WATER SUSTAINABILITY ACTION PLAN FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA:“After the Action Plan was released with the approval of the provincial government in February 2004, the branding graphic for the integrated scope of the partnership framework evolved from a jig-saw puzzle to a Venn diagram by 2007. This reflected the maturing of the Action Plan implementation program,” stated Ray Fung, Chair (2003-2008)

Note to Reader:

Released in February 2004, the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia introduced a framework for building partnerships and demonstrating what can be achieved through a ‘top-down & bottom-up strategy’ that aligns efforts at the provincial, regional and local scales to respond and adapt to a changing world.

Action Plan development was funded by the provincial government in a precedent-setting example of a ‘top-down & bottom-up’ approach to collaboration and partnerships. The original Water Sustainability Committee of the BC Water & Waste Association took the lead. Success in delivering the Action Plan program led to the Water Sustainability Committee transitioning into the Partnership for Water Sustainability, incorporated in 2010 as a non-profit entity to develop tools and deliver peer-based learning on behalf of government.

Framework for Building Partnerships

“The main goal of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia 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. The Action Plan 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,” stated Ray Fung, Chair (2003-2008), when the Action Plan was released in February 2004.

“After the Action Plan was released with the approval of the provincial government in February 2004, the branding graphic for the integrated scope of the partnership framework evolved from a jig-saw puzzle piece to a Venn diagram by 2007. This evolution reflected the maturing of the Action Plan implementation program.”

Action Plan Elements

“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. From the beginning, it was anticipate that future elements and success would build on the foundation provided by the six initial Action Plan Elements (shown above).

“The original six elements holistically linked water management with land use, development and resource production. Existing and emerging government policies, legislation and programs served as points of departure.

“Everything is connected. With this in mind, the committee chose a jig-saw puzzle for initial Action Plan branding. This was an important communication tool. We believed that a jig-saw puzzle best represented the interlocking and integrated nature of the original Action Plan elements.”

Evolution from Jig-Saw Puzzle to Venn Diagram

“Over a three-year period, the branding image for the Action Plan evolved to reflect changing circumstances. There were several developments in particular. The vision for a Water Sustainability Roundtable morphed into the Convening for Action initiative (2005); and the Watershed/Landscape-based Approach became Water-Centric Planning (2006). Coincidentally, Erik Karlsen was the key individual behind the redefining of both,” continued Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability.

“It was in the late 2006 that the committee made the bold decision to re-envision Convening for Action as the umbrella for all Action Plan elements. The following year (2007), Ray Fung took the bull by the horns and created the Venn diagram to re-brand the Action Plan as the integration of four program areas. This set a direction, and has guided the Partnership and the Action Plan program ever since. It has stood the test of time, and that is what counts.”

Water Sustainability Roundtable

When the Action Plan was released, we were exploring holding a roundtable dialogue on water sustainability that would provide a starting point for provincial action, with an emphasis on water governance and policy. The plan was that we would organize Day Three of a Summit that Premier Gordon Campbell wished to convene. But planning for the Summit kept being delayed. We reached the point where we could wait no longer wait for the Premier. We had to make things happen. And that is when the idea of ‘convening for action’ clicked,” recalled Kim Stephens.

Convening for Action

“The roundtable idea originated with Erik Karlsen, formerly the Director of Regional Growth Strategies in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. Erik had been the provincial government lead for a cross-border summit that British Columbia and Washington State co-hosted. Although it was a highly successful event, and participants were energized by the experience, that energy did not translate into lasting action. Talk is cheap. This disappointing outcome focused Erik Karlsen’s creative mind on how to facilitate moving from talk to tangible and lasting action on the ground. Thus, the Water Sustainability Action Plan became the vehicle for putting Erik Karlsen’s wisdom into play.”

“As a co-author of the Action Plan guidance document, Erik Karlsen framed the over-arching goal of the roundtable as achieving critical mass such that the idea of ‘integrated water management’ takes off – and ultimately becomes ‘mainstream’. Because the Action Plan promotes technological and value changes, moving this innovative idea to the point of take-off is of vital importance, he would say.”

Watershed/Landscape-based Approach to Community Planning

“One of Erik Karlsen’s last assignments before retiring from government was to support Greater Vancouver regional planners committee in developing the framework for the Watershed/Landscape-based Approach to Community Planning, completed in 2002. At Erik’s urging, the committee embraced this as an Action Plan element.

“Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia is a prime application of the watershed / landscape-based approach. In the context of the Guidebook, watershed / landscape-based planning means that resource, land use, and community design decisions are made with an eye towards their potential impact on the watershed or drainage catchment. Therefore, what happens at the scale of the individual parcel and street affects what happens at the watershed scale.

Water-Centric Planning

“Watershed/landscape-based approach to community planning is a mouthful to say, and to absorb. One day, Erik Karlsen said this is not working. Engineers aren’t getting it. What will get their attention, he wondered. And then som ething click in his mind and he said, let’s simplify it to ‘water-centric planning’. And so we did.

“The essence of planning with reference to watershed-based features is that planning and implementation involves cooperation among all orders of government as well as the non-government and private sectors. Achieving desired results at the site and activity levels also requires support from individuals, which in turn calls for engaging people both in the development of strategies and the use of a range of voluntary, incentive, public investment and regulatory tools.”