisms – including humans – as well as the interactions among them. Through partnerships, the Action Plan is:

  • Forging links as conceptualized in the diagram above;
  • Developing a continuum of products, with policy at one end, and pragmatic applications/tools at the other end; and
  • Promoting the watershed as a fundamental planning unit.

The Action Plan will use existing and emerging government policies, legislation and programs as fundamental starting points and will build on these.

Action Plan Elements 

Land use planning and water management practices are intertwined. For this reason, the intent of the Action Plan is to influence choices and encourage action by individuals and organizations – so that water resource stewardship will become an integral part of land use and daily living.

Partnerships hold the key to building broad-based support for improving water management practices, and for integration of water management with land use.

As illustrated by the graphic below, the Action Plan comprises six elements that holistically link water management with land use, development and resource production. The Action Plan has been developed as a shared responsibility. Its implementation will depend on financial support from both government and the private sector – using a business approach to demonstrate costs, savings and income generation.

Briefly, each Action Plan Element will achieve the following outcomes:

  • Water Sustainability Website Partnership: This centralized website will provide the complete story on integrated water management – why, what, where and how. This Element was subsequently rebranded as the Water Bucket – “when the topic is water, just go to waterbucket.ca”
  • Water Save Tool Kit for British Columbia: This tool will enable individuals and communities to achieve water conservation and water-use efficiency objectives.
  • Water Sustainability Roundtable:This dialogue will provide a starting point for provincial and partnership action, with an emphasis on water governance, policy and practices. Note to reader:NOTE: This Element was subsequently re-branded as Convening for Action.
  • Green Infrastructure Partnership: This initiative will produce a ‘best practice’ Model Subdivision Bylaw and Green Infrastructure Standards for land development regulation. Note to reader: This Element has evolved into a facilitator role that is enabling the Green Infrastructurte Partnership to deliver added value through an outreach and education program.
  • Water Balance Model for British Columbia: This web-based evaluation tool at will enable better land development decisions because it quantifies the watershed benefits resulting from implementing stormwater source controls at the site level. Note to reader: To access the model, click here.
  • Watershed/Landscape-Based Approach to Community Planning:This adaptable 10-step methodology will facilitate planning with reference to watershed-based features so that resource, land use and community design decisions are made with an eye towards their potential impact on the watershed. Note to reader:NOTE: This Element was subsequently re-branded as Water-Centric Planning for the purposes of developing a community-of-interest on waterbucket.ca.

The Action Plan recognizes that numerous groups and organizations implicitly share a vision for integrated water management. Hence, over time it is envisioned that other elements will be added as momentum builds and support grows province-wide for fully integrated water sustainability policies, plans and programs – resulting in conservation and stewardship practices by BC’s enterprises, institutions and in homes.


To Learn More:

To download a copy of the Water Sustainabiltiy Action Plan for British Columbia: Framework for Building Partnerships, click here. To read stories posted previously on Water Bucket, click on the links below:

Water Sustainability Action Plan evolves into a comprehensive program for ‘Convening for Action’

“Design with Nature” philosophy guides Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia

To read a story published in 2005 that elaborates on the origin of the Action Plan and its six interconnected elements, click on Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia — A partnership umbrella for on-the-ground initiatives.

Water sustainability action plan - puzzle piece

Posted in January 2011