What Happens on the Land Matters: Restore the Water Balance in Urban Areas!
Note to Reader:
Western North America may be crossing an invisible threshold into a different hydro-meteorological regime. Communities can no longer count on a predictable snowpack and reliable precipitation to maintain a healthy water balance in their watersheds. It has been difficult even for experts to grasp the extent of what the loss of relative hydrological stability means. Last year, in an online poll conducted by CBC News, the public chose the drought as British Columbia’s “Top Story of 2015”.
In April 2016, the Environmental Managers Association of BC hosted a session about the 2015 Drought. This speaker session followed by networking mixer introduced EMA members to Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.
Drought on the West Coast:
A New Reality?
“The three speakers presented on different aspects of water scarcity and connected the dots to the Water Sustainability Act. Oliver Brandes described his vision of what a world-class regulatory system can look like in B.C. Steve Conrad elaborated on climate change science. Kim Stephens explained what needs to be done to restore the water balance in urban areas,” stated Stephanie Voysey, EMA Vice-President (Education).
Water Sustainability Act
Much of the detail related to implementation of the Water Sustainability Act is provided in regulations and operational policies. An initial set of regulations also came into effect on February 29, 2016.
Due to the number of proposed regulations and policies, government is taking a phased approach to their development and work in this area continues. Visit https://engage.gov.bc.ca/watersustainabilityact/
Key Message: Restore the Water Balance in Urban Areas
The talk by Kim Stephens was titled, “What Happens on the Land Matters: Restore the Water Balance in Urban Areas!”. An engineer-planner, he has more than four decades of experience. This covers the continuum of water resource and infrastructure engineering issues.
Kim Stephens has played a leadership role in a series of initiatives in British Columbia related to water conservation and sustainability, watershed health, rainwater management and green infrastructure. In 2003, he was asked by the provincial government to develop the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, released in 2004. Ever since, Kim has been responsible for Action Plan program delivery and evolution.
“In addition to introducing EMA members to the Action Plan, the EMA event also provided the Partnership with an opportunity to continue the rollout of Beyond the Guidebook 2015: Moving Towards “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management”, a deliverable under the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative (known by the acronym IREI),” reports Kim Stephens.
“My presentation was structured in four parts and cascading, from high level to ground level. Because our audience comprised practitioners, it was important to introduce a practical take-away that they could wrap their minds around. For that reason, the fourth part was about rain gardens. To protect or restore the Water Balance in the urban environment, the process starts with rain gardens. A single rain garden will not make a material difference. But thousands would.”
To Learn More:
Download What Happens on the Land Matters: Restore the Water Balance in Urban Areas!, a PDF copy of the PowerPoint presentation by Kim Stephens.
2015 – A ‘Teachable Year’
For British Columbians, 2015 was the year of the great drought, dwindling snow packs, melting glaciers, beleaguered salmon runs and a costly forest fire season, followed by windstorms and heavy rains. Launched from a powerful El Nino, storms caused the single largest electrical outage in the province’s history.
“2015 ranks with 2003 as a defining teachable year. Lessons learned will inform how local governments move forward with a ‘water balance’ approach to rainwater management, protection of watershed function and land servicing,” observes Kim Stephens.
Relationship between Land and Water
“Communities in southwest BC dodged a bullet in 2015. The clock is ticking. Communities need to leverage this teachable year and seize opportunities to change how the water resource is viewed and managed. This starts with an understanding of the relationship between land and water,” emphasizes Kim Stephens.
“Restoring the absorbency of the urban landscape would stretch the seasonal population-support capacities of water storage reservoirs – by reducing demand for landscape irrigation water – and sustain environmental flows during droughts. It would also reduce stream erosion in wet weather.”
”Too often people think of land and water as being independent – almost like silos. But what we do on the land, and whether we treat the land with respect, has direct implications and consequences for water use. The Water Sustainability Act connects these dots,” concludes Kim Stephens.
To Learn More:
The 2015 Drought was selected as the Top Story of 2015 in a poll conducted by the CBC. Year-end newspaper, radio and television interviews about BC’s changing climate featured the perspective provided by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.
Read “The Drought” was British Columbia’s Top News Story of 2015, a comprehensive story about those interviews.
Read Towards Watershed Sustainability: Three landmark game-changers adopted by Province in 2014 enable watershed-based action in BC (Beyond the Guidebook 2015), which is extracted from Part B of Beyond the Guidebook 2015.