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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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YEAR IN REVIEW (2022): “To develop effective and affordable solutions for resilient community design, build on the knowledge and experience of those who went before us. Be inspired by oral history,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC


“As each new generation inherits the world, vital knowledge is forgotten. Generational amnesia has profound effects on the way that we see the world. The challenge is to overcome generational amnesia so that communities learn from past experience, apply this knowledge, and achieve better policy and financial outcomes. Understand the context. Stay in touch with the past,” stated Kim Stephens. “The end of the calendar year is a time for reflection. People learn from stories. For this reason, our editorial emphasis is on sharing the ‘stories behind the stories’ of those who lead by example.”

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Effective and affordable solutions for resilient community design” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2022


Operationally, the Partnership functions as the hub for a network. This reflects its genesis, first as a technical committee and then as a roundtable, before incorporating as a non-profit legal entity in 2010. “The network emerges around a common goal, rather than a particular program or organizational model. The community mobilizes the resources from throughout the network. 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: Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative, a unique mechanism for local government collaboration” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2022


The pressing need for timely, affordable, and effective solutions is the driver for the IREI. A goal of collaboration is to build local government capacity, capability, and competence to deliver on expectations. The IREI program showcases what “collaborative leadership in action” looks like. It is about bringing the right people together in constructive ways with good information, such that they create authentic visions and strategies. “The Ambassadors Program complements the IREI Program and is emerging as a foundation piece for inter-generational collaboration,” stated Derek Richmond.

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ARTICLE: “Integrated Rainwater Management: Move to a Levels-of-Service Approach to Sustainable Service Delivery” (Asset Management BC Newsletter, January 2011)


“Asset management usually commences after something is built. The challenge is to think about what asset management entails BEFORE the asset is built,” stated Stan Westby, the first chair of the Asset Management BC community-of-interest. Level-of-Service is the integrator for everything that local governments do. Thus, a guiding principle could be framed this way: Establish the level-of-service that is sustainable to protect watershed health, and then work backwards to determine how to achieve that level of protection and level of drainage service.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Water Sustainability and Asset Management are inextricably linked” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2022


“Beginning in Nanaimo in 2018, the idea for what has now become the Watershed Moments Symposia Series, started as a modest idea to highlight the successes and challenges of water stewardship in the Nanaimo area. Our discussions led to an expanded common vocabulary. Sustainable Service Delivery, Eco-Asset Management, the Ecological Accounting Process, Riparian Deficit, and watershed stewardship are some of the words in our new common tongue. The rabid environmentalist, the cold-hearted accountant and the aloof engineer could come together and focus on a common goal – Water Balance,” stated Paul Chapman.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Affordable and sustainable re-investment in municipal infrastructure is essential” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2022


“My inspiration came from Guy Felio, who is one of the original gurus of asset management nationally. In his own words, and in a slide that I have seen him use in presentations since the mid-2000s, Guy Felio said, ‘It is all about the service’. Basically, well-maintained municipal infrastructure assets are worthless IF THEY DO NOT provide a service. That is what resonated with me. Also, for any asset management approach to be successful, it must not focus on the infrastructure asset by itself. That way-of-thinking applies to nature and the environment as well,” stated Glen Brown.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: A sense of purpose is powerful motivation” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2022


“My experience is that organizational culture transcends the people who are here. It is powerful. There is something within the culture of the City of Nanaimo that says I care about the people I work with; I care about my community; I care about doing the right thing. It is a sense of higher purpose that most of the staff seem to carry with them. The City of Nanaimo has a culture of commitment to community, risk-taking and innovation. But you really see the effect of good governance on the willingness to take risks. During times of good governance, creativity re-emerges, and the momentum of the organization accelerates,” stated Bill Sims.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: A perspective on what provincial downloading means for local government in the Cowichan Valley” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in October 2022


“You can only try to work with relationships and move things forward for so long. It is exhausting. As soon as you establish a relationship with someone in a provincial ministry, they move on. It is every year or two. Staff turnover is constant. Or they do not have staff. Relationships are important. Working together is important. But it has to be both sides working together, and I do not see that. It is a constant frustration to watch and anticipate what is going to happen next, or not, when provincial ministries have jurisdiction but do not act,” stated Lori Iannidinardo.

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ARTICLE: “How much should local governments spend each year to reduce the Riparian Deficit?” (Asset Management BC Newsletter, Fall 2022)


“In the 1990s, seminal research at the University of Washington on the science of land use changes produced a road map for protection of stream system integrity. For the past generation of practice, then, communities and practitioners should have known what they ought to be doing. And some have made progress. But, in the big picture, the last two decades have been characterized by an inability to act on the science. The consequence is a growing Riparian Deficit. There is scant understanding of a stream system context, the value of water balance pathways, the condition of native vegetation and woodlands cover, and the need for restoration,” stated Kim Stephens.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Ecological Accounting – what’s in a NUMBER?” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in October 2022


The EAP methodology and metrics evolved over the course of a 6-year program of applied research. The first two stages were TEST and REFINE the methodology, respectively. Stage 3 then involved 5 more projects to demonstrate how to operationalize EAP within local government processes. “Stage 3 is the springboard to embedding EAP in the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Research Institute at Vancouver Island University. This will ensure knowledge of EAP is maintained and passed on to the next generations of planners and local government staff,” stated Tim Pringle.

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