Water-Centric Planning in the Okanagan: Water Stewardship Council informed about Water Sustainability Action Plan for BC



Note to Reader:

In May 2006, Kim Stephens was invited by the newly formed Okanagan Water Stewardship Council to inform the members about the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, and the work of the Action Plan in the South Okanagan where it has partnered with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen to undertaked Convening for Action in the South Okanagan as a provincial demonstration initiative. In his role as Program Coordinator, Kim Stephens is responsible for delivery of the Action Plan program.

To download a copy of his presentation to the Stewardship Council, click on this link: The ACTION in Convening for Action:


Key Message

Water-centric planning in the South Okanagan can facilitate a plan of action for the entire Okanagan. This was the message conveyed by Kim Stephens when he met with the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council. The Council was appointed by the Okanagan Basin Water Board to provide technical advice and to act in an advisory capacity. The Council is made up of government, private sector, and non-government members to identify basin-wide water issues and recommend workable solutions.



Teachable Moment for Change

“Drought, forest fires and floods in 2003 combined to create a ‘teachable moment’ for change”, said Stephens, “Because the Water Sustainability Action Plan provides a partnership umbrella for an array of on-the-ground initiatives that promote a ‘water-centric’ approach to community planning, we hope to dovetail our program efforts with those of the Okanagan Basin Water Board, so that together we can turn ideas into action in the Okanagan Basin.”

Stephens provided an overview of what has been accomplished in the Okanagan by the provincial Convening for Action initiative over the past 18 months. Convening for Action was formally launched at the February 2005 Kelowna Conference organized by the Canadian Water Resources Association. In April 2005, the Water OUT = Water IN approach was unveiled at the Penticton Workshop, an event sponsored by the Province. Commencing in October 2005, the focus of Convening for Action has been on the South Okanagan.

According to Stephens, “Convening for Action in the South Okanagan is a provincial pilot for planning with a view to water. Our goal is to establish a precedent at the sub-regional scale for the water balance way-of-thinking and acting. It is a bottom-up approach because we believe this is the most effective way to achieve tangible success over the long-term. My over-arching message to the Council was that one must listen, listen, listen if one wishes to reach consensus that triggers changes on the ground.”


Building on Case Study Experience

Convening for Action in the South Okanagan is a building block process. The foundation for a water-centric approach is the Town of Oliver experience. The Smart Growth on the Ground case study has provided the impetus for the Convening for Action initiative to demonstrate how to bring provincial programs and local needs into alignment. The “Oliver process” is informing the South Okanagan Regional Growth Strategy, and will ultimately be the subject of a chapter in Water-Centric Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia.


It Starts With a Conversation

“In the South Okanagan, we have been having conversations with people and we have been connecting the dots to help create understanding”, reported Stephens, “Through the program elements that comprise the Water Sustainability Action Plan, we are also providing the tools and experience that will help achieve what we are calling the beneficial balance. The desired outcome of a truly integrated approach is to protect the Okanagan agricultural legacy and strengthen communities.”


Turning Ideas Into Action

The Water Balance Model for British Columbia is an example of a practical tool that is being advanced under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan. In February 2006, UBC-Okanagan University hosted and APEGBC organized a hands-on training workshop in a computer lab setting. For more information about this partnership event, please click here.
Convening for Action is turning water-centric ideas into action through consistent messaging and the combination of partnership-building, outreach presentations (such as the one to the Stewardship Council), regional events, and product development (e.g. reports on events). In March 2006, for example, Kim Stephens was the keynote speaker when UBC-Okanagan organized a celebration of World Water Day. In his presentation, he focused on the integrating role that the Water Sustainability Action Plan is playing in implementing the Convening for Action initiative through regional partnerships, with an initial emphasis on the Okanagan Region. For complete information on this event, click on 2006 Celebration of World Water Day at UBC-Okanagan.

“Water-centric planning considers the amount of water available, the amount of water needed, innovative efficiency strategies, the quality of water leaving an area, how rain and snow water are managed, and the impact on the natural environment.  Implementation of integrated strategies and solutions ultimately requires integration of missions, mandates and accountabilities of participating agencies”, concluded Stephens.


Posted May 2006