FLASHBACK TO 2003: “To provide a feedback loop for the Stormwater Planning Guidebook, the Regional District of Nanaimo developed and applied the At-Risk Methodology through a knowledge-based approach,” stated John Finnie, former General Manager of Environmental Services

Note to Reader:

In 2002, the provincial government released Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British ColumbiaThis established a new direction for urban hydrology and drainage engineering:

If we manage the runoff volume, and if we mimic the natural flow pattern in streams, then we can… prevent increased stream erosion, prevent increased risk of flooding, and protect aquatic habitat.

One of the early articles written about the Guidebook was by Geoff Gilliard. In 2003, he described how the work of two local governments had provided case study content for the Guidebook. The contribution by the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) is described below.

Eliminate the Root Cause of Impacts

“For most of the last century, land development in our communities has followed the same general pattern: clear the trees, put in roads and subdivisions, and direct the runoff into the nearest stream or storm sewer. But pipes carrying runoff speed the flow of stormwater, often creating erosion and downstream flooding,” wrote Geoff Gilliard in an article published in Spring 2003.

“Many local governments are under pressure to protect streamside property that is threatened by stormwater development. The new Stormwater Planning Guidebook for BC gives municipal land planners and engineers a tool to help make land development compatible with stream protection.”

“The Guidebook offers a new approach to stormwater management that eliminates the root cause of ecological and property impacts by designing for the complete spectrum of rainfall events.”

“The Stormwater Planning Guidebook uses a series of case studies to illustrate solutions to stormater problems.”

To Learn More:

To read the complete article written by Geoff Gilliard in Spring 2003, and published in Input Magazine by the Real Estate Institute of BC, download A recipe for stormwater management – The Stormwater Planning Guidebook helps make land develolpment compatible with stream protection

Reference: Chapter 5, Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia

Setting Priorities for Early Action

The Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) undertook a watershed assessment process that provided the Guidebook process with a feedback loop. The RDN case study experience was then incorporated in the Guidebook as two chapters:

The RDN was the demonstration region for applying a Knowledge-Based Approach and testing a methodology for prioritizing action that focuses on low-cost results by getting the right people together in working sessions.

“The most effective and affordable way to identify at-risk watersheds for priority action is to tap the knowledge of people within any regional district or municipality who have the necessary planning, ecology and engineering knowledge,” stated John  Finnie in 2002. In his capacity as General Manager of Environmental Services for the RDN, he led the RDN process and was a member of the Stormwater Guidebook Steering Committee.

“The knowledge-based mapping products from three focused working sessions (land use, ecology and engineering) fed into an interdisciplinary roundtable.  This roundtable is where representatives from the three focused working sessions overlaid key information on future land use, aquatic resources and drainage problems to identify at-risk drainage catchments and prioritize action.

“The interdisciplinary roundtable was especially appropriate for a jurisdiction such as the RDN that has multiple watersheds.  It need not be, and should not be, a lengthy process, especially if the goal is to achieve early action.  The objective is to make initial decisions based on informed judgement.”

At-Risk Methodology

“If the right people with the right knowledge are involved at the start, a knowledge-based approach will be both time-efficient and cost-effective,” continued John Finnie.

“Priority action should be focused in at-risk drainage catchments where there is both high pressure for land use change and a driver for action.  The latter can be either:

  • a high-value ecological resource that is threatened, or
  • an unacceptable drainage problem

“It is important to focus on areas of land use change because this is where problems can be turned into opportunities.  Land use change is the root cause of stormwater’s ecological and property impacts, and this root cause can be eliminated through land development practices that reduce the volume and rate of runoff at the source.  Local governments also usually have jurisdiction over, and focus their attention on, areas experiencing land use change.”

“To support the Guidebook process, the RDN took the lead in developing and applying the At-Risk Methodology. Through a workshop process, we integrated knowledge from each of the engineering, planning and ecological perspectives. The process identified 12 priority catchment as candidate areas for future integrated stormwater planning initiatives.”

“We may have some challenges in selling the concepts to some stakeholders. We are trying to change the nature of the way people have done things for years. So we have to provide opportunities for people to understand what we are trying to do and why.”

RDN Drinking Water & Watershed Protection Program

“In February 2003, a staff report to the Board crystallized the Action for Water vision,” recalled John Finnie in the RDN section of Beyond the Guidebook 2015. “The 2003 report is a valuable historical document, and built on what the RDN had initiated through participation in the Guidebook development process. Not only did it consolidate various directives, it identified a strategy (and associated implications) for moving forward incrementally with the regional service area for the Drinking Water & Watershed Protection Program.

“In 2008, and as the outcome of a successful referendum, the RDN became the first regional government to create a drinking water and watershed protection service area with taxation authority in an electoral area. This was the culmination of a 6-year effort. In 2012, the service area was expanded to include the municipalities within the regional district and they became active participants in the watershed function.

“Looking back, the seeds for watershed-based action in the RDN were sown in the Guidebook process which unfolded during 2001 and 2002. For this reason, we say that the RDN’s‘Drinking Water & Watershed Protection Program’ had its genesis in Guidebook process, and those seeds have flowered over time.”

To Learn More:

Download Rainwater Management: An Introduction to the Guidebook for British Columbia

To read the entire document, download  Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia.

Read Convening for Action in the Regional District of Nanaimo: Charting a New Course to a Sustainable Water Future