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Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia

USING SCIENCE TO ESTABLISH A LANDSCAPE WATER BUDGET: “The BC Landscape Water Calculator is linked to a 500 metre gridded climate data set covering the entire province. The tool allows any property owner in BC to zoom in to their property and quantify their landscape water needs based on climate, soil, plant type and irrigation system,” stated Ted van der Gulik, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, when he announced that the online calculator is now live


“A platform re-build for the BC Agriculture Water Calculator was the opportunity to spin-off the BC Landscape Water Calculator as a stand-alone tool for use by local governments and their residents. At the same time, the City of Kelowna was implementing a landscape bylaw that established an allowable water budget at the individual property scale. Therefore, it was a natural fit for the Partnership and City to collaborate in the development of the BC Landscape Water Calculator,” stated Ted van der Gulik.

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FLASHBACK TO 2006: “Our program emphasis shifted from ‘informing and educating’ to ‘showcasing and sharing’. We witnessed the motivational power of celebrating successes. We also recognized the need to get the story out about the leadership being shown by local government,” stated Ray Fung, Chair, when the Green Infrastructure Partnership released a report on conversations with a mayors and chairs focus group (September 2006)


“In 2005, the Green Infrastructure Partnership decided to consult with a number of Mayors and Chairs from the Okanagan, Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island. We formed an ad hoc focus group to help us. We had it in our minds to write a ‘Communication Guide for Elected Officials’. We saw this filling a gap. A distinguishing feature of the focus group was that everyone had thought about how to achieve environmental, economic and social objectives through a community’s infrastructure choices,” stated Ray Fung.

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IN MEMORIAM: “Erik Karlsen was a ‘change agent’ in every sense of the word, made his mark on so many fronts, and was respected throughout,” stated Eric Bonham, a former colleague in the BC provincial government, when he reflected on the influence and impact of Erik Karlsen in bringing people with different perspectives together to find common ground


“Erik Karlsen reflected the very best qualities of a dedicated civil servant, committed to outcomes that served the common interests of the province, building partnerships that resulted in creative yet practical policies, and endlessly thinking ‘outside the box’ that oftentimes made his colleagues’ heads spin! Erik built many connections throughout his extraordinary career that included contacts within the three levels of government, the academic sector and community stewardship groups. His broad range of interests allowed him to move comfortably from one discipline to another,” stated Eric Bonham.

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DOWNLOAD: “Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia: Framework for Building Partnerships” – released in February 2004


“A roundtable of land and water champions created the Water Sustainability Action Plan. Timing is everything – a successful outcome requires that the right people be in the right place at the right time. Producing an Action Plan that was credible was made possible through a precedent-setting approach to collaboration that involved representatives of multiple  provincial government ministries. This helped us get the attention and blessing of Premier Gordon Campbell. Our approach recognized that the greatest impact on water and water resources occurs through our individual values, choices and behaviour,” stated Kim Stephens.

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IN MEMORIAM: Erik Karlsen (1945-2020) has a special place in the history of the Partnership for Water Sustainability. He was the ‘eminence grise’ during development and early years of implementing the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia


Over the course of his career in government, Erik Karlsen bridged the worlds of municipal affairs and environmental stewardship. For a generation of elected representatives, his was a familiar face in the local government setting. He was indeed one of a kind, and his ability to envision the big picture, yet identify practical steps going forward, was what made him stand out from the crowd and earned him much respect from his colleagues. Erik served the public interest – the public hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow, for the environment, for human communities, and for future generations – almost without equal.

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IN MEMORIAM: “Erik Karlsen had a long and unique career in the public service. He served the public interest almost without equal, with a style likely not to be seen again for a very long time. The Georgia Basin Initiative was so indicative of who Eric was and how he operated,” stated Joan Sawicki, a former BC Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks (during the period 1996 through 2000)


“I first met Erik in action when we were assigned to work together, from mid-1994 to 1996. I had just been appointed parliamentary secretary to Minister of Municipal Affairs, Darlene Marzari. So, she put us together – and the Georgia Basin Initiative was born. We were a very small staff at GBI – Judith Cullington, Charmaine Hall, and Brent Mueller. We were a small group but, with Erik’s energy and access to just about everybody everywhere, he created the illusion of something much larger,” stated Joan Sawicki.

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CONVENING FOR ACTION IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: 2010 was a ‘watershed year’ for the Water Sustainability Action Plan, with outreach taking place at 10 major events in three regions, to provide peer-based learning for Living Water Smart, Building Greener Communities, and Adapting to a Changing Climate


“The Partnership’s outreach spotlight in 2010 was on the rollout of the second in the Beyond the Guidebook series of guidance documents for rainwater management and restoration of hydrologic function in urban watersheds. ‘Beyond the Guidebook 2010’ describes how a ‘convening for action’ culture has taken root in BC. Bringing together local government practitioners in neutral forums has enabled implementers to collaborate as regional teams. How to do it examples help decision-makers visualize what ‘design with nature’ policy goals look like on the ground,” stated Kim Stephens.

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BOWKER CREEK FORUM: Organized under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan, and hosted by the Capital Regional District, the Bowker Creek Forum was a celebration of the Bowker Creek Blueprint, a provincially significant 100-year Action Plan for urban watershed restoration (February 2010)


“So, why did we choose Bowker Creek, one might ask? The watershed is completely built out, and the creek channel is enclosed in pipes for two-thirds of its length. We thought of it as a learning opportunity. If we can do it in Bowker, we can do it in any creek in the region. There had been a lot of work done by the community to raise awareness. The biggest factor in the decision, however, was the very, very strong contingent in the community that wanted to get a better functioning creek back in their community,” stated Jody Watson.

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IMPLEMENT GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE TO ACHIEVE WATER SUSTAINABILITY: “The Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series will help facilitate inter-departmental alignment and a consistent regional approach. The City of Courtenay and Cowichan Valley Regional District are partners who are helping us pilot this work,” announced Deputy Minister Dale Wall, Ministry of Community Services (May 2008)


“We have to develop expertise to support The New Business As Usual. Vancouver Island is the pilot region for much of this work through CAVI, Convening for Action on Vancouver Island. The approach to practitioner education is inclusive, and supports water-centric planning and a design with nature way-of-thinking. It actually helps to make liveable communities that are in balance with ecology. The goal is that today’s expectations will become tomorrow’s standards; and that we build the legal, technical and policy basis with which to support green infrastructure,” stated Dale Wall.

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2ND ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM ON PLANNING FOR RESILIENCE: “Inspired by Buzz Holling, BC’s Stormwater Guidebook established an adaptive management precedent. A decade later, Buzz and I had a reflective conversation after his keynote address at UBC. He further inspired me,” stated Kim Stephens when he represented the Water Sustainability Action Plan as a panel member on Uncertain Water Supplies (March 2010)


“My first contact with Buzz Holling was in 1999. An assignment for King County allowed me to delve into the origins of adaptive management, and research experience around the world. Specifically, we were looking for a local government precedent, and there was none. This led me to phone Buzz,” stated Kim Stephens. “In 1999, my Aha Moment was realizing that our cross-border response to the ‘salmon crisis’ in the Pacific Northwest paralleled the efforts of Buzz Holling related to Florida Everglades Restoration.”

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