Topsoil Bylaws Toolkit – new guidance document supports Water Conservation and Rainwater Management in BC




Okanagan Basin Water Board breaks ground with toolkit that synthesizes pioneering experience of Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and Okanagan local governments

A well-designed landscape with healthy topsoil helps communities through both wet and dry times. Developed by an inter-regional partnership led by the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB), the Topsoil Bylaws Toolkit gives local governments practical tools that support smart topsoil policies. The Toolkit presents basic principles of topsoil science and management. It also provides sample policy and bylaw language.

“The Topsoil Bylaws Toolkit is a guide for B.C. local governments who want to conserve water and protect the quality of surrounding waterways. Why topsoil?  Sometimes the things most effective are not the most intuitive. While turning off the tap while you wash your hands is a good idea, the real water savings is in the dirt – that is to say, the soil, in our front yards. It’s an old idea that’s new again,” states Anna Warwick Sears, OBWB Executive Director.

“Deep, rich topsoil is a giant sponge for water – slowly releasing moisture as the plants grow.  It captures rain so you don’t have to irrigate as often. And it reduces run-off. Here in the Okanagan, we use 3 to 4 times as much water for our lawns and landscaping than for all our indoor uses combined. If we can reduce the waste, and “Make Water Work,” it leaves more water for fish, more for growing local food and wine, and cuts our water costs. What’s not to love about that?” 

“I want to give huge credit to the Green Infrastructure Partnership and the BC Partnership for Water Sustainability for their vision and inspiration to get us going on this project – and thanks to the Ministry of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development for their support.”

To read a perspective posted on Anna’s Building Bridges blog, click on The Dirt Makes the Difference


Soil Makes a Difference

“It’s the soil that makes the difference,” noted Ted van der Gulik (Ministry of Agricutlure), Chair of the Water Balance Model Partnership and one of the technical advisors on the toolkit. “A lot of time and effort has gone into creating this document. It contains land-use planning and regulatory tools available to local government, sample policies and bylaws, and more. We’re very excited to be getting this out into the hands of B.C.’s elected officials and local government staff, helping communities in the Okanagan and around the province adopt WaterWise principles to ensure a healthy, sustainable future.”


Towards Water Sustainability

“An absorbent topsoil layer has emerged as a fundamental building block for achieving water sustainability outcomes through implementation of green infrastructure practices. In this case, the targeted water sustainability outcomes are: less irrigation water use; and reduced rainwater runoff,” states Raymond Fung District of West Vancouver), Chair of the Green Infrastructure Partnership.

“The Green Infrastructure Partnership views topsoil as the interface between rainwater management and drought management. Soil depth creates a sponge…. which can limit runoff during wet-weather periods; and reduce water need during dry-weather periods.”



In February 2010, the Bowker Creek Forum in Victoria was the venue for the formal launch of the Topsoil Law and Policy and Technical Primer Set. Developed by the Green Infrastructure Partnership, the ‘Topsoil Primer Set’ synthesized the pioneering experience of the City of Surrey, City of Courtenay and District of North Vancouver. The Topsoil Bylaws Toolkit is an evolution of those primers.

The Topsoil Bylaws Toolkit can be found on the OBWB’s website at: and on the website on the Guidance Documents page.

The toolkit is a companion to the OBWB’s Groundwater Bylaws Toolkit, released in 2009 and available at

It also supplements the 2007 Green Bylaw Toolkit, created by a number of partners and available at: