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Showcasing British Columbia’s Watershed-Based Approach

WATERSHED CASE PROFILE SERIES: “A Beacon of Inspiration: Bowker Creek Blueprint and 100-Year Action Plan” – an inspirational story of intergenerational commitment by so many players to peel back the pavement, daylight an historical creek, and restore nature within the Victoria urban region on Vancouver Island (released September 2021)


“Technical knowledge is not enough. You learn that technical competence alone is not going to get you there. That is what I want to pass on to people. If you have a technical problem, it is relationships that matter most. Strong relationships help make the Bowker Creek Initiative agile. We need agility because we do not have the time and resources. At one level, all of us are too busy. At another level, and given the challenges posed by the issues of the day, we need to move on opportunities very quickly. Over a career, you do learn that it is all about understanding people. Technical knowledge is incidental sometimes,” stated Jody Watson.

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WATERSHED CASE PROFILE SERIES: “Drinking Water & Watershed Protection in the Nanaimo Region – Right People in Right Place at Right Time, Over Time” (released April 2021)


“The work of the Drinking Water and Watershed Protection program (DWWP) is strategic. It is community based, and makes links interdepartmentally and with external agencies. And that in itself is the super power of what we do. It does not fit into a box of what a usual local government service is or does. The objective and mission of the DWWP program has always been about connecting land and water management. But the RDN couldn’t just leap straight there. We first had to build partnerships, trust, datasets and knowledge. We had to test ideas, learn, earn credibility, and deepen relationships across jurisdictions,” stated Julie Pisani

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FLASHBACK TO 2014: “Coquitlam’s story demonstrates, on a local level, how attitudes and approaches in the Metro Vancouver region have evolved with watershed management and recognition of rainwater as a resource,” stated Melony Burton, co-author of Creating the Future in Coquitlam, second in the Watershed Case Profile Series that features communities leading by example in British Columbia


“Going back to the 1990s, and the start of watershed-based planning approaches, Coquitlam has been involved in pilot projects that put these theories to the test. Since then they have continued to take concepts introduced regionally, and implement them incrementally, each effort building on the successes or lessons of the last. In the process, Coquitlam learned by doing. Changing the way we do things means taking on new challenges and not always getting it entirely right the first time. But all attempts generally have some salvageable elements to move forward on,” stated Melony Burton.

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RECONNECTING HYDROLOGY & STREAM ECOLOGY IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: Historical context for an ecosystem-based approach to managing land and water in the urban environment – the coming together of a group of change agents in 1997 set in motion a chain of outcomes


The late Erik Karlsen conceived and championed the idea of a Watershed/Landscaped-Based Approach to Community Planning. His last assignment while in government was to collaborate with a Metro Vancouver interdisciplinary working group to produce the conceptual framework for the approach. The underpinning premise is that resource, land use and community design decisions will be made with an eye towards their potential impact on the watershed. is a prime application of the ‘watershed/landscape-based’ approach.

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WATERSHED CASE PROFILE SERIES: “Town of Comox – A ‘Beacon of Hope’ for Citizen Science in Action & Reconnecting Hydrology and Ecology through the Water Balance Approach to Land Development” (released September 2019)


“Utilities, roads, parks and recreation take up the bulk of a municipal budget. Once we made the mental transition to view ecological services as core municipal services, and looked at the municipal budget differently, we then asked ourselves: how can we do things better? We stopped work on the rainwater management plan and changed the plan focus to the Package of Ecological Services – how can we get the best package for them? All plan elements were redesigned; and residential density was concentrated to maximize public access,” stated Marvin Kamenz.

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NEW REPORT FROM INTACT CENTRE ON CLIMATE ADAPTATION: “Too Small to Fail – How Communities Can Prepare for Bigger Storms”


A featured project is the Across Canada Workshop Series, led by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, to showcase the online Water Balance Model Express. “The Partnership has many online tools for assessing site-specific conditions which are available for free or available through a free trial,” stated Dr. Blair Feltmate. “Whether a project team is interested in setting watershed-specific performance targets or a homeowner would like to learn about water flow on their property, there are tools for various types of projects which may be helpful at different stages of a project.”

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Watershed Case Profile Series: “Water Balance Approach on Vancouver Island” (released January 2018)


The storyline is built around three regional Water Balance Methodology demonstration applications. “To be useful…the simulation model must be physically based and deterministic, and it must be designed to simulate the entire hydrological cycle…hence it must be a water balance model,” wrote Ray Linsley (1917-1990). He pioneered development of continuous hydrologic simulation as the foundation for water balance modelling. The Water Balance Methodology is a synthesis of watershed hydrology and stream dynamics.

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Watershed Case Profile Series: Shelly Creek is the City of Parksville's last fish-bearing stream! (October 2017)


“Shelly Creek is a tributary of the Englishman River, a major watershed system on the east coast of Vancouver Island. Shelly Creek is important to salmonids,” wrote Kim Stephens. “In 1999 the Englishman River was first declared to be one of the most endangered rivers in BC. Extinction of the fisheries resource was viewed as a very real possibility. This was the catalyst for action. It resulted in creation of the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES).”

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Watershed Case Profile Series: Green Infrastructure Innovation in Langley Township – 'Design with Nature' to Create Liveable Neighbourhoods


Design with nature, a whole-system approach, learn by doing and adapt. These three phrases capture the essence of how the Township builds neighbourhoods. “There are many staff members that have made this happen,” stated Mayor Jack Froese. “Council makes policy and we approve policies. And then it is our wonderful staff that carry out the policies. And so, I certainly want to recognize the work that they have done.”

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YOUTUBE VIDEO: "What will you do differently when you leave this room?" – during his keynote address at Stormwater 2016, Kim Stephens challenged Australian water resource practitioners to 'convene for action'


“BC and Australia are on parallel journeys, but our pathways to a water-resilient future differ. Still, by sharing and comparing, we can inspire each other. Also, we can learn from each other’s experience to avoid going down dead-ends,” stated Kim Stephens. “In embarking on the journey to a water-resilient future, we can learn from our ancestors. The foundation for cathedral thinking is a far-reaching vision, a well thought-out blueprint, and long-term implementation.”

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