A VIEW FROM OUTSIDE BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Bound by geography, invested in salmon protection, and connected to the natural environment, the Metro Vancouver region has spent time fostering new green infrastructure for rainwater management,” stated Charles Axelesson, PhD candidate at the University of Venice, when reflecting on readings and discussions with people in the Metro Vancouver region


The edition of Waterbucket eNews published on January 26, 2021 featured the story of Charles Axelsson and his doctoral research at the University of Venice. His PhD thesis is Adaptation through Policy: Climate Change induced Heavy Rainfall Events and Flash Flooding. By focusing on Metro Vancouver, New York City, Auckland, Sydney, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam he plans to capture a global picture of rainwater management and green infrastructure policy.

Communicating with Plain Language is a Guiding Principle

“NYC, Vancouver, Sydney, Auckland, Copenhagen and Amsterdam present differing narratives toward pluvial flooding,” reports Charles Axelsson. The European cities craft a unique policy narrative of being innovators and pioneers in rainfall management. They take a very intensive approach to stormwater management,” stated Charles Axelsson, a final year PhD candidate at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice studying the Science and Management of Climate Change.

Originally from Iceland, he grew up in NYC and Washington, D.C. before pursuing his undergraduate degree in Geography (BSc) at University College London. He continued with his masters in London in Environmental Technology (MSc) at Imperial College London. In November 2020, the first set of findings from his doctoral work were published in the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management.

Urban Policy Adaptation / Initial Findings

“The North American cities do not present a unified vision of stormwater management. Alongside efforts to incorporate sustainable and environmental management into the stormwater management network, NYC remains a large city of competing interests. On the other hand, Vancouver has embraced an image of environmental friendliness and constructs a narrative of rainfall management full of ‘green’ improvements.”

“In Australasia, the city management differences are reflected in the fundamental environmental problems; Sydney is too dry, and Auckland is too wet.”

A View from Outside British Columbia

“My experience with British Columbia has so far been fantastic. While my focus is on the City of Vancouver, there is a consistent policy thread of integrated rain/stormwater management programs in the Metro Vancouver region today. Whether it is a case of branding forcing policy, or policy forming branding there is a clear focus in the province today on green technology, solutions, and environmental protections,” continued Charles Axelsson.

“While Vancouver may not have been the first municipality in the province to focus on green infrastructure policies, nor the recognized leader in rainwater management practices, the progress the city has made is nonetheless important and influential for British Columbia.”

“On the global stage it is these large, alpha cities that gather and discuss the urban world. In this way Vancouver acts as a global ambassador for the province. All the time and investments made in throughout the larger Metro Vancouver region as allowed the city of Vancouver to be globally admired as an environmental urban success story and by extension, the larger area as a regional environmental success story creating a ‘green’ reputation the whole region benefits from.”

Landscape-Based Solutions

“Through my readings and discussions with people in the Metro Vancouver region, I have found that there is a sense of pragmatism among researchers, urban managers, and advocates. There is an openness and not only an admission but the acceptance that the existing green policies and practices they have now, particularly for replicating natural flow patterns in urban streams, may not hold all the answers. Even the natural world is sometimes overwhelmed by rainfall.”

“Instead, there is a direct discussion on how to maximize greener solutions but support them with our existing infrastructure and knowledge base. This is vital for climate change adaptations as we need to plan for 50 to100 years into the future while simultaneously solving the problems of tomorrow.”

“Bound by geography, invested in salmon protection, and connected to the natural environment, the Metro Vancouver region has spent time fostering new green infrastructure for rainwater management. I look forward to continuing my research with the City of Vancouver and the larger metro region to see how the policy framework of today develops in the future,” concluded Charles Axelsson.


To read the complete article, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Communicating with Plain Language is a Guiding Principle.