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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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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Creating a Culture for Urban Watershed Restoration” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2021


Creating a culture for urban watershed restoration relies on knowing the oral history of an area. And as the First Nations who have settled these lands for 1000s of years tell us, passing on the oral history is key to sharing a collective memory over time. Each generation must be receptive so that experience is passed on. “We are inching our way to bring together Western science and our own (Indigenous) science. There are different ways of how the two interact when we bring them together. The observation record for us is in the oral history,” stated hereditary Chief Hanamuxw (aka Don Ryan) of the Gitxsan.

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FLASHBACK TO 2010 ANNUAL UBCM CONVENTION: “The philosophy behind the Water Sustainability Action Plan is quite simple: bring local and regional stakeholders together where there is a desire and energy to make some form of change,” stated Glen Brown at a study session for elected representatives when he provided a provincial perspective on a ‘top-down & bottom-up’ strategy for urban watershed restoration


“As we move forward with the Action Plan, it is making sure that we provide the people on the ground with the tools and resources that they need to help support action at the local level. A top-down approach does not work. When a community shows interest or a desire to move something forward, that is when we mobilize. The Action Plan purpose is to engage, listen, understand and support the local interests in moving forward. That is where we have been successful,” stated Glen Brown.

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FOUR COUNTER-INTUITIVE PRINCIPLES FOR GROWING A NETWORK THROUGH COLLABORATIVE LEADERSHIP: “It was exciting to hear about the work of the British Columbia Partnership for Water Sustainability and how their approach has exemplified network leadership as I have conceptualized it,” stated Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern, Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley


“The network emerges around a common goal, rather than a particular program or organizational model. The community mobilizes the resources from throughout the network, and based on existing relationships in the community. The solution is emergent and comes from the community members themselves, rather than being pushed from the top down. And finally, once a network is up and running and proves itself to be effective, It becomes the primary vehicle for change, rather than the individual organizations themselves,” stated Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Growing the Network through Collaborative Leadership” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2021


“Embracing collaborative leadership, growing a network based on shared aspirations, and delivering results across organizational boundaries differs in every way from building an organization in any conventional sense,” stated Mike Tanner. “The Partnership for Water Sustainability is a legal entity. Operationally, however, we function as the hub for a network in the local government setting. This approach reflects The Partnership genesis, first as a technical committee and then as a roundtable, before morphing into a legal entity. We are growing the Living Water Smart Network. We are not building a conventional organization.”

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Water Allocation, Irrigation, and Food Security” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2021


“Irrigation for agriculture is a dominant use of water in British Columbia, the need is seasonal, and use peaks when water supply is at its lowest. With longer and drier summers being the new reality for water management, the Agriculture Water Demand Model is a game-changer for achieving food security in British Columbia. We have downscaled climate data to a 500-metre grid across the province. This means we can reliably estimate the total water need for agricultural irrigation. This further means that the Province can align water allocation and water use. This is a powerful outcome,” stated Ted van der Gulik.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Shared Responsibility Underpins a Regional Team Approach to Creating Our Future” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2021


“Shared responsibility can work at different levels. Senior government, regional government, municipalities, the development community and their consultants – all of us have an impact on the land, on the water, and on the way things look. Policy and legal tools can help developers, regulators and designers collaborate to implement green infrastructure solutions and ensure responsible outcomes. Each party in the process has a responsibility. Our purpose in developing the Responsibility Matrix is to encourage players with different perspectives to talk candidly with each other about green infrastructure or other sustainability goal implementation,” stated Susan Rutherford.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Know Your History and Context to Offset Generational Amnesia” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2021


“Every generation is handed a world that has been shaped by their predecessors – and then seemingly forgets that fact. One of the first times this particular type of generational amnesia was observed was back in the 1990s. What this blindspot meant, Daniel Pauly argued in a short-but-influential paper, was that the scientists were failing to account fully for the slow creep of disappearing species, and each generation accepted the depleted ocean biodiversity they inherited as normal,” stated Richard Fisher.

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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


“Every generation will use the images that they got at the beginning of their conscious lives as a standard and will extrapolate forward. And the difference then, they perceive as a loss. But they don’t perceive what happened before as a loss. You can have a succession of changes. At the end you want to sustain miserable leftovers. And that, to a large extent, is what we want to do now. We want to sustain things that are gone or things that are not the way they were. And the question is, why do people accept this? Well because they don’t know that it was different,” stated Daniel Pauly.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Adapting Asset Management to Climate Realities” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2021


“For asset management, the consideration is how and when assets might be compromised in their lifecycle by climate change and certainly that new assets need to consider what climate change impacts will affect their lifecycle and levels-of-service. Framing climate change impacts this way does not clearly align the changes to asset performance. But what if the scenarios are reframed with the uncertainty being the timeframe that a threshold is reached and not the uncertainty of change for a future date?” stated Robert Hicks.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: Living Water Smart in British Columbia: “Financial Case for Bowker Creek in the  Capital Region” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in October 2021


“EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process provides communities with a philosophy, pragmatic methodology and metrics to make the financial case for annual investment to prevent degradation and improve the condition of ecological assets that constitute a stream corridor system. Use of EAP to establish the ‘financial case for the stream’ would put maintenance and management (M&M) of stream corridor systems on an equal footing with constructed assets (municipal infrastructure),” stated Kim Stephens.

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