Category:

Leading Change

LOOK AT RAIN DIFFERENTLY: “How will communities ‘get it right’ as land develops and redevelops?” asks Peter Law, President, Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (Asset Management BC Newsletter, February 2019)


“The way we have historically developed and drained land has disconnected hydrology from ecology. The consequences of this disconnect are more erosion and flooding, loss of baseflow and aquatic habitat, and an unfunded infrastructure liability for stream stabilization. Communities have for the most part failed to properly address root causes of ‘changes of hydrology’, as well as subsequent impacts of those changes on natural creekshed function,” states Peter Law.

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Michigan’s Struggles to Fund Stormwater Infrastructure: “The pipes that we put in the ground 50 years ago were designed under a different set of criteria,” said engineer Greg Kacvinsky


As problems of flooding and overflow become more common, communities butt up against the reality of having to pay for repairs and improvements. “And so when rainfall changes, and when climate changes, the system doesn’t provide the same level of service that it used to. Where communities used to be able to rely on money coming down, or raining down, from the federal government, now the federal government is there to say, we’ll give you money…but you’re gonna pay us back. Paying more for infrastructure and utilities is the new reality,” Greg Kacvinsky said.

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HOW CITIES CAN MAKE ROOM FOR WATER: “Understanding the water cycle is an opportunity to generate a positive relationship between natural processes, plants and people,” stated Elisa Palazzo


“Innovative strategies understand flood as a natural process to work with, rather than resist. Non-structural, soft and nature-based solutions to flood adaptation are replacing centralised and engineered technologies. These projects use climate change positively to provide multiple added benefits,” wrote Elisa Palazzo. “Looking at how cities are designed and performing in Australia, there is plenty to learn from the international experience. We have a lot to do to adjust this knowledge to the local context.”

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“Nothing will provide 100 per cent protection against the potential losses from urban floods, but planning ahead reduces the odds that you will be flooded and may reduce your costs when a flood does occur,” says Michael Drescher, University of Waterloo


“Wild weather seems increasingly widespread these days. Cities are especially vulnerable to extreme weather, meaning that many of us will end up paying for the damage it can cause. But how much we pay — and when — is largely up to us. We could, for example, pay now to prepare ourselves and limit future damage, or we can pay later to repair our properties and restore the environment,” wrote Michael Drescher.

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SPONGE CITIES: “It’s important to make friends with water. We can make a water protection system a living system,” stated Kongjian Yu, the landscape architect who is famous for being the man who reintroduced ancient Chinese water systems to modern design


Kongjian Yu is best known for his “sponge cities”. President Xi Jinping and his government have adopted sponge cities as an urban planning and eco-city template. “The mottos of the sponge city are: Retain, adapt, slow down and reuse,” stated Kongjian Yu. “Based on thousands of years of Chinese wisdom, the first strategy is to contain water at the origin, when the rain falls from the sky on the ground. We have to keep the water.” Yu’s designs aim to build resilience in cities faced with rising sea levels, droughts and floods.

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FLASHBACK TO 2010: “Beyond the Guidebook 2010 showcases how a ‘convening for action’ culture has taken root in British Columbia. Bringing together local government practitioners in neutral forums has enabled implementers to collaborate as regional teams,” observed Glen Brown


“In 2005, we said that the Guidebook would be the ‘telling of the stories’ of how change is being implemented on-the-ground in BC. Before the chapters could be written, however, the regional case studies had to run their course,” stated Glen Brown. “Five years later, this is the story of how we got to here and where we are going next. Similar to the way the 2002 Guidebook is structured, Beyond the Guidebook 2010 is written in a way that provides the whole story for those that want it, or just key tidbits for others.”

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Embracing Shared Responsibility & Leading Change on Vancouver Island: “A paramount goal is to ‘get it right’ in the stream channel,” reports Peter Law, Vice-President, Mid Vancouver Island Enhancement Society


“MVIHES has morphed from ‘Stewards of the Englishman River Recovery Plan’ to ‘Stewards of the Watershed’. The Shelly Creek Plan is a provincial precedent. Community-driven action can restore watershed hydrology, prevent erosion and ensure fish survival,” stated Peter Law. “The challenge for MVIHES is to facilitate the community’s journey from awareness to action, expressed as follows: Once a community as a whole acknowledges that there is a problem, and also understands why there is a problem, what will the community do about it?”

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FLASHBACK TO 2015: Release of “Beyond the Guidebook 2015” drew attention to what Watershed Health issue means in practice and provincial game-changers that enable local government action in British Columbia


In British Columbia, three landmark provincial initiatives came to fruition in 2014. All embody the enabling philosophy. “Looking into the future, collaboratively developed Water Sustainability Plans can integrate water and land use planning and can be combined with other local, regional or provincial planning processes to address water-related issues. “The scale and scope of each plan – and the process used to develop it – would be unique, and would reflect the needs and interests of the watersheds affected,” states Jennifer Vigano.

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BLUEPRINT COLUMBUS – Clean Streams, Strong Neighborhoods: "One of the most exciting aspects to Blueprint is its creativity. Blueprint attacks the root problem by addressing the rain water that is entering the sewer system," stated Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman


“The City was concerned that building 28 miles of tunnels to eliminate Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) was of questionable value, because SSOs are such a small volume of overflows compared to Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs). The proposed tunnels would cost approximately $2 billion and only be used 4 or 5 times a year,” stated Mayor Michael Coleman. “Blueprint Columbus will be significantly better for the environment.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2009: “Our goal in constantly improving the Water Balance Model is to serve an ever widening range of user sophistication and problem-solving capabilities," stated Ted van der Gulik when he announced the plan for implementing a $500,000 program over 3 years


“Among the many enhancements that will be implemented over the next three years are capabilities not currently available in commercial software,” stated Ted van der Gulik. “The rapid growth and success of the present second generation model has made it clear that the time has come for the next bold leap forward in the evolution of our web-based tool.”

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