Rainwater Management in a Watershed Context – What's the Goal?

The article by Kim Stephens and Jim Dumont is a thoughtful review of the divergent goals of rainwater management in the US and Canada written from a British Columbia perspective. The two critical policy differences the article addresses are in geography and governance. In British Columbia, protection of aquatic habitat is paramount and this is approached from the bottom-up with a reliance on education. The American approach is a top-down strategy that focuses on water quality. Dumont and Stephens acknowledge the landmark research done by Richard Horner and Chris May at the Center for Urban Water Resources Management at the University of Washington in 1996. Their research rattled the conventional wisdom of rainwater management of the time. They identified four factors that negatively affect stream health. In rank order they were: (1) Changes in hydrology; (2) Disturbance and/or loss of integrity of riparian corridor; (3) Degradation and/or loss of aquatic habitat within the stream; and (4) Deterioration of water quality. The two key messages delivered by this research was that (1) fish would already be gone by the time pollutant loading is a factor; and (2) if we get the hydrology right, water quality will typically take care of itself. Policymakers in Canada and particularly British Columbia have taken this research to heart in regards to planning for watershed health. The authors lament the US EPA’s focus on water quality, but see hints of the Agency moving in the right direction in recent years with the release of such reports as the National Lakes Assessment and A Strategic Agenda to Protect Waters and Build More Livable Communities Through Green Infrastructure.

Author Kim Stephens & Jim Dumont

Publisher Stormwater Magazine

Date November – December 2011