The District of North Vancouver's Bold Vision for a Municipality-Wide Integrated Rainwater Management Plan
Note to Reader:
The following story about the District of North Vancouver is extracted from Chapter 7 of Beyond the Guidebook 2010, released in June 2010. This water-centric guidance document tells the stories of how change is being implemented on the ground in British Columbia. To download a PDF copy of the article below, click on District-Wide ISMP for North Vancouver: Watershed Landscape Restoration Strategy
Catalyst for Action
The District of North Vancouver has a bold vision to systematically retrofit individual properties as they come up for redevelopment. The catalyst for pending action is the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ consequences for watershed health.
“Through our Official Community Plan Update, the District is advancing a vision for restoring the rainfall absorption capacity of our watersheds, one property at a time, over time,” states Richard Boase, the District’s Environmental Protection Officer.
Richard Boase is also Co-Chair of the Inter-Governmental Partnership that developed and is responsible for the Water Balance Model, a web-based decision support for evaluating the effectiveness of water-centric green infrastructure in reducing the ‘hydrologic footprint’ of urban development.
Risk to Watershed Health
“To draw attention to the urgent need for action on single-family residential properties, we have created a set of images to illustrate why and how watershed health is at risk. Mackay Creek is our case study.”
“The watershed is at maximum build-out; and is undergoing redevelopment as the older housing stock is replaced. We analyzed trends and examined specific properties to quantify the implications of an expanding house footprint. Within 20 years, 10 percent of the existing lots in the Mackay watershed could be redeveloped, with a consequent 25% increase in impervious area and 10% increase in annual runoff volume.”
“We are developing a set of prescriptive solutions that would reverse the trend. An absorbent topsoil layer is a fundamental building block. This is why the Water Balance Model team views the Topsoil Law and Policy and Technical Primer Set as a potentially powerful tool to help municipalities achieve a watershed restoration vision.”
Click on Turning a Risk into an Opportunity in the District of North Vancouver to view a redevelopment example.
Watershed Landscape Restoration Strategy
“The District of North Vancouver has observed the experience of other municipalities that have applied the ISMP Template. They have spent a lot of money to get reports that say spend more money. The District simply cannot afford to go down a path that leads to engineering solutions that are unaffordable and unrealistic.”
“We suspect the ISMP process as currently defined is beyond the District’s financial ability to undertake and implement. Yet we are faced with a looming 2012 deadline to have work done to meet our regulatory commitment under the region’s Liquid Waste Management Plan.”
“We need an outcome-oriented alternative to the ISMP Template, and we believe we have it with our proposed Watershed Landscape Restoration Strategy. This is our District-Wide ISMP, and we hope to implement it through the current OCP Update.”
ISMP is the acronym for Integrated Stormwater Management. Use of the ISMP term is unique to British Columbia. The City of Kelowna first used the term in 1998 to make a clear distinction between ‘suburban watershed management’ and the Province’s ‘integrated watershed management’ process for natural resource management in wilderness watersheds. This is an important distinction.
The intent of an ISMP is two-fold in scope: integrate engineering, planning and environmental perspectives; and facilitate holistic solutions to protect natural resources that are at risk. The unintended consequences of ISMPs completed to date have informed the course correction described in Beyond the Guidebook 2010.
To Learn More:
Click on Beyond the Guidebook 2010: ‘Urban Watershed’ Explained — ‘Urban watershed’ refers to drainage tributary areas within which zoning and land use are under the jurisdiction of a local government.
Click on Beyond the Guidebook 2010: Paradigm-shift from ISMP to ‘Integrated Rainwater Management Plan’ — Beyond the Guidebook 2010 describes the evolution of an integrated approach, one that envisions achieving water sustainability through implementation of green infrastructure policies and practices.
Click on Re-Focus Integrated Stormwater Management Plans on outcomes, recommends Metro Vancouver Reference Panel — Strategies and actions in ISMPs will impact on Metro Vancouver’s sustainability for generations to come. Hence, it is important to link those actions to a picture of a desired outcome.
“A key message is that the focus of this landscape-based strategy is on restoring ecological integrity. We are not talking about changing floor space ratios. We are just saying people have to pay closer attention to the surficial treatment of our watershed landscape.”
“Restoring and protecting our watersheds starts by changing the land ethic. Since this is about behaviour, we have to build from the ground up. This can be achieved by an holistic strategy that is keyed to cumulative and complementary steps. We start with the individual property and we move out from there,” concludes Richard Boase.
To Learn More:
Click on District of North Vancouver’s Bold Vision: Restore the Rainfall Capture Capacity of the Urban Landscape, One Property at a Time — The catalyst for pending action is the current incremental impact of property redevelopment on stream health. Urban watersheds have been experiencing death by a thousand cuts as the house footprint has grown larger and larger over the decades.
Click on Water Balance Model in the classroom: Richard Boase elaborates on new directions in urban watershed planning — Rainwater management is at the heart of water-centric green infrastructure. More emphasis on natural landscapes featuring better use of soils and vegetation can help improve watershed health in the urban environment.
Beyond the Guidebook 2010
In October 1997, a focus group workshop convened by UBCM set in motion a chain of outcomes that culminated in Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, released in June 2002. This was a catalyst for change that has resulted in British Columbia achieving international recognition as a leader in implementing green infrastructure.
Beyond the Guidebook 2010 is the story of what has been accomplished on the ground over the past decade, through partnerships and collaboration, under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia.
To Learn More:
Posted September 2010