2011 Water Balance Partners Forum: "ISMP Course Correction: Municipalities Can Achieve More With Less" – theme for regional capacity-building event hosted by Metro Vancouver (April 2011)


Forum Overview

Periodically, the Water Balance Model Partnership holds a WBM Partners Forum. According to Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, these gatherings typically serve two purposes:

  • provide an opportunity for local governments to reflect on what has been accomplished through alignment and collaboration; and
  • enable the leadership team to foreshadow where the inter-governmental initiative will lead next.

On April 7, Metro Vancouver hosted the 2011 Water Balance Model Partners Forum. It was conducted as an interactive sharing, learning and consultation session. This event:

  1. commenced the rollout of a new web platform and four new modules (stream erosion, water re-use, climate change, and tree canopy interception);
  2. showcased the vision for a homeowner version, namely the ‘WBM Express’; and
  3. elaborated on how the WBM, a scenario comparison and decision support tool, supports watershed-based planning.

The last ‘WBM Partners Forum’ was held in February 2008. Hosted by the District of North Vancouver, the focus of the 2008 Forum was on the integration of the web-based WBM user interface with the QUALHYMO calculation engine.


To download a copy of the Draft Agenda, click on ISMP Course Correction: Municipalities Can Achieve More With Less.

April 2011 – Dr. Charles Rowney explains modelling fundamentals at a Water Balance Model Partners Forum hosted by Metro Vancouver

April 2011 – Dr. Charles Rowney explains modelling fundamentals at a Water Balance Model Partners Forum hosted by Metro Vancouver

Context for an Integrated Approach

The Forum was an integral part of the rollout of Beyond the Guidebook 2010: Implementing a New Culture for Urban Watershed Protection and Restoration in British Columbia.

In the weeks preceding the Forum, the Partnership released a series of four articles that foreshadowed the information-transfer that would take place at the Forum. To download copies, click on the links below.

  1. Water Balance Model Partners Forum will showcase vision for WBM Express for Homeowners
  2. Water Balance Model Partners are charter members of the Partnership for Water Sustainability
  3. Community of Users Inform Platform Conversion for Water Balance Model
  4. Integrated Rainwater Management: Municipalities Can Achieve More With Less

The purpose of this integrated approach is to provide ‘how to’ guidance for developing outcome-oriented urban watershed plans, with emphasis on a necessary course correction for Integrated Stormwater Management Plans (ISMPs).

ISMP Course Correction

“The genesis for ISMPs was a desire to integrate the community, engineering, planning and environmental perspectives,” stated Robert Hicks, Senior Engineer in the Policy & robert-hicks_august-2012_120pPlanning Division at Metro Vancouver. He has been involved in the ISMP process from the beginning.

“The implicit goal was to build and/or rebuild communities in balance with ecology. Local governments knew they had to do business differently in order to protect and/or restore watershed health.”

What We Have Learned

“A decade ago, local governments were venturing into uncharted waters when undertaking ISMPs,” continued  Ted van der Gulik, Chair of the Water Balance Model ted-van-der-gulik-7_2012_120pPartnership.

“Now, the collective experience of the Bowker Creek Initiative (in the Capital Region), the City of Surrey and other pioneer leaders such as the District of North Vancouver serves as a guide for an approach that connects with the community and gets the watershed vision right.”

Connect the Dots

“During the period November-December 2010, the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia released a 5-part series about considerations driving a course correction in the way ‘Integrated Stormwater Management Plans’ (ISMPs) are undertaken,” explained Kim Stephens.

“As a result of collaborating on the series, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia and Asset Management BC are aligning their efforts to achieve a shared goal: connect the dots between land use planning, watershed health AND infrastructure asset management. 

To Learn More:

Download the Summary Report for ISMP Course Correction Series. It provides a consolidated reference source. The Summary Report is actually a compendium: a front-end plus all five documents in the ‘ISMP Course Correction Series’. The front-end is complete with a set of five recommendations.

To download a copy of the FRONT-END only, click here.

To access the 5-part series individually, click  here


Water Balance Model Powered by QUALHYMO

A recognized global authority in his fields of expertise, Dr. Charles Rowney brings a wealth of North American and international experience. He is the Scientific Authority for the Water Balance Model for British Columbia.

Charles rowney (160) at 2011 wbm partners forumDr. Rowney developed QUALHYMO, the calculation engine for the Water Balance Model.

At the 2011 Forum, he reported out on the implications of computing technology decisions.

In providing context for the strategy behind development of the Water Balance Model, Dr. Rowney’s theme was: “The Voice of Experience – What we now know about what drives a successful model”.


What are the impediments to success?

