FLASHBACK TO 2007: "Water Sustainability can be achieved through Green Infrastructure practices" – introduction of a transformational way of thinking

Note to Reader:

A decade ago, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC pioneered a hierarchy of ‘green’ vocabulary that included this transformational definition: Water Sustainability is achieved through Green Infrastructure practices that reflect a full and proper understanding of the relationship between land and water. The language of practitioners is evolving and a measure of the global influence of waterbucket.ca is that this definition is now widely accepted as conventional wisdom.

Creating a Legacy - BC_Sep2012_no border

Design with Nature to
Create a Legacy

A goal of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia is to advance this ‘new business as usual’: settlement, economy and ecology in balance. Commencing in 2003, consistent and repeated use of the phrase ‘design with nature’ has proven effective in facilitating a paradigm-shift in the local government setting.

The phrase is borrowed from the title of a seminal book by Ian McHarg, published in 1969. He was a renowned landscape architect and writer on regional planning using natural systems. His book Design with Nature pioneered the concept of ecological planning. Ian McHarg’s premise is simple: “that the shaping of land for human use ought to be based on an understanding of natural process.”

His philosophy was rooted in an ecological sensibility that accepted the interwoven worlds of the human and the natural, and sought to more fully and intelligently design human environments in concert with the conditions of setting, climate and environment.

Settlement, Economy and Ecology in Balance

“British Columbia communities enjoy many natural amenities that are in the resources bank and producing returns. Lakes, streams, sea coast, forests, topography, flora and fauna are assets,” writes Tim Pringle, former Partnership President (2010-2013). Tim pringle (120p)  - 2008 photo

“These assets enable communities to draw on nature for infrastructure services needed for the built environment.  By designing with nature, as it were, communities lessen and sometimes avoid the expense of engineering and building various kinds of infrastructure: “

“Settlement and ecology are equal values and they must be as much in balance as possible for wellbeing of human and natural systems. Settlement is human activity of any kind upon the land. It is habitation. Ecology is natural systems. It is water, climate, flora and fauna…and their relationships.”

“While we are very good at measuring settlement, mainly in financial terms, we have not been that effective in quantifying the ecological impacts. This disconnect in measuring what matters has historically resulted in an unbalanced approach when making development and infrastructure decisions.”

Hierarchy of ‘Green’ Vocabulary

To develop a common understanding plus help advance a new way-of-thinking about land development, the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia developed the following hierarchy of ‘green’ vocabulary:

  • Green Value means land use strategies will accommodate settlement needs in practical ways while protecting the ecological resources upon which communities depend.
  • Design with Nature is one approach to achieve Green Value, and is supportive of community goals that relate to building social capacity.
  • Green Infrastructure is the on-the-ground application of Design with Nature standards and practices.
  • Water Sustainability is achieved through Green Infrastructurepractices that reflect a full and proper understanding of the relationship between land and water.

This cascading vocabulary was unveiled at the Creating Our Future Workshop that was held in conjunction with the Gaining Ground Summit in Victoria in June 2007.