LAND DEVELOPMENT AND WATERSHED PROTECTION CAN BE COMPATIBLE: “1997, a presentation on the science of land use change by Kim Stephens and Bill Derry helped an inter-ministry working group realize that we needed more than a setback to protect aquatic habitat. The science shows that communities also need to tackle what is happening on the land that drains to streams,” stated Peter Law, Chair of the former Guidebook Steering Committee, on the 20th anniversary of Guidebook publication (June 2022)

Note to Reader:

Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the Living Water Smart vision. Storylines accommodate a range of reader attention spans. Read the headline and move on, or take the time to delve deeper – it is your choice!  Downloadable versions are available at Living Water Smart in British Columbia: The Series.

The edition published on June 7, 2022 featured Peter Law and the “story behind the story” of Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, released in June 2002. Without Peter Law, there would have been no Guidebook. Peter saw the need, garnered support within government, and was hands-on in shepherding the Guidebook from inception to completion.

Restore the ‘natural Water Balance’ to stabilize streams, restore aquatic habitat, and sustain summer streamflow

“Rollout of the Fish Protection Act in 1997 was the catalyst for my collaboration with Peter Law over the past 25 years. At the time, Peter was a member of the inter-ministry working group tasked with developing the streamside protection regulation. A defining moment was a consultation workshop hosted by the Union of BC Municipalities in October 1997,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Partnership Executive Director.

“Washington State’s Bill Derry and I presented what were soon known as the ‘fish pictures’. One of the first stormater utility managers, Bill Derry chaired a local government committee that was instrumental in founding a research centre at the University of Washington.  Their mission was to understand and correlate changes on the landscape with impacts on stream system condition.”

“Bill’s committee framed eight key questions. These then defined areas of research by graduate students under the guidance of Dr. Richard Horner. Chris May then pulled together this original research in his PhD dissertation. His doctoral work is the foundation that the Partnership continues to build on as our understanding of the science grows.”

TO LEARN MORE, click on: Mimic the Natural Water Balance

How the Stormwater Guidebook journey began

“When the inter-ministry working group was developing the streamside protection regulation in 1997, the presentation on the science of land use change by Kim Stephens and Bill Derry helped us realize that we needed more than a setback to protect aquatic habitat,” stated Peter Law.

“The science showed that communities also needed to tackle what was happening on the land that drains to streams. This realization set in motion two parallel paths, the Streamside Protection Regulation which eventually became the Riparian Area Regulation (RAR) and Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia. The focus of streamside setbacks is to protect fish and fish habitat.”

“For the Guidebook path, I found the opportunity to ‘look beyond the stream’ and address poor water quality from drainage runoff in the Waste Management Act. The opportunity resided in the non-point source provision for Liquid Waste Management Plans (LWMP). The term non-point source pollution, or NPS, was used by my colleagues in the Waste Management Branch to highlight poor quality of runoff from developed and/or developing lands – that is, ‘stormwater’.”

But the NPS provision was not being applied to the issue of how land is developed. So, I asked my colleagues, why not use this mechanism to connect the dots between changes to the land and impacts on streams?


The Guidebook premise is that land development and watershed protection can be compatible, BUT ONLY IF communities apply systems thinking and Design With Nature to restore the natural water balance.

To read the complete story published on June 7th 2022, download a PDF copy of “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Land Development and Watershed Protection Can  Be Compatible”.