“I do a lot of talking around North America and elsewhere about models and model requirements,” stated Dr. Charles Rowney.

“As a result, I have been able to distil a synthesis of the opinions of several hundred people from all around the world who have done a lot of modelling.”

“Within this group are individuals who I consider to be the premier people in their field. When we discussed the question…what are the major issues?…seven themes emerged.”

Major Issues:

He identified the seven as follows in order of priority:

  1. Meeting Data Needs
  2. Inadequate Problem Formulation
  3. Time / Money
  4. State of Practice
  5. Understanding
  6. Questionable Need
  7. Forecast Condition

“The number one point of pain is meeting data needs. We have all heard the stories about a model such as HSPF with 30 or 40 parameters to adjust, and the best curve-fitting engine in the world, but we can’t find the data. We can’t make it work.”


The Uncertainty Cascade

Charles Rowney introduced his BC audience to a synthesis that he has coined as the Uncertainty Cascade. This mind-map comprises eleven steps that cascade down from a theory to interpretation of results:

  1. Theory
  2. Conceptual Model
  3. Mathematical Model
  4. Solution Algorithm
  5. Code
  6. Adjusted Algorithm
  7. Executable
  8. Site Representation
  9. Calibration
  10. Case Representation
  11. Interpretation

His key message was that that there is a preoccupation with theory, but the heavy lifting takes place in the last four steps. “We need to keep our focus on SOLUTIONS on the ground,” he repeatedly emphasized.


What We Now Know About What Drives a Successful Model

“If you take a look at what we are dealing with, we start off with a theory, we develop a conceptual model of that theory and how things work,” continued Dr. Rowney.

Development of Model:

“Next, we come up with a mathematical model that describes that concept, and we have a solution algorithm of some sort.”

“We write a bunch of computer code, we adjust that because the code never really does what we want it to, and we come up with an executable.”

“Then we start to represent the site and start putting all our data together. We calibrate and adjust our model with the data.”

Application of Model:

“Then we start to think about how we will look at our future case. And finally we start to interpret our results.”

“What I find interesting is that a lot of the discussion and arguments are about the theory and model. You will hear people make these kinds of statements:

I have a model that does this or does that; I can do a pipe this big or that big; I can do this kind of thing, I can do that kind of thing.”

“But when you start to think about how all this fits together, it becomes clear that all the heavy lifting is down at the other end.”

“The real problems and solutions come together when you look at the site and the data you have to represent what you have.”

Interpretation of Results:

“How do you compare the future condition that is very undefined with a calibrated tool that is very well defined? There is much that we do that has a place and purpose BUT sometimes is questionable.”

“One of the outcomes that we are really trying to push for is the ability to interpret results, and the ability to represent the cases that we are actually trying to solve. “

“We all need to place our emphasis on the data that we have available and the things that we can do to represent this reality. And after that, we need to pick our tools and solutions simply because they will solve that process.”

Focus on Solutions

“In summary, what we have learned is that we really need to look at things from the point of view of the solution.”

“As we have been working on the Water Balance Model, we have been orienting it to THE SOLUTION. We are keeping it as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

“The tool has to be consistent, inexpensive, and workable with limited data. It has to fit the local context, and it has to be able to evolve as we learn.

What is Really Necessary:

“What is it that we really want to solve? Where are we driving this? We are trying to come up with a solution. Once we have figured out the solution that we need, we need to come up with tools that do that and no more and no less.”

“We have ample horsepower to pick just about any theory we want and put it inside the Water Balance tool. But what we really need to focus on is what are the solutions that are really necessary.”


Bridge Between Scales of Need

“There are two levels of thinking swirling around in this room today.”

“At one level is the broad scale of planning where we look at how and where we might go tomorrow – for example, how do we view the watershed and what we might do to protect receiving waters.”

“And at the other end, the need to eventually put something on or in the ground.”

“We need to bridge those two kinds of needs.”

Fit the Local Context:

“With the Water Balance Model, we have a tool in a platform that is designed to do just that. As we go forward with model development, we need to know more and more about that polarity.”

“At one end, it is about where are we going to take this tool. At the other end, lot by lot by lot, it is about how we put things in the ground to ensure they work.”

“What we have learned is that we really need to take a look at this from the point of view of the solution. So, as we have been working on this Water Balance Model tool, we have been orienting it to THE SOLUTION.”

“We only go as complicated as is necessary. We strive to make the tool as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

“It has to be consistent, cheap and workable with limited data. It has to fit the local context; and it has to evolve because we are not at the end point today. The Water Balance Model will continue to grow and adapt over time,” concluded Dr. Rowney.