DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Shifting Baseline Syndrome and Resilient Rainwater Management” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2021

Note to Reader:

Inspired by the work of Daniel Pauly, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC published an essay in 2014 to provide historical context regarding a vision for re-setting the baseline. This could be achieved through implementation of a whole-system approach that integrates the site with the stream, watershed, and groundwater aquifer. The backgrounder connected the dots between Daniel Pauly’s work and the goals of Resilient Rainwater Management.

“And the question is, why do people accept this,” stated Daniel Pauly during his TED Talk in 2010

“The concept of Shifting Baselines has relevance in helping to understand why drivers for Resilient Rainwater Management differ across Canada’s diverse landscapes. The purpose of th backgrounder was to help inform knowledge-sharing via the Across Canada Workshop Series that the Partnership for Water Sustainability delivered  in Fall 2014. The workshops were held in Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax,” stated Ted van der  Gulik, Partnership President.

“The series was an opportunity for practitioners in other provinces to learn about solutions and tools that we are developing in British Columbia through a collaborative and adaptive approach to protecting and restoring watershed health. The series was made possible by funding provided by the Intact Financial Corporation through the Climate Change Adaptation Project at the University of Waterloo.”

Bend the Curve

“We transform the world, but we don’t remember it. We adjust our baseline to the new level, and we don’t recall what was there. You can have a succession of changes. At the end you want to sustain miserable leftovers. And the question is, why do people accept this? Well, because they don’t know that it was different,” stated Dr. Daniel Pauly, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia

“In 1995, Daniel Pauly coined the term Shifting Baseline Syndrome to explain why and how ecological decline is incremental and imperceptible over multiple generations. While communities cannot restore lost diversity, they can halt its decline and consciously direct efforts into bending the trend-line in an upward direction,” explained Kim Stephens, Partnership Excutive Director.

“An understanding of Shifting Baselines is a foundation piece for implementing restorative development, reconnecting hydrology and ecology, and bending the curve to restore stream systems. Accepted ‘standards of practice’ – especially those for engineering, planning and finance – influence the form and function of the Built Environment.”

“The goal of shifting to an ecologically functioning and resilient baseline and creating a creekshed legacy would ultimately depend on the nature of change to standards of engineering, planning and financial practice.”


To read the complete story, originally published in 2014, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Shifting Baseline Syndrome and Resilient Rainwater Management.