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Convening for Action in British Columbia

What happens on the land matters. Apply ‘cathedral thinking’ – a far-reaching vision, a well thought-out blueprint, and a shared commitment to inter-generational implementation – to create a lasting water sustainability legacy. Convening for Action is a British Columbia process that is about moving from defining the problems (the ‘what’), to determining options (the ‘so what’), to taking action to achieve results (the ‘now what’), and after that, to replicating in other communities (the ‘then what’).

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DOWNLOADABLE RESOURCE: The Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia – Our Story (March 2018)


“Future planners, engineers, scientists, politicians and citizens alike will be called upon to demonstrate both vision and pragmatism, working as a team towards consensus, commitment and collaboration for the common good. Such collaboration is essential and must cross all political and community boundaries given that climate change is no respecter of such creations. The Partnership has accepted this challenge and its implementation,” stated Eric Bonham.

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Green, Heal and Restore the Earth: Ian McHarg’s “Design with Nature” vision has influenced implementation of British Columbia’s Water Sustainability Action Plan


In his 1969 book, Design With Nature, Ian McHarg pioneered the concept of environmental planning. “So, I commend Design with Nature to your sympathetic consideration. The title contains a gradient of meaning. It can be interpreted as simply descriptive of a planning method, deferential to places and peoples, it can invoke the Grand Design, it can emphasize the conjunction with and, finally it can be read as an imperative. DESIGN WITH NATURE!,” wrote Ian McHarg.

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Convening for Action in British Columbia


“Convening for Action is a provincial initiative that supports innovation on-the-ground. From the perspective of those leading and/or participating in regional programs, having this community-of-interest provides the opportunity to ‘tell our story’ and ‘record our history’ as a work-in-progress,” states Ray Fung. “It will turn ideas into action by building capacity and understanding regarding integration of long-term, strategic planning and the implementation of physical infrastructure.”

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GUIDANCE DOCUMENT: Primer on the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) – A Methodology for Valuing the ‘Water Balance Services’ Provided by Nature (released January 2019)


Marvin Kamenz coined the term “package of ecological services” to describe the many advantages the Town of Comox expects to receive from a creekshed now and in the future. “The Ecological Accounting Process focuses on the worth of ecological services to residents, rather than their imputed value. Thus, worth deals with real numbers which local governments need to deliver outcomes. Looking through the ‘worth lens’ proved transformational in the Town of Comox,” stated Marvin Kamenz.

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SUSTAINABLE WATERSHED SYSTEMS: “How do communities decide how much to invest in restoration? The Primer on the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) describes a methodology that landed on the notion of the natural commons as the starting point for calculating the financial value of a stream bed and riparian corridor,” states Tim Pringle, EAP Chair (January 2019)


“EAP deals with a basic question: what is a creekshed WORTH, now and in future, to the community and various intervenors? The EAP valuation methodology yields an asset value for the stream corridor that can then be used for budget purposes,” stated Tim Pringle. “We broke new ground with EAP. Insights and understanding that we gained led us to look at creeksheds differently. The importance of viewing choices through the ‘worth lens’ became clear.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2011 & THE COURSE ON THE ISMP COURSE CORRECTION IN METRO VANCOUVER: “Many local governments were struggling with having ISMPs done in a fashion that is meaningful for their community – we hoped that the course would open minds and lead to application of new ideas,” stated Carrie Baron, Drainage & Environment Manager, City of Surrey


Regulatory requirements mandated by the Minister of Environment in 2011 provided a driver for implementing a ‘course correction in the way ISMPs are developed in Metro Vancouver. The 2-day pilot conducted in November 2011 provided peer-based learning on how to develop ISMPs that connect the dots between land use planning, watershed health and infrastructure asset management. “The course was designed to assist local governments and consultants delivering the ISMPs to understand options available,” stated Carrie Baron.

