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


If we know how to do a much better job of protecting ecological features and stream systems in our communities and on our landscape, then why aren’t we doing a better job? Why are streams still degrading? Why do we still see practices that exacerbate the situation? Why is understanding lacking? How do we change that? “I would especially draw your attention to the article. This is a groundbreaking article and one to be specifically noted. The more we get the Asset Management message out the better off we all are,” wrote Wally Wells, Executive Director of Asset Management BC, in his email to newsletter readers.

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BEYOND THE GUIDEBOOK 2022 / FINANCIAL CASE FOR STREAMS: “Township staff are working on a long-term Ecological Services Initiative program. The Ecological Accounting Process analysis will be used to establish the baseline funding for payment to farmers,” stated Melisa Gunn, Agricultural Planner with the Township of Langley in the Metro Vancouver region, when she explained the rationale for including Bertrand Creek in the Partnership for Water Sustainability’s EAP program


“To move the Ecological Services Initiative project forward, the Township of Langley was looking for a process that used real numbers to understand how to develop fair and equitable payments to farmers to enhance areas on their properties. Through the EAP work, the concept of ‘Riparian Deficit’ in the natural commons area highlights the shared responsibility of rural and urban landowners to maintain Bertrand Creek, an important asset in the Township. In the future, we can use EAP to expand the program to other watersheds,” stated Melisa Gunn.

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FINANCIAL CASE FOR STREAMS: “EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, is remarkable in its simplicity and is pragmatic. EAP starts with an understanding of the parcel because that is how communities regulate and plan land use. It is the parcel level where you get the information that you need to change practice to protect natural assets,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair, at the time of release of Beyond the Guidebook 2022


“The vision for EAP set the challenge: develop a practical methodology, one that would be relevant to local government managers and the community, for determining the monetary value of drainage infrastructure and other services drawn (or adapted) to some degree from ecosystems. Initially, we saw EAP as a tool – that is, the EA Protocol – that would help practitioners calculate the opportunity cost of balancing ecological services with drainage infrastructure. However, the first demonstration applications revealed that the term EA Process more accurately describes the challenge of working with multiple intervenors,” stated Tim Pringle.

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BEYOND THE GUIDEBOOK 2022 / FINANCIAL CASE FOR STREAMS: If we know how to do a much better job of protecting ecological features and stream systems in our communities and on our landscape, then why aren’t we doing a better job? Why are streams still degrading?


The process is in motion to operationalize a transition strategy over a 3-year period and initially embed the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) program in the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI). “We believe that incorporating students from Vancouver Island University and other universities will support understanding and experience within municipal governments on the importance of EAP, and simply understanding EAP. Fortunately, most of VIU’s Master of Community Planning, and Master GIS students find themselves working within municipal governments,” stated Graham Sakaki.

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ARTICLE: “The Ecological Accounting Process – A BC Collaborative Initiative” (Water Canada magazine, May-June 2022)


“I reached out to Kim Stephens of the Partnership for Water Sustainability BC with an invitation to share more about the people, policy, and projects in BC, through penning an article for Water Canada magazine and sharing of relevant information. I am very keen on showcasing real world water projects, and the people whose lives they impact, with our national audience. The Ecological Accounting Process is a topic the Water Canada audience would really benefit from and that is why we featured it in the May-June 2022 issue,” stated Jen Smith, magazine editor.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Synthesis Report on Ecological Accounting Process, a BC Strategy for Community Investment in Stream Systems” (released June 2022)


“Now that we have landed on the Riparian Deficit concept, we are able to reflect on the two issues which provided context for the journey: first, engineering measures are insufficient for stream and riparian protection; and secondly, the link to municipal asset management has not been clear. To reach the destination, we had to address and show how to overcome four challenges: one, a lack of measurable metrics; two, confusion over what is an asset versus a service; three, ignorance about how to quantify the financial value of natural assets with real numbers; and four, numerous one-off projects that fail to build improved asset management practice,” stated Tim Pringle.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: How Much Should Communities Invest in Protection of Stream Systems?” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in June 2022


“Local governments need real numbers to deliver green infrastructure outcomes. It is that basic. Rhetoric is insufficient. EAP metrics are neither hypothetical nor speculative. They are grounded in the BC Assessment database. EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, is a foundation piece for Asset Management for Sustainable Drainage Service Delivery,” stated Kim Stephens. “Until now, local governments have lacked a pragmatic methodology and meaningful metrics. For those wishing to move from stopgap fixes to long-term solutions, EAP gives them a road map.”

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Land Development and Watershed Protection Can Be Compatible” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in June 2022


“When the inter-ministry working group was developing the Streamside Protection Regulation in 1997, a presentation on the science of land use change by Kim Stephens and Bill Derry helped us realize that we needed more than a setback to protect aquatic habitat. The science showed that communities also needed to tackle what was happening on the land that drains to streams. For the Guidebook path, I found the opportunity to “look beyond the stream” and address poor water quality from drainage runoff in the Waste Management Act. The opportunity resided in the non-point source provision for Liquid Waste Management Plans,” stated Peter Law.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: City of Coquitlam is a Beacon of Stability” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in May 2022


“At the end of the day, good decision-making comes down to a good process. But it also relies on wisdom in terms of balanced advice. And it comes with an accountable, political group of elected representatives that make the decisions. An airplane analogy is one way to describe the relationship. Think of one wing as political and the other as administration. If either wing is not functioning properly, the plane will crash. In Coquitlam, we are in balance. I have never yet seen a relationship that is so positive and healthy. Council runs the show. We give good advice. The operative phrase is respect-based,” stated Peter Steblin.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Four counter-intuitive guiding principles for effective collaboration” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in May 2022


“I am always eager to find others who are working in this way and support them in any way that I can. Every so often I check to find out what is going on in the network space and saw the Partnership’s great work and how you are getting great impacts through the Living Water Smart Network. When I reached out to the Partnership, I thought I am thrilled to see that they are using my work. And maybe I can support them in their efforts because I love to see people doing this – because I know it works. The frustration for me is that there aren’t more people doing it,” stated Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern.

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