VANCOUVER GREENLINK 2010 CONFERENCE: “By living water smart, communities will be more prepared for climate change and their quality of life will be enhanced. If we can show how to get the water part right, then other parts are more likely to follow,” stated Lynn Kriwoken, Ministry of Environment, at an international conference on sustainable communities, finance, technology and government (October)

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.

2010 was a ‘watershed year’ for the Water Sustainability Action Plan, with outreach taking place at 10 major events in three regions, to provide peer-based learning for Living Water Smart, Building Greener Communities, and Adapting to a Changing Climate. The sixth of these events was an international conference in October 2010, sponsored by the IBM corporation and held in downtown Vancouver ……

GreenLink 2010: Linking Sustainable Communities, Investment Capital, Technology, and Government

GreenLink 2010 attracted an international audience and ‘linked’ the best of the best in sustainable communities, finance, technology and government. The event attracted a number of high profile participants, in particular David Suzuki. Thus, it provided a high-profile platform for showcasing Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan, and continuing the roll-out of the “Beyond the Guidebook 2010″ guidance document which had been released only months before in June 2010.

Living Water Smart in British Columbia

The Water Sustainability Action Plan flows from Living Water Smart, released in 2008. The Action Plan is guided by the Living Water Smart vision, and the set of actions identified therein for building greener communities and adapting to a changing climate.

Living Water Smart comprises 45 commitments, which are grouped into five themes. The Action Plan plays a key delivery role in two of the five theme areas, namely: community planning and development (#5); and efficiency, outreach, public awareness (#2).

“By living water smart, communities will be more prepared for climate change and their quality of life will be enhanced. If we can show how to get the water part right, then other parts are more likely to follow,” stated Lynn Kriwoken, Director, Innovation and Planning in the Water Stewardship Division of the Ministry of Environment, and the Province’s lead person for delivery of Living Water Smart.

“To get to the big picture, it starts with the smallest pieces.” added Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC. The ultimate goal of the Living Water Smart and Green Communities initiatives is to establish expectations that will, in turn, influence the form and function of the built environment.”

GreenLink 2010 to Inspire Action

GreenLink 2010 hoped to inspire ‘definitive action’ by convening decision makers, business and capital interested in moving forward sustainable development.

Choosing a city, Vancouver, that aimed to be the greenest in the world by 2020, the conference hosted roundtable sessions on world-class sustainable development, ideas to create smarter communities and how to attract investment capital.

A featured speaker was Joe Van Belleghem, the original developer of Victoria’s Dockside Green residence, known as one of Canada’s most innovative projects and selected as one of the founding Climate Positive Developments by the Clinton Climate Initiative.

To Learn More:

Download a copy of the announcement, GreenLink 2010 to Inspire Action, that describes the vision for the conference.

Smarter Water Management

Sponsored by IBM, the breakout session on Smarter Water Management was initiated, organized and facilitated by Peter Williams of the IBM organization. Based in northern California, he is Chief Technology Officer for IBM’s Big Green Innovations program.

Peter Williams first approached Lynn Kriwoken of the Ministry of Environment. Lynn then recruited Ted van der Gulik of the Ministry of Agriculture and Kim Stephens to round out the panel.

Living Water Smart Panel

“We called ourselves the Living Water Smart Panel because of the roles that we were playing in the delivery of Living Water Smart,” recalls Kim Stephens. “We provided IBM with this Abstract:

Launched in 2008, Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan is the B.C. government’s vision and commitment to ensure our water stays healthy and secure.  The plan focuses on improving water laws and information to deal with pressures on water, preparing communities for climate change, and encouraging British Columbians to choose to live water smart.

To help achieve Living Water Smart targets and actions, the Province and partners have developed a suite of tools. These tools are all web-based and accessible to anyone with a computer. They are intended to support new approaches to water management. They can be applied on-the-ground by land and water practitioners. They will collectively influence practitioner behaviour and facilitate informed decision-making with respect to ‘designing with nature’ and building greener communities.

The suite of tools that enable water-centric planning and water smart choices include the Water Balance Model, Water Conservation Calculator, Water Bucket Website, Agriculture Irrigation Scheduling Calculator, Landscape Irrigation Scheduling Calculator and OKIM (Okanagan Irrigation Management).

“As a team, we worked collaboratively with Peter Williams over a period of two months to frame a set of questions that would guide each of our components in an integrated presentation. Given that Lynn Kriwoken was the provincial government’s lead person for Living Water Smart, he was curious about the outcome or results that the BC government wants to see from Living Water Smart, especially how information and technology would help inform infrastructure modernization.

