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Convening for Action in British Columbia

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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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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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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GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: Awareness / Education / Requirement – “Implementation by local governments will be voluntary, but once the decision is made to embrace green infrastructure, implementation will be by regulation,” stated Chuck Gale, a senior local government director of engineering in the Metro Vancouver region and the first Chair (2003-2005) of the BC Green Infrastructure Partnership, when he reflected on the path forward at the 2004 Consultation Workshop held in Metro Vancouver


“The primary purpose of the consultation was to explore the diversity of issues and difficulties inherent in defining and implementing a green infrastructure approach to land development. The consultation resulted in identification of 17 recommendations in five theme areas,” reported Chuck Gale. “An over-arching theme that emerged from the discussion revolves around the need to provide the bridge between those who make the decisions and those who implement the decisions.”

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ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: a set of videos provide an audio record of the “Water OUT = Water IN workshop” held in April 2005 – the event launched the Convening for Action in British Columbia initiative and also fulfilled a provincial government commitment flowing from the 2004 Drought Forum


“We documented the day by recording it on video. Posted on YouTube, the videos provide a readily accessible record, for posterity, of where our minds were at in 2005. Expressed another way, the videos provide a window into the thinking behind the messages that the members of the workshop team presented. The viewer can listen to and reflect on the words as speakers explain each of their PowerPoint slides. Thus, we envision the videos being of historical value for future researchers,” stated Kim Stephens.

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ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: Looking back, the “Water OUT = Water IN Workshop” held in the Okanagan showcased shared responsibility and represented a giant leap forward in terms of mainstreaming the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia within the provincial government (April 2005)


The Water Sustainability Action Plan provides an umbrella for on-the-ground initiatives that inform Provincial policy through the shared responsibility model. Lynn Kriwoken played an instrumental role in the creation and launching of the Action Plan in February 2004. She connected the dots between her Ministry’s Service Plan and the Action Plan potential as a top-down and bottom-up initiative. There was a natural fit. It was her advocacy within government that got the ball rolling and resulted in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Without Lynn Kriwoken, there would not have been an Action Plan.

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ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: Program Structure & Key Messages for a Convening for Action Workshop on Dealing with Uncertainty and Managing Risk in Water Supply Management – “The old approach of ‘super-sizing’ has proven expensive and is no longer sustainable,” stated Ray Fung, Chair of the BC Water Sustainability Committee (April 2005)


“The workshop connected the dots between water resource planning, climate variability and risk management to provide an understanding of how Demand Management tools and techniques can achieve a balance between supply and demand. This technical transfer session explored the tools and techniques available through demand-side management to achieve a water balance without relying on new sources and infrastructure,” stated Ray Fung.

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ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: “We are building a language and getting people involved. We are developing ideas and educating people,” stated Kim Stephens at the workshop that launched the Convening for Action in British Columbia initiative, (April 2005)


“The program was carefully planned and provided a blend of policy and technical. The District of Highlands Case Study made the day real for participants. The workshop attracted a diverse audience.weighted towards water system operators, but also included a smattering of elected officials and community groups. In short, there was a good mix of perspectives for the purposes of stimulating discussion in the Breakout Session . This meant that the workshop content had to be communicated in a way that would resonate with all participants,” stated Kim Stephens.

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ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: “To understand the OUT = IN equation in an engineering context, we need to think in terms of a safety margin or factor and what that actually means in practice” added Ron Smith, Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management, when he elaborated on the science-based understanding behind the Water Balance Equation (April 2005)


The OUT = IN equation is variable on both sides. In mathematics, one cannot solve for two variables with a single equation. “In a nutshell, when the service population is small and the safety factor is large, climate variability may be inconsequential. As population and water demand grow, however, the safety factor shrinks. Eventually we reach a condition of vulnerability where a small shift in the water balance can trigger a supply crisis. This has been the prevailing pattern for almost 20 years. We have effectively used up the safety factor because we have not understood climate variability,” stated Ron Smith.

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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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