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Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia

FLASHBACK TO 2012: “The Primer on Integrated Rainwater and Groundwater Management demonstrated how pioneer research in the Englishman River watershed on Vancouver Island leads us to look at groundwater differently from a water balance perspective,” stated Craig Wightman, Senior Fisheries Biologist with BC Conservation Foundation


“The Primer introduces the issue of the ‘unfunded infrastructure liability’. Viewing the watershed through an asset management lens provides local governments with a driver to require that development practices mimic the Water Balance,” states Craig Wightman. The Primer is an outcome of collaboration involving Living Rivers, the British Columbia Conservation Foundation, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, the Mid-Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society, and the City of Parksville.

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FLASHBACK TO 2013: “The Primer on Land Development Process in BC is a ‘bridging document’ – it illustrates how to seamlessly integrate the legal and administrative parts of land development,” stated Tim Pringle when the Primer was released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability


“While much attention is given to the technical and legal aspects of the Land Development Process, we are not aware of anyone who has addressed administration. At the heart of the Primer, then, is the discussion at the end of Section 6 about Administrative Process Requirements. This piece of the puzzle is the key to implementation of effective rainwater management systems on private property,” stated Tim Pringle. “The Primer will assist practitioners whose work addresses land subdivision concerns.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2014: “When reading the Primer on Water Balance Methodology for Protecting Watershed Health, it is helpful to reflect on the historical context to understand that the water balance approach had its genesis in the Stream Stewardship Series,” stated Erik Karlsen, formerly an Executive Director in the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs


“Released circa 1993, Stream Stewardship: A Guide for Planners and Developers document was an early, and in some respects the first, local government focussed design with nature guide,” recalled Erik Karlsen. “Looking back, if the Stewardship Series was the first wave, the work of UBC’s James Taylor Chair on Sustainable Urban Landscapes was the second, and the Water Balance Approach is the third. Each of these ‘waves’ was initiated by different ‘groups’; but over time they merged from one to the other.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2016: “The purpose of the Primer on Application of Ecosystem-based Understanding in the Georgia Basin is to connect the dots and disseminate information on the ‘science-based understanding’ that underpins the vision for Sustainable Watershed Systems,” stated Peter Law, formerly with the BC Ministry of Environment


“An interface is needed to translate the complex products of science into achievable goals and implementable solution for practical resource management. This interface is what we now call a science-based understanding,” stated Peter Law. “Understanding how land development impacts watershed hydrology and the functions of aquatic ecosystems provides a solid basis for making decisions to guide action where and when it is most needed. This understanding will help multiple audiences ask the right questions so that communities make informed decisions.”

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TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION: “Getting to restorative development depends on finding a balance between short-term and long-term thinking,” stated Kim Stephens in his presentation at the Engineers & Geoscientists BC Annual Conference (October 2018)


Kim Stephens quoted from the work of Eva Kras – visionary, scholar and author. “Our present global and societal problem is that short-term thinking governs much of what we do,” says Eva Kras. “We need to re-learn basically ‘how we think’, using both the right and left hemispheres of our brain. Both ways of thinking are important, but the sad part is that we have convinced ourselves that the Left Hemisphere can do EVERYTHING.”

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TOWARDS RECONCILIATION IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: Organized by the Partnership for Water Sustainability, the Blue Ecology Workshop mainstreamed Michael Blackstock’s vision for interweaving Indigenous knowledge & Western science (November 2017)


Blue Ecology is an ecological philosophy developed by Michael Blackstock, professional forester and scholar. Blue Ecology looks at the water cycle differently to interweave First Nations and Western thought. Michael Blackstock has a vision: British Columbia water managers would embrace the Blue Ecology water cycle; our communities would become more water-resilient; and we would successfully adapt to a changing climate. His innovative thinking is recognized by UNESCO and the International Association of Hydrological Sciences.

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METRO VANCOUVER UTILITIES COMMITTEE: “The IREI provides Metro Vancouver municipalities with a mechanism to collaborate, share outcomes and cross-pollinate experience with local governments on the east coast of Vancouver Island,” stated Kim Stephens when he updated Metro Vancouver elected representatives about successes flowing from the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative (Sept 2018)


“Inter-governmental collaboration and funding enable the Partnership for Water Sustainability to develop approaches, tools and resources; as well as provide teaching, training and mentoring. We depend on the goodwill of elected representatives on committees such as Metro Vancouver’s Utilities Committee to provide political support for the unique bridging role that the Partnership plays in the local government setting. Their long-term support has contributed to the effectiveness of the Partnership as the hub for a ‘convening for action’ network,” stated Kim Stephens.

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PROGRAM AT A GLANCE for “Parksville 2019: Second Annual Vancouver Island Symposium on Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate – Make Better Land Use Decisions & Move Towards Restorative Land Development” (April 2-3-4, 2019)


Parksville 2019 is designed to foster a conversation in communities along the east coast of Vancouver Island and in the Metro Vancouver region about Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management. “The daily symposium themes are Sustainable Stream Restoration and Restorative Land Development, respectively. An evening lecture by global thought leader Storm Cunningham is the bridge between the two days. Storm Cunningham will also close the symposium with an inspirational message,” stated Paul Chapman.

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Waterbucket eNews: Partnership for Water Sustainability launches a new season of “Celebrating the Champions” (September 2018 – June 2019)


“Local governments are implementers. This means they can be change leaders. They can integrate climate adaptation into the activities and actions of engineered and natural asset management – or flipping it around, integrate asset management into the activities and actions of climate adaptation. ‘Getting it right’ starts with recognition that hydrology is the engine that powers ecological services,” stated Kim Stephens. “Getting it right depends on provincial and local government alignment to require ‘design with nature’ standards of practice for servicing of land – so that communities decrease their ‘destructive footprint’ while at the same time increasing their ‘restoration footprint’.”

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DOWNLOAD: “The Story of the 2008 Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series” – this capacity-building program was a “grass-roots” demonstration application of how to build inter-departmental and inter-governmental alignment to achieve the vision for Living Water Smart, BC’s Water Plan


Inter-departmental participation by all member local governments effectively meant closing front counters on three Fridays for most of the day so that planning, engineering, operations and building inspection staff could attend the Learning Lunch seminars. “Throughout the series, our theme and our challenge was to ask participants what will they do better or differently to achieve a shared vision for the Cowichan Valley,” stated David Hewetson, Building Inspector with the City of Duncan. “This is why it was so important to get everyone thinking in terms of the What – So What – Now What mind-map.”

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