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Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia

WHAT’S IN A WORD: “Choice of words can make or break one’s ability to open minds to a new or different way of thinking,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC


“By focusing on the distinction between a PLAN and a STRATEGY, the article by Wally Wells goes to the heart of output-oriented versus outcome-oriented approaches. The issue of ‘output versus outcome’ is one that the provincial government first identified two decades ago when it released Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia. The Guidebook premise is that a focus on desired outcomes would lead to action, whereas a focus on output leads to ‘analysis paralysis’. Living Water Smart in British Columbia is outcome oriented,” stated Kim Stephens.

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DESIGN WITH NATURE FRAMEWORK FOR SYSTEMS APPROACH TO GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE: “Our partners in provincial and local government tell us that the oral history, and the intergenerational sharing and learning that goes with it, are rapidly being lost. The ramifications of this new reality create a sense of urgency to inform and educate BC audiences,” stated Kim Stephens when the Partnership for Water Sustainability released a legacy resource introducing the ‘green infrastructure continuum’ idea as metaphor for hope (February 2022)


“As a metaphor for hope. the continuum idea allows us to answer the question, how well are we doing? The green infrastructure continuum is the way we measure progress to achieve the Living Water Smart vision for creating liveable communities and protecting stream health. The lynchpin for achieving these ‘design with nature’ outcomes is intergenerational collaboration, driven by systems thinking. Hope springs from a systematic and adaptive approach that builds on a solid foundation, and consistently gets it right. The ramifications of this new reality create a sense of urgency,” stated Kim Stephens.

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INTERWEAVING INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE & WESTERN SCIENCE: “In British Columbia, hydrometric records are fairly limited in time and geographic coverage. From a hydrology perspective, then, interweaving science and a rich oral history would turn a comparatively short period of data collection into thousands of years of knowledge. This might profoundly change how we view extreme changes in the water cycle and the consequences in BC,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability (February 2022)


“If Thomas Bayes (1702-1761) was alive today, I have no doubt that he would say, oral history extends the period of period and our understanding of what the data mean. Bayesian statistics offers a framework for combining different kinds of information and making best use of what is available. Four decades ago, a municipality brought public works staff back from retirement so that I could interview them and compile the oral history of strategic culvert installations. These ‘data inputs’ made it possible to generate flood frequency curves,” stated Kim Stephens.

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TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION: “I believe that engineers need to move away from a technocentric approach and adopt a sociotechnical mindset. By this I mean we need to start thinking about the ways in which the social and technical are always connected. These aspects should not be separated, with technical challenges going to the engineers and social challenges going to the sociologists,” stated Professor Gordon Hoople, University of San Diego (January 2022)


“Engineers spend much of their time absorbed in the technical aspects of problems, whether they’re designing the next generation of smartphones or building a subway. As recent news stories attest, this technocentric approach has some critical limitations, and the result can end up harming rather than helping society. We ask students to spend far too much time solving mathematical equations and far too little time thinking about the human dimensions of the problems they are trying to solve,” stated Gordon Hoople.

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CONTEXT AND HISTORY REALLY DO MATTER: “In the moment, extreme events can be overwhelming. But the big picture situation is by no means hopeless. My key message is to view climate change as another variable, not a driver. Understand the system context because climate adaptation is about water, whereas climate mitigation is about carbon,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC (Sept 2021)


“The risks are real. Droughts affect all of us. BC is on fire and streams are drying up. We do not have the luxury of time to implement solutions. And we certainly cannot afford to reinvent the wheel due to generational and/or corporate amnesia. Context and history really do matter because it takes a career to develop perspective and understanding of what works and what does not. Because there is no silver bullet, communities need to do many little things to adapt to the new climate reality,” stated Kim Stephens.

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HIDDEN VALUE OF INTERGENERATIONAL COLLABORATION: “My experience is that collaboration between the generations is easier than most people think and the generational differences are not that wide. Also, intergenerational teams are much more innovative,” stated Kate Rushton, UK-based community strategist


“Two years ago I attended my first intergenerational innovation challenge. It was not my last. Afterwards, I occasionally thought about this new way of working. It sparked my interest in intergenerational co-creation. Not only as a way to build bridges between generations but as a way to innovate in general. By using an older adult’s experience-based knowledge, which is known also known as deep smarts, and the younger generation’s fresh eyes and new perspectives intergenerational co-creation can help create more rounded solutions,” stated Kate Rushton.

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WATCH THE VIDEO: “The Partnership for Water Sustainability has its roots in government – provincial, federal, and most importantly, local government. Over three decades, the Partnership has evolved – from a technical committee in the 1990s,to a water roundtable in the first decade of the 2000s, to a legal entity in 2010,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership Executive Director, in his remarks as part of the Bowen Island Climate Conversation (July 2021)


“Incorporation of the Partnership for Water Sustainability as a non-profit society allows us to carry on the Living Water Smart mission. We are growing a network, not building an organization. In terms of my professional career as a water resource engineer and planner, I have been in the right place at the right time, and with the right people. In a nutshell, my responsibilities revolve around delivering the Water Sustainability Action Plan through partnerships and collaboration, through a local government network,” stated Kim Stephens.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA – THE SERIES: “Water literacy is key to building a stewardship ethic. It is about understanding where our water comes from and caring where it goes,” stated Lynn Kriwoken, (retired) Executive Director, BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy


Each week, Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the vision for Living Water Smart. Featured authors explore specific themes, with an objective of helping others make a difference in the communities in which they live. “While legislative reform is a foundation piece, collaboration takes place outside the legislative framework. Living Water Smart is about motivating and inspiring everyone to embrace shared responsibility. Influencing behaviour and attitudes is at the heart of moving from awareness to action,” stated Lynn Kriwoken.

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RECONNECT PEOPLE, FISH, LAND AND WATER: “At the end of the day, it often comes down to the right people in the right place at the right time, over time. When the stars are aligned, it can result in pure magic,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, in his panel presentation at the virtual Living Soils Symposium hosted by Regeneration Canada (February 2021)


“The vision is to reconnect people, fish, land and water in altered landscapes. The big question is HOW we will pull this off. Decisions ripple through time. So it is imperative that we replace short-term thinking with a long-term view that extends out 50, 100 or more years. Instant gratification and quarterly reports are examples of the worst kinds of short-term thinking. That is what we have to replace with a career perspective. It takes a career to figure things out. And then we have to pass that understanding and wisdom on to the next generation,” stated Kim Stephens.

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MOVING TOWARDS A WATER-RESILIENT FUTURE: “Given the New Normal of floods and droughts in BC, we are at one of those ‘watershed moments’ in time where we need to challenge folks to elevate their horizons. We are at a tipping point. Will we adapt? Will we get it right? Will we restore balance to the water cycle?” – Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, at the Annual Conference of Engineers & Geoscientists BC (October 2018)


Kim Stephens quoted the author Eva Kras: “Our present global and societal problem is that short-term thinking governs much of what we do. In many organizations, the long-term view has somehow become excluded over many generations. We need to re-learn basically ‘how we think’, using both the right (long-term) and left (short-term) hemispheres of our brain. Both are important, but the sad part is that we have convinced ourselves that the Left Hemisphere can do EVERYTHING.”

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