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Convening for Action in the Okanagan Basin

ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: “People have no difficulty reconciling personal long-term and short-term decisions, yet are challenged when it comes to reconciling short-term political versus long-term community planning decisions,” stated Robert Hicks, Metro Vancouver Senior Engineer, at the Penticton Workshop that launched the Convening for Action in British Columbia initiative (April 2005)


“The solutions to short-term risks are long-term: it is a continuum. In my presentation I explained why commitment to the long-term is so important. And I elaborated on the differences in approaches between short-term and long-term visions, and why we need to understand these differences. A key message 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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FLASHBACK TO 2010: “Increased development and increased storm intensity from climate change are increasing peak flows and altering the rules of the game,” stated Anna Warwick Sears, Executive Director of the Okanagan Basin Water Board, when she described why the FROM RAIN TO RESOURCE WORKSHOP was a call to action (Kelowna, November 2010)


“We spent the last half a century trying to control runoff with dikes, storm sewers, curbs and gutters. We can’t engineer away our problems fast enough, and have to look at other, lower impact solutions. The Okanagan is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of unmanaged stormwater and rainwater because all surface water flows into the lake system that runs along the bottom of the valley. This workshop highlighted the importance of rainwater management to climate change adaptation and showcased examples from other areas that could be applied to the Okanagan,” stated Anna Warwick Sears.

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UNDERSTANDING CLIMATE CHANGE: “If mitigation is about CARBON, then adaptation is about WATER”, stated the late John Slater, (former) Parliamentary Secretary for Water Supply and Allocation, when he spoke at the Okanagan Workshop on Managing Stormwater in a Changing Climate (October 2010)


“Designing with nature captures the essence of climate change adaptation. Adaptation is about responding to the changes that will inevitably occur. Adaptation is at the community level and is therefore about collaboration. Rainwater management is at the heart of designing with nature,” stated John Slater. He told the story of how the Tim Horton’s restaurant in Osoyoos showed what one can do on the ground, at the site level, to make a difference in achieving a bigger picture objective – protect Osoyoos Lake!

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AT THE PENTICTON DROUGHT FORUM: “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, Executive Director, Land and Water British Columbia (July 2004)


“To address this issue the Deputy Ministers’ Committee on Drought was formed in August 2003, followed by the creation of a Drought Management Action Plan. One important component of the Action Plan is the development of the document, Dealing with Drought: A Handbook for Water Suppliers in British Columbia,” 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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AT THE PENTICTON DROUGHT FORUM: “The forecast suggests that we’re in for another hot and dry summer. The funding we’re providing is designed to ensure that as many communities as possible have prepared water management plans and are prepared for the summer ahead,” stated Bill Barisoff, BC Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection (July 2004)


In 2003, 25 per cent of water supply systems were stressed and two thirds brought in water restrictions to ensure continued supply. “Supporting local governments is a fundamental part of our plan, given their key roles as water managers, their familiarity with community water supplies and their ability to put in place water restrictions .Last year, a number of our communities experienced water shortages and we want to make sure they have the tools and the resources they need, this summer and beyond, if these conditions persist ,” stated Bill Barissoff.

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WETLANDS – KIDNEYS OF THE EARTH: “Past land developers did not realize the importance of wetlands, so over 85% of Okanagan wetlands have been filled in or drained. This loss has reduced our ability to manage seasonal floods,”stated Alison Peatt, co-author of Building Climate Resilience in the Okanagan


The guide summarizes climate challenges, and introduces solutions to support Okanagan homeowners in their efforts to protect and enhance their real estate investment from the ongoing challenges of climate change. “The task for the multiple guide authors was how to synthesise all these complex issues into key messages that would help the homeowner connect the dots. Hence the resource guide helps the reader link concepts such as the loss of wetlands to increased flood risk,” stated Alison Peatt. Interwoven throughout the booklet are Syilx Okanagan Peoples perspectives.

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2007 Beyond the Guidebook Seminar: Move from awareness to action and implement ‘green solutions’ that actually protect stream health, urged Green Infrastructure Partnership when federal and provincial agencies framed expectations in launching the Beyond the Guidebook Initiative


“The Stormwater Guidebook set in motion a chain of outcomes that has resulted in BC being recognized internationally as a leader in implementing a natural systems approach to rainwater management in the urban environment,” stated Minister of Environment Barry Penner in 2007. “The Convening for Action initiative creates an opportunity to move beyond rainwater management to embrace all components of the water cycle through integrated water management.”

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Water is a Form-Maker: Three bold ideas for building water-resilient communities explored at FLOWnGROW Workshop


The workshop program was structured as four modules and was cascading – from high-level visioning to ground-level applications. Adaptation to a changing climate was a unifying theme. Both the urban and agricultural perspectives were represented. “Our climate is changing. Demand for water will only increase as summers get longer, hotter and drier. And irrigation is the elephant in the room,” stated Ted van der Gulik, President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.

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Water Use Reporting Centre: Okanagan Pilot Brings Water Management into the 21st Century


The Province currently does not have the management framework to meet the new needs of the Water Sustainability Act. But the proposed Water Commission, using the water use reporting software developed in the Okanagan, would provide that. Building on previous senior and local government investments to develop the Water Use Reporting Centre in the Okanagan, we are in a unique situation to develop a new model that supports sustainable water management, economic development and provides a world-class system for British Columbia,” stated Chair Doug Findlater.

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Okanagan Water Stewardship Council wins first-ever “Water Stewardship Award for British Columbia”


“Fresh water is one of the most precious natural resources we have. While the B.C. government continues to act on ‘Living Water Smart’ – which is our vision and plan for keeping our water healthy and secure for the future – what the Province does is only part of the solution. Local and regional groups like the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council are stepping up and demonstrating leadership throughout the province,” stated Environment Minister Terry Lake.

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