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Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia

COMOX VALLEY DEVELOPERS DIALOGUE: Organized under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan, and hosted by the City of Courtenay, the regional ‘sharing and learning’ session initiated a conversation with the Comox Valley development community about collaboration, alignment and consistency (December 2010)


Designed as ‘bridging event’ between the 2009 and 2011 series of annual seminar programs organized under the umbrella of CAVI, Convening for Action on Vancouver Island, “The format was excellent for ‘stirring the pot’ as it allowed for a variety of ideas, questions and comments to flow easily and freely. The non-formal setting made everyone comfortable in sharing comments, whether positive or negative,” stated Kip Keylock, representing the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce.

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FLASHBACK TO 2005: “Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia provides a partnership umbrella for on-the-ground initiatives,” stated Kim Stephens, lead person responsible for program delivery, a year after Premier Gordon Campbell approved release of the Action Plan


“The goal is to influence choices and encourage action by individuals and organizations so that water resource stewardship will become an integral part of land use and daily living,” stated Kim Stephens. “The Province’s commitment to the Action Plan speaks for itself. Both the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Municipal Affairs have provided core funding over a multi-year period to sustain Action Plan efforts. In addition, and through participation in various inter-governmental partnerships, a number of Ministries have contributed substantial funding and in-kind support to help launch Action Plan elements.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2010: What was the genesis of the phrase ‘sustainable service delivery’ a decade ago? What was the process for mainstreaming the approach in British Columbia? How did it become an ‘actionable vision’ for local governments? As an outcome of the Worth Every Penny Workshop, Glen Brown synthesized four ideas into a single easy to remember phrase that became a game-changer!


The 20/80 Rule refers to the initial capital cost of municipal infrastructure being about 20% of the ultimate total cost, with the other 80% being an unfunded liability. This is a driver for doing business differently. “Tackling the unfunded infrastructure liability involves a life-cycle way of thinking about infrastructure needs and how to pay for those needs over time. This holistic approach is described as Sustainable Service Delivery. The link between infrastructure asset management and the protection of a community’s natural resources is an important piece in Sustainable Service Delivery,” stated Glen Brown.

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FLASHBACK TO 2011 AND THE VANCOUVER ISLAND ECONOMIC SUMMIT: “We have moved beyond continuing education solely for the purpose of professional development. We are exploring what implementation of regional policy means on the ground,” stated Glen Westendorp at a pre-summit forum about the unfunded infrastructure liability as a driver for sustainable service delivery


Comox Valley local governments are aligning efforts, building leadership capacity and striving for consistency. “The four Comox Valley local governments and the Comox Valley Land Trust are ‘convening for action’ around a water-centric approach to land development,” stated Glenn Westendorp. “All those involved in land development have a role to play in achieving Sustainable Service Delivery. The players include land use and infrastructure professionals.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2010: “Implementing a New Culture for Urban Watershed Protection and Restoration in British Columbia” – rollout of the second in the Beyond the Guidebook Series of guidance documents commenced with a presentation to elected representatives at Union of BC Municipalities Convention


“We will use this coming together of BC's local leaders to share and learn from each other's experiences, and gain ideas to move our own communities forward,” said Harry Nyce. “The spirit of collaboration and newfound bonds that we have fostered in 2010 are undeniably valuable. But without action, we cannot move our communities forward. This year’s Convention will offer an opportunity to…. take our goals, and forge them into tangible outcomes….and continue to build gold medal standard communities.”

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WATER SUSTAINABILITY ACTION PLAN FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA:“After the Action Plan was released with the approval of the provincial government in February 2004, the branding graphic for the integrated scope of the partnership framework evolved from a jig-saw puzzle to a Venn diagram by 2007. This reflected the maturing of the Action Plan implementation program,” stated Ray Fung, Chair (2003-2008)


“The main goal of the Water Sustainability Action Plan is to encourage province-wide implementation of fully integrated water sustainability policies, plans and programs. The Action Plan recognizes that the greatest impact on water, land and water resources occurs through our individual values, choices and behaviour. The Action Plan promotes and facilitates sustainable approaches to water use, land use and water resource management at all levels – from the province to the household; and in all sectors,” stated Ray Fung.

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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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