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Convening for Action in British Columbia

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ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: “To understand the OUT = IN equation in an engineering context, we need to think in terms of a safety margin or factor and what that actually means in practice” added Ron Smith, Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management, when he elaborated on the science-based understanding behind the Water Balance Equation (April 2005)


The OUT = IN equation is variable on both sides. In mathematics, one cannot solve for two variables with a single equation. “In a nutshell, when the service population is small and the safety factor is large, climate variability may be inconsequential. As population and water demand grow, however, the safety factor shrinks. Eventually we reach a condition of vulnerability where a small shift in the water balance can trigger a supply crisis. This has been the prevailing pattern for almost 20 years. We have effectively used up the safety factor because we have not understood climate variability,” stated Ron Smith.

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ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: “People have no difficulty reconciling personal long-term and short-term decisions, yet are challenged when it comes to reconciling short-term political versus long-term community planning decisions,” stated Robert Hicks, Metro Vancouver Senior Engineer, at the Penticton Workshop that launched the Convening for Action in British Columbia initiative (April 2005)


“The solutions to short-term risks are long-term: it is a continuum. In my presentation I explained why commitment to the long-term is so important. And I elaborated on the differences in approaches between short-term and long-term visions, and why we need to understand these differences. A key message revolved around the importance of lingo in communicating with decision-makers, and how messages can easily be lost in translation when language is not used effectively,” stated Robert Hicks.

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ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: “Building Resiliency in British Columbia / Thinking Outside the Pipe to Achieve a Balance between Supply and Demand” – overview of morning program for “Water OUT = Water IN” workshop that launched the Convening for Action in British Columbia initiative (April 2005)


To conclude the morning program, a 4-person panel shared demand management success stories. A survey of 200 regional districts, municipalities and water districts around British Columbia had provided the starting point for identifying success stories and lessons learned. In his presentation, Bob Hrasko provided a broad-brush picture of the Okanagan water supply situation and highlighted the opportunities for demand-management to achieve a water balance. “With an average of 0.50m of precipitation annually and less than 0.10m of runoff annually, the Okanagan has the driest climate in Canada,” he noted.

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ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: “Water is the unifying element for growth management in the Okanagan,” stated Ted van der Gulik, Ministry of Agriculture, when he showcased new and emerging tools at the “Water OUT = Water IN” workshop that launched the Convening for Action in British Columbia initiative (April 2005)


“Agriculture is an integral part of the Okanagan fabric. It creates the ‘look-and-feel’ that is part of the Okanagan tourist experience, is an essential component of the Okanagan economic engine, and contributes to the provincial food supply. Saving water should be driven by incentives for the agricultural community. In the Okanagan, over 85% of the total water supply is used for outdoor purposes in the urban and agricultural sectors. Because agricultural irrigation accounts for more than 70% of total water use, it is the key to an Okanagan Water Balance Strategy,” stated Ted van der Gulik.

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ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: “Creating Our Future in British Columbia / Applying What You Have Learned to the Highlands Case Study” – overview of afternoon program for “Water OUT = Water IN” workshop that launched the Convening for Action in British Columbia initiative (April 2005)


“Our original concept was to create a hypothetical case study for the purposes of the Breakout Session. Then we realized that a real-life example would be more beneficial because it would considerably help participants to wrap their minds around the issues and potential solutions. The information could be exactly the same, but there is something visual about talking about a real community. Timing is everything, and the Highlands Case Study came to our attention at the right moment. As it turned out, the scale of the Highlands Case Study provided a perfect fit with the backgrounds of our audience,” stated Wenda Mason.

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ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: “The District of Highlands is at a critical stage in its development and must clearly identify its future plan regarding density limits and land use planning goals,” stated Eric Bonham, Chair of the Highlands Stewardship Foundation, when he delivered a context presentation for a breakout session at the “Water OUT = Water IN” workshop that launched the Convening for Action in British Columbia initiative (April 2005)


“The District of Highlands, located on the edge of the Western Communities in the Capital Regional District (CRD), is subject to continuing development pressures northward from Langford. However, the community has its own vision, united as it is by landscape – rocky uplands and dense coastal forests. This shared terrain has shaped a building and road pattern with a small ‘footprint” on the land, along with a unique rural lifestyle. These values are clearly identified in the Official Community Plan,” explained Eric Bonham.

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ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: “The key concerns between the water and energy industries are the same; and the issues are similar. One difference is that the energy industry tackled demand management much sooner than the water industry,” stated Dr. Bob Wilkinson, University of California, when he introduced the Water / Energy Nexus concept at the workshop that launched the Convening for Action in British Columbia initiative (April 2005)


“We get energy from water, and we use energy to supply, treat and use water. Water use involves significant energy inputs which must be considered,” stated Dr. Bob Wilkinson. In 2002, the BC Water Sustainability Committee foreshadowed rainwater harvesting in British Columbia. Within three years later, “rainwater harvesting” had become part of the language. Similarly, in 2005 the Water Sustainability Action Plan introduced the “water/energy nexus” at the “Water OUT = Water IN” workshop in anticipation that it too would be part of the language of practitioners within a couple of years.

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CMHC RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT: “A Plan for Rainy Days – Water Runoff and Site Planning”


“In 2004, the City of Stratford in Ontario approved a secondary plan for a future city expansion based on an evaluation of three plans, one of which was the Fused Grid. In 2006, CMHC initiated a supplementary case study to assess the potential for reducing or eliminating rainwater runoff from the development area,” reports Fanis Grammenos. “The question for this analysis was to assess to what extent street layout, amount and distribution of open space, and building form affect the post-development runoff resulting from the impermeable surfaces that urban development creates.”

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ARTICLE: “Elephant in the Room – Drainage and the Unfunded Infrastructure Liability” (Asset Management BC Newsletter, Winter 2021)


“A central idea of the EAP methodology is that a stream system has a ‘package of ecological services’.  This concept refers to the combined range of uses desired by the community. Three key words capture the essence of what the phrase ‘range of uses’ means, namely: drainage, recreation and habitat. This is plain language that elected Councils and Boards understand,” stated Tim Pringle. “The EAP methodology has evolved as we have learned from, and adapted, each successive case study application. Each situation is unique, but the approach is universally applicable.”

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FLASHBACK TO 1997: “Looking back, British Columbia’s Fish Protection Act was both a defining moment and a call to action. The consultation process led directly to the SmartStorm Forum Series. Guided by a vision for an ecosystem-based approach to land and water development, the series set in motion a chain of events. Their outcomes reverberated and have rippled through time,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability (1st in a series / January 2021)


“I recall quite clearly that Erik Karlsen and Peter Law were sitting to our right as Bill Derry and I spoke impromptu to the ‘fish pictures’. It caught my attention how animated they were as they kept turning to each other during Bill and my presentation. When we finished, Erik was the first to speak. ‘At last,’ he said, ‘we have the science that explains the relationship between changes in land use and the consequences for stream health’. Little did I realize in the moment that my life was about to change. Nor did I realize how profoundly Erik Karlsen would influence my career direction,” recalled Kim Stephens.

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