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FLASHBACK TO 2011: “The purpose of the Primer on Rainwater Management in an Urban Watershed Context is to provide engineers and non-engineers with a common understanding of how a science-based approach to rainwater management has evolved since the mid-1990s,” stated Peter Law, a founding Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia


“Two decades ago, ground-breaking research by Richard Horner and Chris May in Washington State identified limiting factors for stream health, and established an order-of-priority. Their findings provided a road map for integrated rainwater management,” stated Peter Law. “After that, the ‘made in BC’ concept of the Rainfall Spectrum led us to look at rainfall differently. This resulted in the Water Balance Methodology and the ability to quantify and assess the hydrologic effectiveness of ‘green’ infrastructure.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2011: “The purpose of the ‘Primer on Urban Watershed Modelling to Inform Local Government Decision Processes’ is to provide engineers and non-engineers with a common understanding regarding ‘appropriate and affordable’ computer modelling,” stated Jim Dumont, Engineering Applications Authority for the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia


The Primer provided local governments with a starting point for applying lessons learned over the previous decade. “By addressing what appropriate and affordable should mean in practice, the Primer deals with two separate dimensions of an integrated Watershed Plan. The first is the watershed itself, where the focus is on the relationship between rainfall and resulting flow rates in streams. The second is the storm drainage system, where the focus is on infrastructure and the level of service,” stated Jim Dumont.

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FLASHBACK TO 2012: “The Primer on Integrated Rainwater and Groundwater Management demonstrated how pioneer research in the Englishman River watershed on Vancouver Island leads us to look at groundwater differently from a water balance perspective,” stated Craig Wightman, Senior Fisheries Biologist with BC Conservation Foundation


“The Primer introduces the issue of the ‘unfunded infrastructure liability’. Viewing the watershed through an asset management lens provides local governments with a driver to require that development practices mimic the Water Balance,” states Craig Wightman. The Primer is an outcome of collaboration involving Living Rivers, the British Columbia Conservation Foundation, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, the Mid-Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society, and the City of Parksville.

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FLASHBACK TO 2013: “The Primer on Land Development Process in BC is a ‘bridging document’ – it illustrates how to seamlessly integrate the legal and administrative parts of land development,” stated Tim Pringle when the Primer was released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability


“While much attention is given to the technical and legal aspects of the Land Development Process, we are not aware of anyone who has addressed administration. At the heart of the Primer, then, is the discussion at the end of Section 6 about Administrative Process Requirements. This piece of the puzzle is the key to implementation of effective rainwater management systems on private property,” stated Tim Pringle. “The Primer will assist practitioners whose work addresses land subdivision concerns.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2014: “When reading the Primer on Water Balance Methodology for Protecting Watershed Health, it is helpful to reflect on the historical context to understand that the water balance approach had its genesis in the Stream Stewardship Series,” stated Erik Karlsen, formerly an Executive Director in the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs


“Released circa 1993, Stream Stewardship: A Guide for Planners and Developers document was an early, and in some respects the first, local government focussed design with nature guide,” recalled Erik Karlsen. “Looking back, if the Stewardship Series was the first wave, the work of UBC’s James Taylor Chair on Sustainable Urban Landscapes was the second, and the Water Balance Approach is the third. Each of these ‘waves’ was initiated by different ‘groups’; but over time they merged from one to the other.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2016: “The purpose of the Primer on Application of Ecosystem-based Understanding in the Georgia Basin is to connect the dots and disseminate information on the ‘science-based understanding’ that underpins the vision for Sustainable Watershed Systems,” stated Peter Law, formerly with the BC Ministry of Environment


“An interface is needed to translate the complex products of science into achievable goals and implementable solution for practical resource management. This interface is what we now call a science-based understanding,” stated Peter Law. “Understanding how land development impacts watershed hydrology and the functions of aquatic ecosystems provides a solid basis for making decisions to guide action where and when it is most needed. This understanding will help multiple audiences ask the right questions so that communities make informed decisions.”

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TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION: “Getting to restorative development depends on finding a balance between short-term and long-term thinking,” stated Kim Stephens in his presentation at the Engineers & Geoscientists BC Annual Conference (October 2018)


Kim Stephens quoted from the work of Eva Kras – visionary, scholar and author. “Our present global and societal problem is that short-term thinking governs much of what we do,” says Eva Kras. “We need to re-learn basically ‘how we think’, using both the right and left hemispheres of our brain. Both ways of thinking are important, but the sad part is that we have convinced ourselves that the Left Hemisphere can do EVERYTHING.”

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