Towards Watershed Sustainability: What Happens on the Land Matters (Beyond the Guidebook 2015)
What Happens on the Land Matters
“During the late 1960s, BC began its multi-faceted and ongoing journey towards sustainability. By the 1980s, local governments were given enabling legislation to protect the environment,” states Erik Karlsen, former Director of Regional Growth Strategies, BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs.
“By the mid-1990s, local governments were given new legislation for Regional Growth Strategies and Official Community Plans as well as improved tools for environmental protection, particularly in relation to salmonid ecosystems.”
“During this period, and in the early 2000s, inter-governmental partnerships were formed to address environmental challenges; and were supported by protocol agreements between the Province and the Union of BC Municipalities.”
In the post-2000 era, milestone years (from a water / watershed sustainability perspective) are 2003, 2008 and 2014. A unifying theme for the three is ‘build greener communities’.
Build Greener Communities
Drought, forest fires and floods in 2003 created a ‘teachable year’ for change (scroll down to Figure 10 from Beyond the Guidebook 2015). The year began with destructive wind storms and deadly avalanches, followed by a summer of fire, an autumn of floods and an early winter with more record rains. The province’s year of weather misery and misfortune earned it a place at the top of Canada’s weather stories for 2003.
Heightened awareness of a changing climate led to the Water Sustainability Action Plan for BC, released in February 2004. The main goal was to encourage province-wide implementation of fully integrated water sustainability policies, plans and programs.
The Action Plan created a partnership umbrella for aligning actions at three scales – provincial, regional and local. Action Plan success helped to lay the groundwork for the Living Water Smart and Green Communities initiatives in 2008.
2008 – Call to Action:
The 45 actions and targets in Living Water Smart, BC’s Water Plan establish expectations vis-à-vis how land will be developed (or redeveloped) and how water will be used. The Green Communities Initiative complements Living Water Smart and comprises plans, strategies and enabling tools to achieve the land and water stewardship vision. The two initiatives constituted a call to action to:
- prepare communities for a changing climate;
- choose to live water smart; and
- strive to build greener communities.
2014 – Game-Changers Enable Action:
The 2008 ‘call to action’ resulted in three landmark initiatives. These came to fruition in 2014. Together, they provide a platform for integrated actions that achieve the Watershed Health Goal.
Develop with Care 2014: Environmental Guidelines for Urban and Rural Land Development in British Columbia, released in March, makes the link between environmental function and resilience as communities grow.
The Water Sustainability Act, passed in May 2014, makes the link between land use actions and desired water balance outcomes.
Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework, released in December 2014, makes the link between local government services, the infrastructure that supports the delivery of those services, and watershed health.