Tools for Living Water Smart

“Because the focus of my work was on outreach and tool development, he wondered how are the tools that we have been developed in BC and implemented through a partnership approach been useful in getting the message out to stakeholders on the importance of Living Water Smart and getting people to act.

“In the case of  Ted van der Gulik, Peter Williams considered it important for Ted to explain how it came to be that the Ministry of Agriculture was the lead agency for the Water Balance Model, a tool designed for application to urban watersheds and residential land development.”

Backdrop for Making the Water Panel Meaningful and Relevant

“We set out to make our integrated presentation relevant to an audience for which the topic of ‘water’ was not normally top of mind. The program as a whole reflected what I described as a Downtown Vancouver (or ‘big city’) way of seeing one part of the urban world. Thus, we wished to provide a perspective that reflected the broader ‘suburban reality’ where most of the population lives in British Columbia.

“Most people don’t understand ‘water’ because it is  abstract beyond what happens when they  turn  the  tap or flush the toilet, but light bulbs go on when we say we are actually talking about the ‘land ethic’. The critical message is that it is ‘land + water’, not water in a silo.”

Design With Nature

This way-of-thinking leads into the concept of respect for the land and a ‘design with nature’ approach to community design that is in stark contrast to the ‘dominate and destroy’ mentality described by Ian McHarg when he published his classic book, Design With Nature, in the 1960s.

“A suburban reality is that no large-scale project proceeds until ‘water issues’ (usually drainage) are resolved because water is at the  heart of environmental impact. Great battles are fought over water-related issues during the land development project approval process, but once resolved the water discussion is recorded as a deceptively small part of a project storyline.

“Ted van der Gulik and I were reminded of an observation by Zo-Ann Morten, Executive Director of the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation, at a Sustainability by Design workshop series in 2009. Organized by Patrick Condon, the James Taylor Chair at the University of British Columbia, the process brought together a group of folks with a range of perspectives in different theme areas.

“Zo-Ann Morten provided this reality check about all the other theme groups (i.e. energy, business, etc): ‘They don’t get it, do they? Ultimately, water rules. It is not  just one of six equal topics.’ Her observation succinctly framed the educational challenge.”

To Learn More:

Download a copy of Living Water Smart, the integrated presentation by Lynn, Ted and Kim.

Download a copy of the Agenda for GreenLink 2010 – Linking Sustainable Communities, Investment Capital, Technology and Governance.

YouTube Videos

The format for the breakout session on water was a set of short context presentations followed by interaction between the panelists and the audience. This provided a change of pace from the ‘talking head’ format for preceding sessions.

Watch Peter Williams open the Smarter Water Management session

“The team of Lynn Kriwoken, Ted van der Gulik and Kim Stephens provided insight into some of the issues around water management in British Columbia,” stated Peter Williams when he introduced the interactive format for the panel session.

Watch Lynn Kriwoken explain the vision for Living Water Smart (8:30 minutes)

Imagine was the theme for Lynn’s presentation. “What do you imagine for water, both where you live and in your life? It is a tall order for water management in the 21st century, and how we get there? Living Water Smart outlines three key themes for realizing the vision. The first one is doing business differently. By that we mean making changes to the way we regulate and value water; and the way we develop land and communities. The other two themes are preparing communities for change, and choosing to be water smart,” stated Lynn Kriwoken.

Watch Ted van der Gulik talk about changing practices at the site scale (8:00 minutes)

“The message is quite simple. Who is in better position to make decisions about water than the people who live in an area and are using the water. This way of thinking goes to the heart of our messaging for Living Water Smart. It is about getting the practitioners and the people on the ground to make changes,” stated Ted van der Gulik, Chair of an inter-governmental partnership responsible for development of the web-based Water Balance Model for British Columbia.

“The question that we ask, and it is a challenge, is this – what would you like this place to look like in 50 years? Once you have that vision of what it would look like, what steps will you take to get there? And you cannot make those steps 45 years from now. Those steps start today. Make the change today. The challenges we face and choices that we make today are going to impact us for a long time.

“In 2002,  Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia laid out a plan for doing a better job of developing land. Almost a decade later, Beyond the Guidebook 2010 tells the stories of what people have done, what they are going to do, and how they are going about it.”

Watch Kim Stephens introduce an approach called ‘convening for action’ (5:30 minutes)

“A key to our on the ground approach is recognition that, those who make development decisions on Monday nights at Council meetings, don’t always see the big picture. What Councillors see are the individual applications for land development. And that requires a paradigm-shift in the way we talk to them. We have to see the world through their eyes because their decisions are not the same as somebody who sees the big picture. So we tried something different in the South Okanagan. It started with a conversation. We had to find the champions rather than writing another guidebook,” stated Kim Stephens.