Reflections on the 2015 Drought: Year-end media interviews raise profile and awareness of Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia
Note to Reader:
In December 2015, both of British Columbia’s major newspapers published front-page news stories that drew attention to the Partnership for Water Sustainability. In addition, both CBC Radio and CBC TV sought out the Partnership for a perspective on The Top Story of 2015, that is – the drought that started in Winter 2015 and continued through Summer 2015.
Hydro-Climatic Change & Its Consequences
“The drought that extended this past winter, spring and summer from Vancouver Island to Manitoba and from Mexico to the Yukon suggests we may be crossing an invisible threshold into a different hydro-meteorological regime in Western North America. This would have huge consequences for water security,” concluded Bob Sandford, keynote speaker for the Feast AND Famine Workshop co-hosted by the Partnership for Water Sustainability and Irrigation Industry Association on December 1, 2015 in Richmond, BC.
“After a period of relative hydro-climatic stability, changes in the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere have resulted in the acceleration of the global hydrologic cycle with huge implications for every region of the world and every sector of the global economy,” he added.
“We can expect deeper, more persistent drought punctuated by flooding. It is interesting to think about how these kinds of changes make historic averages meaningless.”
Bob Sandford’s observations and perspective provide context for selection of the 2015 drought as The Top Story of 2015.
News coverage featuring the Partnership for Water Sustainability
Media attention initially resulted from coverage of the Feast AND Famine Workshop. The Vancouver Sun’s Larry Pynn attended and this led to an interview and headline story featuring Ted van der Gulik, Partnership President. This coverage was followed by 6 newspaper, radio and television interviews featuring Kim Stephens, Partnership Executive Director.
“In all 6 interviews, I emphasized that the ‘new normal’ in BC is drought and flooding,” says Kim Stephens. “The summer dry season has extended on both ends. Communities can no longer count on a predictable snowpack and reliable rain to maintain a healthy water balance in watersheds. This is putting water supply systems and ecosystems under extreme stress. What you do on the land or how you treat the land has direct implications and consequences for water use.”
On December 2, headline story in the Vancouver Sun:
Food security, protection of agricultural lands and water use are issues facing BC. Ted van der Gulik provided this quotable quote: “I support market gardens. They’re good. It’s great to grow food in parking lots, having people grow their own food. Just don’t call them food security,” he said.
December 18, headline story in the Vancouver Province:
“Despite the current deluge of rain and snow, Vancouverites could well be facing another drought crisis this summer. Kim Stephens said that Metro Vancouver’s two ‘comparatively small’ reservoirs were designed for repeated rainfalls and heavy snow in the mountains. Those conditions are not expected to apply over the next nine months and the population has grown to about 2.5 million people,” wrote Kent Spencer in a front-page story headlined Brace for Another Drought Crisis.
Reflections on the 2015 Drought: “In engineering terms, in BC we have small margins of safety for water storage and therefore limited resiliency to adapt to a changing climate,” says the Partnership for Water Sustainability’s Kim Stephens
“In a nutshell, the issue and concern can be summarized in four points: Southwest BC dodged a bullet this past summer (2015); there have been past crises; there is a repeating pattern; and increasing water supply storage is problematic,” summarizes Kim Stephens.
December 23 – feature story on “CBC News at 6″:
“This past summer was one of the hottest and driest on record, causing severe water shortages across our south coast, and fueling one of the worst wildfire seasons we have had in a decade. Given what we had this year, how does it bode for next year,” asked Dan Burritt when he interviewed Kim Stephens. CBC Poll: 2015 Drought is British Columbia’s “Top Story of the Year”
December 23 – interviews on CBC radio early morning “news talk” shows in four regions (Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Kamloops and Prince George):
“There were many stories to choose from, but with help of our audience we narrowed it down to just one. The summer drought and wildfire season has been chosen as the top news story of 2015,” stated CBC radio host Stephen Quinn. “Kim Stephens thinks we are in for more drought-like conditions in 2016. How much of that has to do with the snowpack? Last year we had barely any snow. Do we know this early on whether that could change this year,” he asked.