ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: Looking back, the “Water OUT = Water IN Workshop” held in the Okanagan showcased shared responsibility and represented a giant leap forward in terms of mainstreaming the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia within the provincial government (April 2005)

Note to Reader:

The so-called “2005 Penticton Workshop”, held as an adjunct to the BCWWA Annual Conference in April 2005, was a joint undertaking of the BC Water Sustainability Committee (forerunner of the Partnership for Water Sustainability) and Land & Water BC. It was also the first regional capacity-building event organized under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, released a year earlier in February 2004.

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 as a  breakout group exercise.

Looking back, the 2005 Penticton Workshop was a milestone moment. It represented a giant leap forward in terms of mainstreaming the Water Sustainability Action Plan within the provincial government. The relevant historical context was the restructuring of the Ministry of Environment as three separate entities: LWBC (Land and Water British Columbia), WALP (Ministry of Land, Air and Water Protection), and the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management. Behind the scenes, Lynn Kriwoken of WALP facilitated the partnering of LWBC with the BC Water Sustainability Committee.

Charting a New Course in British Columbia

The 2001 provincial election resulted in a change in government, with Gordon Campbell elected as Premier. His grasp of water issues meant that BC’s top decision-maker was a ‘water champion’ whose interests encompassed the vision for the Water Sustainability Action Plan. In his mandate letter to the Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection, the Premier framed objectives for three key areas of the Ministry’s Service Plan as follows:

  • “increased service delivery through partnerships;
  • facilitation of community initiatives to protect and restore their local environment; and
  • the strategic shift from sole protector of the environment to shared stewardship – sharing responsibility for the environment with others.”

Shared Responsibility

“With the Minister’s mandate letter as the backdrop, this statement of intent crafted became our call to action: The Water Sustainability Action Plan provides an umbrella for on-the-ground initiatives that are informing Provincial policy through the shared responsibility model. In 2003, this ‘top-down and bottom-up’ context for action represented a remarkable paradigm-shift in guiding philosophy for government,” wrote Kim Stephens in  Celebration of Our Story: Genesis / First Decade / What Next, released in November 2020.

“Lynn Kriwoken played an instrumental role in the creation and launching of the Water Sustainability Action Plan in February 2004. A true visionary, she immediately saw the value of the BC Water Sustainability Committee as an advisory group to government at a time when BC was in transition after the 2001 election.”

“Lynn connected the dots between her Ministry’s Service Plan and the Action Plan potential. There was a natural fit. Her advocacy within government was essential to securing a flow of provincial funding that got the ball rolling and resulted in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Without Lynn Kriwoken, there would not have been an Action Plan. It really is that simple.”

Collaboration with Land & Water BC

“Context is everything. We describe 2003 as a teachable year because a series of natural disasters galvanized public awareness of a changing climate. This created momentum for action by government. In turn, this resulted in early support at the highest levels for the Water Sustainability Action Plan, released in February 2004,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability.

“Furthermore, the Kelowna forest fires and the impacts were still very much top of mind as communities braced for a repeat experience. As part of the provincial government response plan, then, LWBC hosted the Penticton Drought Forum in July 2004 to initiate a coordinated inter-ministry response to drought. Although the program included a short presentation by BC Hydro’s Mike Tanner about the Action Plan, we were still very early in the awareness raising process, even within the provincial government.”

“Coming out of the Drought Forum, however, LWBC made the decision to host a technical transfer session as an adjunct to the 2005 Annual Conference of the BC Water & Waste Association. Dr. Wenda Mason, the Manager of the Provincial Drought Initiative, was tasked with responsibility for bringing the session to fruition.”

“Lynn Kriwoken seized the moment and, in the spirit of collaboration, suggested to Dr. Mason that LWBC partner with us to co-organize what morphed into the Water OUT = Water In workshop in April 2005. It made sense because four other provincial ministries plus Environment Canada were represented on the BC Water Sustainability Committee. As Dr. Mason noted in an email to me in November 2004, learning this factoid was an Ah-ha Moment for her.”

“Metro Vancouver’s Robert Hicks and I then teamed with Dr. Jackson to develop the workshop curriculum. The process comprised a series of intense brainstorming sessions over a period of several months. Robert Hicks played a vital role during this process. He pushed the boundaries of being bold in bringing forward new thinking that crystalized as the Water Balance Equation: OUT =IN.”

“The workshop in April 2005 was the first Convening for Action in British Columbia regional event to showcase what shared responsibility looked like in action. It represented a giant leap forward in mainstreaming the Water Sustainability Action Plan within the provincial government. The rest is history.”


Download a copy of the workshop program: “Demand Management Strategies – Achieving Water Balance” – A Workshop on Dealing with Uncertainty and Managing Risk. Comprehensive in scope, the program identified what participants would learn from each program segment.

Then read a report about the event: Report on Water OUT = Water IN Workshop.

Adaptation: Dealing with Uncertainty and Managing Risk

“The brainstorming process allowed Robert Hicks, Wenda Mason and myself to think hard about and think thing through our understanding of the water balance, and connect the dots  between water resource planning, climate variability and risk management,” continued Kim Stephens.

“Climate change is not the driver; rather, we concluded, it is a variable. Furthermore, climate change is only one factor to consider when we talk about sustainable infrastructure. The key is to focus on what you want to do. Because many factors are in play, the objective is to build in resiliency to address risk.”

“We have to know where we want to  go. Then we can figure out the steps to get there. To adapt water supply systems, the question boils down to: how much water do we need, and how can we make efficient use of what is available?”

Both Sides of Water Balance Equation are Variable

“When you have a large water resource versus a small demand, variability is not that noticeable. But when the demand is large relative to the available resource, a small variation on the supply side magnifies the perception of impact. In many cases, BC communities are operating on narrow margins.”

“How do you solve the OUT = IN equation when both sides are variable? After all, it is mathematically not possible to solve for two or more unknowns when you have a single equation. The inherent variability creates uncertainty which in turn creates risk. There are multiple what if combinations and permutations. That is what we wanted our audience to think about.”

To Learn More:

Download a PDF copy of Dealing with Uncertainty and Managing Risk: How We Can Adapt our Water Management Systems