ARTICLE: “We need to work at multiple scales and multiple levels to improve conditions in our small stream watersheds—that’s our strategy,” stated Chris May when explaining application of science-based understanding in Kitsap County
Note to Reader:
The theme for the September-October 2016 issue of Canada Water magazine is: $250 Billion Sink or Swim: How Canada Can Finance the Water Infrastructure Gap. The number increases as assets deteriorate. However, the true scale of the infrastructure deficit in Canada is unknown precisely because there is no set of asset management plans to draw from.
Canada’s drinking waters, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure is essential for maintaining quality of life, the environment, and is the backbone of the environment. And so – sink or swim. How do communities close the gap? Where will the money come from?
The September-October 2016 issue features an article by Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.
Watersheds as Infrastructure Assets
In the 1990s, Bill Derry, the founding Chair, Washington State Stormwater Managers Committee, and Kim Stephens led a workshop program for B.C. local government, and provided cross-border sharing of the latest research. This program led directly to Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, released in 2002.
Titled Watershed Moment, the article by Kim Stephens provides historical context for evolution of an “asset management approach” to urban watershed management in BC.
“Without the Washington State research by Richard Horner and Chris May in the 1990s, who knows whether it would have even been possible to evolve our thinking as we have,” muses Kim Stephens.
“Their findings changed the conversation from one that was engineering-centric to one that is about whole systems thinking.
“Early access to the findings of Richard Horner and Chris May allowed Bill Derry and me to create what became known as the ‘fish pictures’. These graphics translated the science and, in so doing, set the stage for British Columbia to move towards sustainable watershed asset management.”
“The goal in restoring the hydrologic integrity of a watershed is to forestall an unfunded taxpayer liability flowing from ‘changes in hydrology’.”
To Learn More:
Download Watershed Moment: How British Columbia has incorporated watershed thinking into its asset management to read the complete article published in the September-October issue of Water Canada magazine.
Whole Systems Thinking
“The work of Horner & May told us changes in hydrology, not water quality, must be the primary focus of our efforts. If we get the hydrology right, water quality typically takes care of itself in a residential development,” continued Kim Stephens.
Now Surface & Stormwater Division Director with Kitsap County Public Works in Washington State, Dr. Chris May provides this perspective two decades later:
‘The key to the “whole systems approach” is understanding how rainfall reaches a stream via three flow paths in a watershed—surface runoff, lateral interflow in shallow soils, and deep groundwater. Unlock that key and we can successfully implement appropriate measures to mimic the natural water balance. We have applied this whole systems concept to develop our strategy for watershed retrofit and rehabilitation.’
“A legacy of past community planning and infrastructure servicing practices is the water balance of urban watersheds is out of balance. Asset management is the lens for bringing land development and infrastructure servicing practice into line with science-based understanding,” concluded Kim Stephens.
To Learn More:
Visit “The key to the Whole Systems approach is understanding the integrated significance of the three flow paths in a watershed,” says Chris May, Kitsap County to read a comprehensive article posted on the Rainwater Management community-of-interest.