FLASHBACK TO 2006: Cochrane Innovations in Urban Development Conference introduced Alberta audience to the Water Balance Model

Note to Reader:

The Cochrane Environmental Action Committee (CEAC) in partnership with the Town of Cochrane hosted a LowImpact Development (LID) conference from October 18 to 21, 2006. The program included a pre-conference workshop on the Water Balance Model for Canada. For program details, DOWNLOAD HERE. 


Land Development and Watershed Protection Can Be Compatible

A pre-conference workshop on the Water Balance Model attracted an audience of over 90 in Cochrane, Alberta in October 2006. Municipal representatives from communities throughout Alberta attended.

Cochrane RanchhouseThe workshop was held in conjunction with Innovations in Urban Development, a conference on Low Impact Development hosted by the Town of Cochrane. The conference venue was the Cochrane Ranchhouse.

To Learn More:

To download a copy of the PowerPoint presentation that guided the day, please click on Water Sustainability and “Green” Subdivision Design: Land Development and Watershed Protection can be Compatible .

Cochrane workshop - crowd scene1

ALIDP logo


The workshop was organized by the Alberta Low Impact Development Partnership (ALIDP) as part of its outreach and continuing education program. The workshop program was developed and delivered in collaboration with British Columbia’s Water Balance Model Partnership.

Liliana Bozic_City of Calgary_Sept2005_120pAccording to Liliana Bozic (City of Calgary Water Resources), ALIDP Co-Chair, “The ALIDP  Steering Committee has been working hard on initiatives to identify and respond to the needs of stakeholders to increase the exchange of ideas and to provide practical information on low impact development initiatives to improve watershed health in Alberta.”

“We were excited that the team of Kim Stephens, Doug Backhouse and Richard Boase from British Columbia came to Alberta to do an online demonstration of the Water Balance Model. The Cochrane Conference provided Albertans with an opportunity to see this entertaining team in action. Kim, Doug and Richard provided value because of the way they engage and interact with their audiences.”


Why a  Conference in Cochrane

According to Tim Giese, Conference Chair, “The conference provided opportunities for planners, developers, town councils, policy makers and other attendees to gain a better understanding of low impact development concepts and successful real-life initiatives.”

“In late 2005, the conference started as the topic of discussions in Cochrane concerning the need to protect our escarpments, riparian areas, groundwater supplies and the Bow River watersheds during development.”

“We needed to find out what other municipalities were doing to address pollution of waterways, riparian setbacks, and technological advances in rainwater management. We needed to understand how to deal with the impacts of development and try to minimize those impacts.”

“As we pursued the dialogue with colleagues in the region, we learned that we shared a thirst for information, strategies and examples of successful applications of Low Impact Development.”

To Learn More:

Download the program for the Cochrane Innovations in Urban Development Conference


Change in Thinking Started at Okotoks

The Cochrane Conference built on the interest and momentum generated by the 2004 Okotoks Conference, the first Low Impact Development event to be organized in Alberta.

The Okotoks Conference was the catalyst for formation of the Alberta Low Impact Development Partnership (ALIDP) and creation of an inter-provincial partnership with British Columbia to share tools and lessons learned.

The pre-conference workshop provided an opportunity for the British Columbia team of Kim StephensDoug Backhouse and Richard Boase to inform Albertans about the benefits of the water balance way-of-thinking.

The workshop was structured around an online demonstration of the Water Balance Model for Canada. Interactive segments were designed to engage and challenge the audience.The tag-team approach maintained a high-energy level throughout the 4-hour duration of the workshop.

The Water Balance Model is one of a number of partnerships that are being advanced under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia.

CochraneConf_Oct2006_workshop program

Workshop Overview

Kim stephens“Because infrastructure design is in a major sea-change”, stated Kim Stephens, “Our objective in doing a workshop of this kind was to create the buzz, the interest and energy to image what the future could look like and then make it happen.”

Because the workshop was a half-day event, we designed it as an online ‘show-and-tell’ demonstration of the Water Balance Model. We hoped that this would create interest in taking hands-on training in a computer lab as a workshop outcome.”

“At Cochrane, we engaged the audience with what we call the ‘Design with Nature Gameshow’. We have found that this is a powerful way to educate practitioners about the benefits of the water balance way-of-thinking,” concluded Kim Stephens.

Bert van duinBert van Duin, workshop team leader and member of the ALIDP Steering Committee, added that: “Overall, we received excellent feed-back on the format and contents of the conference, in general, and the workshop in particular. In fact, we received an invitation/request from several people that this conference should be repeated in the Edmonton region.”

CochraneConf_Oct2006_sea change

From Stormwater Management to Rainwater Management – “Think Beyond the Pond”

According to Bert van Duin, traditional stormwater management strategies and infrastructure in Alberta focused on designs and solutions that addressed flood management and public safety for 1 in 100 year storm events; and ensured moving and treating stormwater was convenient for urban planning and development.

CochraneConf_Oct2006_traditional thinking

So do you really think a stormwater pond is sufficient to meet all environmental protection needs?

Kim stephens & bert van duin, cochrane conferenceTo provide a frame of reference for the workshop, van Duin posed this question: “As long as we divert and treat runoff from new developments through stormwater ponds, won’t all environmental needs be met?”

He then illustrated why and how some of the creeks in urbanizing regions are showing accelerated stream erosion, yet the peak runoff rates are controlled to pre-development 1:100 flow rates.

CochraneConf_Oct2006_why erosion

A Partial Solution:

A key take-away message from the workshop was that conventional ponds for peak flow control are only a partial solution. The complete solution includes volume management. According to Richard Boase, “The emphasis on reducing rainwater runoff volume, by capturing it where the rain falls, provides the context for thinking beyond the pond in order to develop truly integrated solutions.