British Columbia and Cape Breton partnerships collaborate to implement “Water Balance Express for Membertou First Nation” (capture, sink & slow rainwater runoff)
Note to Reader:
The Pitu’paq Partnership has been in existence since 2001, is incorporated as a society, and is a nationally unique forum for collaboration on the part of the five Mi’kmaq communities and five non-First Nation communities of Cape Breton Island.
Under the umbrella of the federal Climate Change Adaptation Program, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC is working with the Pitu’paq Partnership to implement the ‘Water Balance Express’ for the Membertou First Nation. Use of this online decision support tool will help inform urban land development decisions in the industrial heartland of Cape Breton.
What Happens on the Land Matters!
“The Water Balance Express is an online tool that helps landowners quantify how well their properties capture, sink and slow rainwater runoff and do their share to meet pre-set watershed targets for volume, infiltration and flow. In other words, it is a decision tool for performance assessment of soil, rain gardens and cisterns for the purposes of ‘resilient rainwater management’. The Water Balance Express is integrated with Google Maps / Earth and the land use zoning of partner local governments,” states Ted van der Gulik, President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC, and the former Senior Engineer in the BC Ministry of Agriculture.
Pacific Coast-Atlantic Coast Collaboration
“The impetus for our two partnerships coming together around the Water Balance Express reflects the common philosophy of increased decision-making strength through collaboration and strategic application of technology to inform and educate those whose decisions and actions impact on land and water.”
“Use of the Water Balance Express promotes learning of both WHY and HOW we must look holistically at watersheds as integrated systems. Use of the Express will help landowners better understand the implications of their decisions. What happens on the land matters! The ultimate goal is to protect the hydrologic integrity of the three pathways (surface, interflow and groundwater) by which rainfall reaches streams,” emphasizes Ted van der Gulik.
Pitu’paq Partnership Demonstrates a Cross-Cultural Blend of Governance Approaches
The Pitu’paq Partnership learned early that in order to make good decisions about water, it needed to think like water. Water does not know boundaries of politics or culture, but it does hold the memory and tell the story of every contaminant we put into the land, air and water itself,” states Laurie Suitor, Senior Advisor to the Pitu’paq Partnership.
Collaboration Started With Protecting the Heath of the Bras d’Or Lakes
“Formed in 2001, the Pitu’paq Partnership is a unique collaboration of Mi’kmaq and non-MI’kmaq communities in Cape Breton Island, forming ten communities in all, who meet once a month to address issues of mutual environmental concern. Originally brought together to work on sewage discharge issues into the Bras d’Or Lakes, a unique inland sea, the Pitu’paq Partnership has evolved to adopt ten sustainability principles that change how we think about broader environmental issues.”
A Guiding Principle is Respect for Each Other
“Providing a forum for open discussion that would not otherwise occur, the collaboration conducts its business on a blend of Mi’kmaq and non-Mi’kmaq governance approaches, utilizing both consensus and formal motions in decision making. When we respect each other, and respect the resource we are trying to protect, then our decision making becomes deeper in knowledge, and grounded in something other than our immediate interests. It is not technology that will save us, it will be good decision making”, concludes Laurie Suitor.
The Inter-Generational Test of Time
According to Laurie Suitor, the Pitu’paq Partnership believes that there is a need to develop a perspective on governance issues that will stand through the generations.
Collaboration is THE Way of Doing Business
As noted by Ike Paul, a member of the Pitu’paq leadership and councillor for Membertou First Nation: “In the time that I have been with the Pitu’paq Partnership, I have been impressed by the degree of integrity, passion and commitment that the members bring to the table. When the partnership was formed, such collaborations were new, but they have now become the way of doing business, a mark of how these partnerships can change governance.”
“Having a forum to safely address issues we face, and share our perspectives on how best to solve them, has helped us to be a partnership focused on action, rather than paper. Our emerging relationship with the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC is a natural progression in our collaborations, and we are very pleased to be working with them to apply the Water Balance Model to stormwater management planning.”
A Look Ahead
“Pitu’paq is a unique initiative that has brought together municipalities and First Nations communities to discuss their mutual concerns about water. It is the only forum that has brought together municipal and First Nation leaders on a regular basis. I believe that the success of this collaboration will lead to more joint initiatives and opportunities,” adds Dan Christmas, Senior Advisor, Membertou First Nation.
A Focus on Action
Shirley McNamara, Richmond County Councillor and municipal Co-Chair of Pitu’paq states: “When I first became involved with Pitu’paq, I was unsure what to expect. The Pitu’paq Partnership has become one of my favourite committees to be part of, largely because we roll up our sleeves and get to work. We are very pleased to be part of this national partnership; Pitu’paq succeeds because we support each other’s strengths, and share a common goal.”
Look at a Watershed as a Whole System
Protection of watershed health starts with an understanding of how water gets to a stream from individual sites, how long it takes, and whether there are impacts along the way.
A systems approach to watershed health and protection recognizes that actions on the land have consequences for the three pathways to streams and hence the Water Balance of the watershed. Those consequences are felt in both dry weather and wet weather – too much or too little water, respectively.
The Water Balance Methodology is applied to develop watershed-based targets (for volume, infiltration and flow) that are used to populate the Water Balance Express.
To Learn More:
For those who are curious about the scientific and engineering foundation for British Columbia’s Water Balance approach, click on Primer on Water Balance Methodology for Protecting Watershed Health.
To learn more about British Columbia’s Water Balance approach will be implemented in the coming years, click on Watermark magazine article initiates branding of “Sustainable Service Delivery for Watershed Systems”.