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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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WATER SUSTAINABILITY ACTION PLAN: Community-of-practice for ‘Convening for Action in British Columbia’ – “Having the waterbucket.ca website as a communication platform allows the Action Plan partners to ‘tell our story’ and ‘record our history’ as a work-in-progress,” stated Ray Fung (2006)


“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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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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BOOK: “Dockside Green – The Story of the Most Sustainable Development in the World” – by Kim Fowler


‘i wrote the book because there is a better way of doing development work. We have proven a model, that can be replicated in whole or in part. There are parts people can take – for example, I describe the Triple Bottom Line matrix used in the Request for Proposals for the Dockside Green land sale. Please, go use it! Adapt it to your project. My message to those who are interested in sustainable development is to take the pieces from Dockside Green that would work for you,” stated Kim Fowler.

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REPORT ON: “Millstone River – A Natural Commons in the Regional District of Nanaimo: Operationalizing the Ecological Accounting Process for Financial Valuation of Stream Corridor Systems within an Asset Management Plan” (Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC; released March 2021)


“The research and analyses confirm that in recent decades the community has gained an understanding of the Millstone River corridor as a natural commons or ecological system offering a range of uses or services. Changes to official plans and regulations provide measures to improve maintenance and management of these natural commons. The combination of Natural Commons Asset metrics and riparian assessment has provided starting point for building early support for investment in restoring riparian woodlands and native vegetation,” stated Tim Pringle.

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FINANCIAL VALUATION OF STREAM CORRIDORS AS ECOLOGICAL SYSTEMS:“A central idea of the EAP methodology is that a stream is a land use. If the stream did not exist, the land it occupies would be in the same use as nearby development. A stream is a land use because the area of the setback zone is defined in regulations,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair, Ecological Accounting Process Initiative (May 2021)


EAP satisfies a local government need for a financial methodology and metrics for valuation of ecological assets. Most importantly, EAP interweaves the financial, social and ecological perspectives within a single number. This number is defined as the Natural Commons Asset (NCA) value. “The EAP methodology focuses on the historical and current land use practices that have changed landscapes, modified hydrology, and have led to present-day community perceptions of the worth of the stream or creekshed and the ecological services it provides. A whole-system understanding is the starting point for developing meaningful metrics,” stated Tim Pringle.

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PARTNERSHIP HUB FOR A CONVENING FOR ACTION NETWORK IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Launched in 2012, the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative facilitates peer-based education among local governments located on the east coast of Vancouver and in the Lower Mainland,” stated Richard Boase, Founding Director and Vice-President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability


“The IREI is nested within the Water Sustainability Action Plan which, in turn, is nested within Living Water Smart. Cascading is the reverse way to think about this nesting concept. Each successive layer in the cascade adds depth and detail to enable the move from awareness to implementation – that is, action. In the IREI program, we focus attention on the 4Cs – communication, cooperation, coordination, collaboration. The 4Cs guide what we do. We live and breathe collaboration. This plays out in everything that the Partnership does. Building trust and respect starts with a conversation,” stated Richard Boase.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “The Emerging Crisis Around Groundwater Legislation Implementation in British Columbia” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in April 2021


Effective March 2022, the transition period for groundwater licensing ends. The implication is that ‘historical uses’ without a licence would be considered ‘new uses’. As a result, those historical users who do apply for a licence would be subject to the new rules and conditions applicable to ‘new uses’. “Leadership at the highest level and a clear strategy to motivate historical groundwater users to apply, including signalling that government will deal with unauthorized water use, would be the game-changer that groundwater licensing desperately needs right now,” stated Mike Wei.

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SHORT-TERM GRATIFICATION VS INTER-GENERATIONAL LEGACY: “If we truly want our governments to shift from short-term to longer term thinking, as voters we must then be prepared to support – and re-elect – those politicians who bring in such policies and legislation, even if those initiatives negatively impact us personally today,” stated Joan Sawicki, a former Speaker of the BC Legislative Assembly and Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks during the period 1991 through 2001


“Not many people understand the decision-making process that politicians and public employees go through in attempts to address ‘the public interest’. Voters often send mixed messages. While it is perfectly legitimate to hold politicians’ “feet to the fire”, there is some justification to do the reverse as well! It is sometimes too convenient to blame politicians for the short term thinking hole that we are in. In a representative democracy, politicians can only lead where people are prepared to follow,” stated Joan Sawicki.

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GUIDANCE DOCUMENT: “Drinking Water & Watershed Protection in the Nanaimo Region – Right People in Right Place at Right Time, Over Time” (#9 in the Watershed Case Profile Series, released April 2021)


“The objective and mission of the DWWP program has always been about connecting land and water management. But the RDN couldn’t just leap straight there. We first had to build partnerships, trust, datasets and knowledge. We had to test ideas, learn, earn credibility, and deepen relationships across jurisdictions. The RDN demonstrates commitment to watershed initiatives and water sustainability by delivering the DWWP Action Plan with a long-term reliable funding source through parcel tax,” stated Julie Pisani, DWWP Program Coordinator.

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ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: Drought, forest fires and floods in 2003 created a “teachable year” for change in British Columbia, got the ball rolling for the Convening for Action in British Columbia initiative, and led directly to the “Water OUT = Water IN” paradigm-shift for water supply management in a changing climate (April 2005)


In 2004, the Water Sustainability Action Plan and the Provincial Drought Forum generated the momentum within the provincial government to organize the Achieving Water Balance Workshop in 2005. “The severe drought of 2003 in British Columbia is evidence that the historical approach of supply management for water resources is not sufficient,” stated Jim Mattison. Lavishly high volumes of per capita water use, continued community and economic expansion, plus baseline environmental needs were all competing for their share of BC’s finite, but renewable, water resources. The era of supply-side management was drawing to a close.

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RESTORE THE BALANCE IN THE WATER BALANCE: “In 2005, the year after release of the Water Sustainability Action Plan, the Province and Partnership co-hosted the launch event for the Convening for Action in British Columbia initiative. The event also allowed the Province to fulfil a commitment flowing from the 2004 Drought Forum,” stated Kim Stephens


“Held in Penticton, the workshop pointed the way forward to the next paradigm-shift in water supply management. Designed as a technical transfer session, it shone the spotlight on the Water OUT = Water IN way-of-thinking. Context is everything. In 2005, BC was early in the second decade of water conservation to reduce demand on supply systems. The ‘Penticton Workshop’ was the first milestone in a multi-year process to raise awareness among water decision-makers that ensuring a safe and adequate water supply depends on understanding the science behind the OUT = IN equation,” stated Kim Stephens.

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DOWNLOAD THE REPORT ON ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: “Conventional water supply planning is typically based on a narrow understanding of engineering statistics without really understanding the role that climate variability plays,” stated Robert Hicks, program content co-developer for the workshop that launched the Convening for Action in British Columbia initiative (April 2005)


The workshop was organized in two parts and the presentations were cascading in order to elaborate on the OUT = IN theme. In the morning session the focus was on concepts and success stories related to Building Resiliency. This provided participants with a mind-map for the afternoon session when they were asked to apply what they had learned in Creating Your Future. “A key message in my presentation revolved around the importance of lingo in communicating with decision-makers, and how messages can easily be lost in translation when language is not used effectively,” stated Robert Hicks.

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