FLASHBACK TO 2002: Rainwater Management – Build a vision, create a legacy is the “Tenth Paradigm”



Note to Reader:

Andy Reese is a leading American water resources engineer and popular writer, speaker, and co-author of the best-selling textbook Municipal Stormwater Management. He is known for his mantra: Stormwater – Back to the Future.

In 2002, Andy Reese collaborated with three British Columbians – Kim Stephens, Erik Karlsen and Robert Hicks – to co-author an article that was published in the former FreshOutook Magazine. The title was Stormwater Management: Build a Vision, Create a Legacy.


Article by Andy Reese examined how our ideas about stormwater have changed over time

In the July/August 2001 issue of Stormwater Magazine, Andy Reese took an irreverent look at how our ideas about stormwater have changed since the 1800s. In his article titled “Stormwater Paradigms”, Andy Reese insightfully looked back at why we pursued stormwater management in ways which unknowingly – at the time – foreclosed opportunities for more sustainable, livable communities.


Nine Paradigm-Shifts

“A paradigm is what we think is true and right about a certain subject. It’s the grid through which we put all information and input about a subject. In fact, it’s everything we think is true about something. If we thought there were more to know, we would fit it into our paradigms somewhere,” wrote Andy Reese in 2001.

“Whether our paradigm is, in fact, true and effective is not the point. We believe it is. And we only reluctantly change our ways and agree with someone else’s paradigm. Stormwater management is full of cantankerous people with strongly-held opinions.”

In the 2001 article, Andy Reese traced nine such shifts against the backdrop of social change. These paradigms comprise a continuum. People and communities progress at different rates along the continuum – nearby communities in the same region may even be guided by different paradigms. It is much easier to know what the next paradigm is than to move into the next paradigm. The nine paradigms as defined by Reese are listed below.


Tenth Paradigm

“After his article was published, I said to Andy, an obvious question is …so, what is the tenth paradigm? …. because people are used to lists of ten. You have only nine. From a British Columbia perspective, it actually was fortuitous that Andy limited himself to nine paradigms,” recalls Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

Kim stephens (120p)“At the time, we were in the final stages of writing Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia. Long story short, Andy provided us with timely inspiration to brand the Guidebook approach as representing the Tenth Paradigm. In retrospect, it was serendipity the way things came together, in particular because we were breaking new ground with the water balance methodology and all that it entailed.”



Build a Vision, Create a Legacy

In their FreshOutlook article, the authors state that the ‘Tenth Paradigm’ reaches beyond rainwater/stormwater and associated professionals to engage broader society. They explain that it involves a wholesale transformation of society’s relationships with water (like anti-smoking or anti-litter), so that the very fabric of society changes over a generation to appreciate and learn to live with urban nature in all its dimensions.


Move from Planning to Action

“We can begin to think about the Tenth Paradigm as one involving making decisionsaimed at achieving healthier urban watersheds over time. A shared long-term vision is needed to focus the effort that will create a legacy,” states Erik Karlsen.

A former Director of Regional Growth Strategies in the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Erik Karlsen later served five years (2005 through 2010) as Chair of the Agricultural Land Commission.

“The shared vision provides a context for all planning, data collection, sensitivity analyses, capital expenditures, and regulatory changes.  Prioritizing goals and actions (ideally through consensus) provides a road map for moving towards a target condition by identifying:

  • The interconnected nature of goals, values and expectations.
  • The risks and the opportunities.
  • What needs to be done to manage the risks and achieve the opportunities.
  • Who should be responsible.
  • A general timeline for implementation.”

“This ‘road map’ approach addresses the goal of identifying options to change the way that land is developed and redeveloped, so that people, property and natural systems can be better protected; and over time, infrastructure can be managed more efficiently and watersheds can become healthier,” adds Robert Hicks, a Senior Engineer with Metro Vancouver.

“But fundamental change in the scope of rainwater/stormwater planning, development standards, construction and operations will only happen if there is a broad understanding as to why the changes are needed, what they are, and how they can be practically implemented,” concludes Erik Karlsen.


To Learn More:

To read the FreshOutlook article in its entirety, click on Stormwater Management: Build a Vision, Create a Legacy. The article provides a philosophical backdrop for Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, released in June 2002.

To read the complete Andy Reese article, click on this link to download a copy of  Stormwater Paradigms.