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Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia

CONVENING FOR ACTION ON VANCOUVER ISLAND: “A Guide to Water-Wise Land Development in the Comox Valley” – In December 2015, the Joint Staff Training Workshop organized by the Comox Valley Regional Team initiated an educational process for communicating ‘design with nature’ expectations in urban watersheds


“The Water-Wise Guide communicates consistent expectations for how the valley can mitigate environmental concerns,” stated Kris La Rose. “The Guide is a collaboration between all four local governments, MOTI, the stewardship sector and the private sector. It is designed to be visually engaging, easy to read, have front counter ‘branding’ consistent to all four local government planning counters, with tips for applicants on how to prepare successful plans that integrate watershed-based rainwater management strategies and minimize negative impacts on watersheds.”

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SHARING ‘DESIGN WITH NATURE’ APPROACHES, TOOLS, EXPERIENCES AND LESSONS LEARNED:“Like most other areas on Vancouver Island, the Comox Valley is at a major cross-roads as to how we will develop and still maintain the natural beauty of our community,” stated Mayor Starr Winchester when Comox Valley local governments co-hosted the finale event of ‘Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation on Vancouver Island: The 2007 Series’


“Local government leaders are telling our staffs that we want to be a sustainable community tomorrow. We are not being so unrealistic as to ask for this yesterday,” stated (former) City of Courtenay Mayor Starr Winchester. “We want to keep our rural areas rural, yet we are faced with many people coming into the valley, especially now that we have an international airport. We are experiencing phenomenal growth. So we are really depending on the practitioners to keep us grounded and realistic so that growth will be sustainable.”

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RESILIENCE + CHANGE: Session on “Tools, Resources & Funding for Local Governments” at UBCM Annual Convention updated British Columbia local government elected representatives about the ‘convening for action’ leadership role played by Partnership for Water Sustainability (Sept 2019)


Big or small, rural or urban, our communities are experiencing change at an unprecedented rate. From climate change to economic pressures, local governments are on the front lines managing the local impact of complex issues. In an uncertain future, local leaders have a duty to learn from each other and from the past and to find new approaches to plan and thrive. “One-on-one conversations with mayors and councillors from towns around BC was an effective way to inform them about the Partnership’s work,” stated Richard Boase.

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PARKSVILLE 2019: ‘Convening for Action’ symposium started strong with Dave Derrick stream restoration workshop and walkabout, and finished strong with Storm Cunningham presentation on restorative development; remarkable 40% response rate by delegates confirmed that the key educational objectives were fulfilled


Attract an audience balanced across sectors. Demonstrate the power of collaboration between the stewardship sector and local governments. Create an environment for sharing and cross-fertilizing experiences. Those were the objectives. “I just wanted to say thanks to you and everyone behind the great symposium! Great job!! It was an exciting few days, and I left feeling inspired and even somewhat empowered about finding ways to protect water. The importance of ecological services really hit home for me. There is lots of great work happening out there – thanks to all the organizers for bringing it all together,” said Laura Beckett,

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NANAIMO 2018: “The vision for restorative development is an idea whose time has come – and a set of videos uploaded to YouTube provide a permanent record of this watershed moment,” stated John Finnie, Chair, Nanaimo 2018 Symposium Organizing Committee


“The program was structured as three modules to enable the audience to have an informed conversation,” stated John Finnie. “Context is everything. Hence, two co-keynote presentations in Module A set the context and primed participants for a town-hall sharing and learning session in Module B about restorative development. In the afternoon, a set of four reflective presentations introduced building blocks for achieving Sustainable Watershed Systems.”

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THE CUYAHOGA RIVER CAUGHT FIRE 50 YEARS AGO. IT INSPIRED A MOVEMENT: “In 2019, will the record rate of melting of Greenland’s glaciers at the same time as the Amazon forest is burning be the ‘Cuyahoga River moment’ for Generations X, Y and Z?” wrote Kim Stephens in the first article of a new season of Waterbucket News (September 2019)


“Throughout B.C. today, there are many ‘elders in action’ still doing good work, applying a lifetime of experience and passion to tackle local, regional and provincial matters. Now is the time to learn from their efforts and what it means to be knowledgeable, giving one’s time for the common good, working on solutions, and getting results. Elders in action are beacons of hope,” states Kim Stephens. “Elders are leading by example to bridge a demographic gap until Generations X, Y and Z take the baton. Learn from our experience. Build on it. Get the wheel rolling. Time is of the essence. It is 2 minutes to midnight. The future is here, NOW.”

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CARING FOR TOMORROW: Why haven’t we stopped climate change? We’re not wired to empathize with our descendants, says Dr. Jamil Zaki, director of the Stanford University Social Neuroscience Laboratory


“Human activity is now a dominant force in shaping the Earth’s environment, but humanity’s moral senses have not kept pace with this power. Our actions reverberate across the world and across time, but not enough of us feel the weight of their consequences. Empathy could be an emotional bulwark against a warming world, if our collective care produced collective action. But it evolved to respond to suffering right here, right now. Our empathic imagination is not naturally configured to stretch around the planet or toward future generations,” wrote Jamil Zaki.

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DESIGN WITH NATURE: “Man is that uniquely conscious creature who can perceive and express. He must become the steward of the biosphere. To do this, he must design with nature,” wrote Ian McHarg in Chapter 1 of his landmark book that is his enduring legacy (published in 1969)


More manifesto than scholarly text, Ian McHarg’s now-canonical book arrived amidst the tumult of an ascendant, leftist environmental movement—one that delivered a series of landmark political victories in the 1970s, a period that would become known as “the environmental decade.” It remains one of the best-selling books ever written by a designer, has been translated into Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish, and remains in print today.

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PARKSVILLE 2019 SYMPOSIUM: The right players were present, the urgency for meaningful collaboration was recognized, and ‘can do’ success stories were shared in order to explain why and how restorative land development would result in sustainable stream restoration on Vancouver Island and beyond


“Thank you so much for the immense amount of work you do to protect ecosystem services and teach us all about taking responsibility. The Vancouver Island symposium on water stewardship was so inspiring and informative. It was a wonderful experience. I left Parksville feeling hopeful,” stated Councillor Laura Dupont, City of Port Coquitlam. This article provides a re-cap and a synopsis of the modules comprising the symposium program, and features three “stories behind the stories”.

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SUSTAINABLE WATERSHED SYSTEMS: “How do communities decide how much to invest in restoration? The Primer on the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) describes a methodology that landed on the notion of the natural commons as the starting point for calculating the financial value of a stream bed and riparian corridor,” states Tim Pringle, EAP Chair (January 2019)


“EAP deals with a basic question: what is a creekshed WORTH, now and in future, to the community and various intervenors? The EAP valuation methodology yields an asset value for the stream corridor that can then be used for budget purposes,” stated Tim Pringle. “We broke new ground with EAP. Insights and understanding that we gained led us to look at creeksheds differently. The importance of viewing choices through the ‘worth lens’ became clear.”

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