Watershed Case Profile Series: Creating the Future in the City of Coquitlam


Note to Reader:

The Coquitlam story is the second in a series of Watershed Blueprint Case Profiles published by the Partnership for Water Sustainability. The purpose of the series is to inform and facilitate inter-regional collaboration in the Georgia Basin. By telling the stories of those who are spearheading changes in practice, this helps other local governments eliminate the “disconnect between information and implementation” that may otherwise hold them back.

To download a copy of the Watershed Case Profile, click on Watershed Planning & Rainwater Management: Creating the Future in the City of Coquitlam.

Coquitlam Watershed Planning and Rainwater Management Article (Jan 2014)_cover

Build a Vision and Create a Legacy

Kim Stephens_Sep-2014_DSC_0495_120p“Bridging the gap between awareness and action in local government requires that three critical success factors be in alignment to build a vision and create a legacy: organizational and political commitment; internal champions who provide energy and leadership and stimulate willingness to change; and trust between individuals and departments,” observes Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia. “Over a long period of time, and in fact dating back to the mid-1990s, all three factors have been in play in the City of Coquitlam.

Balance Idealism with Pragmatism

Peter-Steblin_Coquitlam CAO_120p“We have arrived at a good place, but the journey has not been easy. In fact, we had to work our way through some pretty contentious periods. We persevered, we adapted and we progressed,” reflects Peter Steblin, City Manager.

“We want other local governments to know about the good, the bad and the ugly of the Coquitlam story so that they may learn from our experience and know that it is okay to stumble.”

“A decade ago, the City’s approach to watershed-based community planning and rainwater management was quite idealistic. It was also prescriptive and impractical. As a result, the City could not implement what was proposed. This resulted in significant complaints from the development community which, in turn, culminated in Council-Staff conflict.”

“With the advantage of hindsight, we now have an appreciation of the extent to which this conflict has defined the journey. There was a dark period yet that is what makes the Coquitlam story authentic and helped us to develop approaches which balance idealism with pragmatism.”

Implementing a Watershed-Based Approach to Community Planning

“An interesting aspect of Coquitlam’s story is that it demonstrates, on a local level, how attitudes and approaches in the Metro Vancouver region have evolved with watershed management and the recognition of rainwater as a resource,” reports Melony Burton, the City’s Watershed and Drainage Coordinator.  Since 2007, she has been the champion tasked with drainage utility planning and driving the ISMP process.Melony-Burton_Dec-2013_120p

“Going back to the 1990s, and the start of watershed-based planning approaches, Coquitlam has been involved in pilot projects that put these theories to the test. Since then they have continued to take concepts introduced regionally, and implement them incrementally, each effort building on the successes or lessons of the last. In the process, Coquitlam has learned by doing.”

Learn by Doing & Build on Experience

“Changing the way we do things means taking on new challenges and not always getting it entirely right the first time.  But all attempts generally have some salvageable elements to move forward on,” emphasizes Melony Burton.

“Over the past decade, the City has built on pragmatic experience in first securing political support for a watershed-based approach to community planning; and then developing, implementing and refining practical rainwater management applications that mimic the natural Water Balance.”

To Learn More:

The Table of Contents presents a section-by-section synopsis of the Coquitlam storyline and is written for the busy reader. The storyline is structured in three parts that address:

  • What (Part A)
  • So What (Part B)
  • Now What (Part C)

To download a copy of the Watershed Case Profile, click on Watershed Planning & Rainwater Management: Creating the Future in the City of Coquitlam.

Build Vision & Create Legacy_2014