COMMUNICATING WITH PLAIN LANGUAGE IS A GUIDING PRINCIPLE: “What I am trying to discover in my thesis is what are the existing trends in urban stormwater policy within developed cities. One area I am particularly interested in is communication, or the lack thereof,” stated Charles Axelesson, PhD candidate, University of Venice


The edition of Waterbucket eNews published on January 26, 2021 featured the story of Charles Axelsson and his doctoral research at the University of Venice. His PhD thesis is Adaptation through Policy: Climate Change induced Heavy Rainfall Events and Flash Flooding. By focusing on Metro Vancouver, New York City, Auckland, Sydney, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam he plans to capture a global picture of rainwater management and green infrastructure policy.

Communicating with Plain Language is a Guiding Principle

“NYC, Vancouver, Sydney, Auckland, Copenhagen and Amsterdam present differing narratives toward pluvial flooding,” reports Charles Axelsson. The European cities craft a unique policy narrative of being innovators and pioneers in rainfall management. They take a very intensive approach to stormwater management,” stated Charles Axelsson, a final year PhD candidate at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice studying the Science and Management of Climate Change.

Originally from Iceland, he grew up in NYC and Washington, D.C. before pursuing his undergraduate degree in Geography (BSc) at University College London. He continued with his masters in London in Environmental Technology (MSc) at Imperial College London. In November 2020, the first set of findings from his doctoral work were published in the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management.

Urban Policy Adaptation / Initial Findings

“The North American cities do not present a unified vision of stormwater management. Alongside efforts to incorporate sustainable and environmental management into the stormwater management network, NYC remains a large city of competing interests. On the other hand, Vancouver has embraced an image of environmental friendliness and constructs a narrative of rainfall management full of ‘green’ improvements.”

“In Australasia, the city management differences are reflected in the fundamental environmental problems; Sydney is too dry, and Auckland is too wet.”

The View from Outside British Columbia

“My experience with British Columbia has so far been fantastic. While my focus is on the City of Vancouver, there is a consistent policy thread of integrated rain/stormwater management programs in the Metro Vancouver region today. Whether it is a case of branding forcing policy, or policy forming branding there is a clear focus in the province today on green technology, solutions, and environmental protections.”

“While Vancouver may not have been the first municipality in the province to focus on green infrastructure policies, nor the recognized leader in rainwater management practices, the progress the city has made is nonetheless important and influential for British Columbia.”

“On the global stage it is these large, alpha cities that gather and discuss the urban world. In this way Vancouver acts as a global ambassador for the province. All the time and investments made in throughout the larger Metro Vancouver region as allowed the city of Vancouver to be globally admired as an environmental urban success story and by extension, the larger area as a regional environmental success story creating a ‘green’ reputation the whole region benefits from.”


To read the complete article, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Communicating with Plain Language is a Guiding Principle.