ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: “Creating Our Future in British Columbia / Applying What You Have Learned to the Highlands Case Study” – overview of afternoon program for “Water OUT = Water IN” workshop that launched the Convening for Action in British Columbia initiative (April 2005)


The “Penticton Workshop” held as an adjunct to the BCWWA Annual Conference in April 2005 was the first regional event organized under the Convening for Action in British Columbia (CFA) umbrella, an element of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, released a year earlier in February 2004.

The workshop was titled “Demand Management Strategies – Achieving Water Balance” – A Workshop on Dealing with Uncertainty and Managing Risk.

This full-day technical transfer session connected the dots between water resource planning, climate variability and risk management; explored the tools and techniques available through demand-side management; and included a case study application to provide participants with ‘hands-on’ planning practice. The program was organized in two parts. Below, the elements of Part 2 are introduced.

PART 2 – Creating Our Future

The focus was on the Highlands Case Study and the challenges in achieving a community vision when there is presssure to implement a ‘big pipe’ solution, one that potentially takes control of a community’s destiny away from existing residents. The Breakout Session was bracketed by two thought-provoking presentations – the first dealt with change management; the second provided context on ‘what we have learned today’.

The Principles are the Same

“Our original concept was to create a hypothetical case study for the purposes of the Breakout Session. As the concept evolved, however, we realized that a real-life example would be more beneficial because it would considerably help participants to wrap their minds around the issues and potential solutions. The information could be exactly the same, but there is something visual about talking about a real community,” stated Dr. Wenda Mason, Land and Water BC. At the time, Wenda Mason was the Manager, Provincial Drought Initiative.

“Timing is everything, and the Highlands Case Study came to our attention at the right moment. As it turned out, the scale of the Highlands Case Study provided a perfect fit with the backgrounds of our audience. It could be anywhere in smalltown British Columbia, or even a new neighbourhood in a large municipality. The principles are the same.”

Setting Objectives and Targets –  Context for Breakout Session

To learn about actions that will lead to sustainable uses of water resources, the audience was challenged to focus on strategies that influence and change those behaviours and activities. This presentation provided a bridge between the Panel Session and the Breakout Session.

Erik Karlsen introduced the concept of short- and long-term objectives and targets where using the planning continuum provides a map that connects the two points in time. At the time, Erik Karlsen was Chair, Smart Growth on the Ground. He was a former Director of Growth Management Strategies, Ministry of Municipal Affairs. Shortly after the workshop, the Provincial Cabinet appointed him as Chair of the BC Agricultural Land Commission.

To Learn More:

Download a copy of the presentation by Erik Karlsen: Change: Challenges & Choices / Responsibilities and Response Abilities

The microphone hand-off from Erik Karlsen (left) to Eric Bonham (right)

The Capital Region’s Colwn Sunderland led one of the breakout groups.


BREAKOUT SESSION – Applying What You Have Learned

Participants worked in groups to complete an exercise for a case study community that is struggling to develop an achievable strategy for managing population growth, land development and water use. Each group was tasked with resolving issues and developing a path forward in reconciling short-term realities versus long-term desires.

Moderated by Wenda Mason, the group exercise was to brainstorm a framework for a water planning continuum that achieves water balance.  The groups were asked to identify key gaps and needs so that the case study community can evolve along the water management continuum and achieve water balance. Each group reported back on their ‘top three points’ for short- and long-term action within the context of the exercise.

Context for the breakout session was provided in a presentation titled Highlands Challenge by Eric Bonham, Chair of the Highlands Stewardship Foundation (and former Director of Engineering, Ministry of Municipal Affairs).

To Learn More:

Click on ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: “The District of Highlands is at a critical stage in its development and must clearly identify its future plan regarding density limits and land use planning goals,” stated Eric Bonham, Chair of the Highlands Stewardship Foundation, when he delivered a context presentation for a breakout session at the “Water OUT = Water IN” workshop that launched the Convening for Action in British Columbia initiative (April 2005)

Reconciling a Long-Term Vision with Short-Term  Realities

After listening to the presentation on the challenges facing the District of Highlands, breakout groups were asked to identify key gaps and needs so that the case study community can evolve along the water management continuum and achieve a water balance. Five questions guided the discussion.

  • What uncertainties and risks might exist for this  community?
  • How do you translate “vision” to practical application recognizing that the OCP only addresses 5 year intervals?
  • Is there an alternative or additional planning process that could be used by this community to ensure that the original “vision” isn’t lost?
  • Establish some key objectives and targets for this community?
  • What demand-side management tools can be implemented to help meet the defined Planning Principles?

Each group then reported back on their ‘top three points’ for short- and long-term action within the context of the exercise.

WATER/ENERGY NEXUS and the ‘Continuum’
for a Resilient Future

The concluding presentation about the water/energy nexus was delivered by a special guest – Dr. Bob Wilkinson, Director of the Water Policy Program at the University of California (Santa Barbara).

“We get energy from water, and we use energy to supply, treat and use water. Water use involves significant energy inputs which must be considered. The key concerns between the water and energy industries are the same; and the issues are similar. One difference is that the energy industry tackled demand management much sooner than the water industry,” stated Dr. Bob Wilkinson,

His presentation provided an overview of lessons that the water industry can learn from the energy industry; provided context on the implications of climate change; and introduced the water/energy nexus project that the Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CMHC) has commissioned for the Greater Vancouver region.

The project will provide an analysis of the ‘energy intensity’ of water in Vancouver, as well as an initial exploration of opportunities for securing multiple benefits through integrated management strategies.

To Learn More:

Download Dr. Wilkinson’s presentation: WATER/ENERGY NEXUS and the ‘Continuum’ for a Resilient Future

Earlier runoff in the spring is a consequence of climate change.
As illustrated above, the impact is concentrated in southern British Columbia.


Look Back to Look Ahead

At the 2002 Annual BCWWA Conference, the Water Sustainability Committee foreshadowed rainwater harvesting in British Columbia: “it is not a matter of IF but WHEN”. Three years later, “rainwater harvesting” has become part of the language. Similarly, the Water Sustainability Committee anticipates that “water/energy nexus” will also be part of the language of practitioners within the next couple of years.

Just as the 2002 Conference foreshadowed the advent of ‘rainwater harvesting’ in British Columbia, the Penticton Workshop previewed the ‘water/energy nexus’ as the next evolution in the emerging language of ‘integrated water management’

Click on the image to download a PDF copy of the program details: