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Success Stories: Rainwater Champions & Innovators

GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE INNOVATION IN METRO VANCOUVER: “We were all trying to figure out what the ISMP was. And how it was different from a traditional Master Drainage Plan or Stormwater Management Plan,” stated Ray Fung, a retired Director of Engineering in local government, and former Chair of the Green Infrastructure Partnership


“In the 2000s, we were challenged with what the word integrated in ISMP meant. We already had modelling tools. But the difference was integrating them with policies, land use, the landscape, and a public engagement process. And so, we were all pioneers. But we lost momentum in the decade after 2010,” stated Ray Fung. “If you are talking about learnings, so what is the organizational learning? When we were trying to do stuff, we did not build in robust enough processes that would survive changes in personnel. Can we not learn to build on what people in the past have done?”

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SPONGE INFRASTRUCTURE AND ATMOSPHERIC RIVERS: “Planners are finding clever ways to capture stormwater, treating it as an asset instead of a liability,” wrote Matt Simon after the future fell on Los Angeles in February 2024


“As the American West and other regions dry out, they’re searching for ways to produce more water themselves, instead of importing it by aqueduct,” wrote Matt Simon. “So the old way of stormwater management isn’t just increasingly dangerous and ineffective as the planet warms and storms get more intense—it stands in the way of a more beautiful, less sweltering, more sustainable urban landscape. LA, of all places, is showing the world there’s a better way.”

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GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE INNOVATOR: “Jim Dumont’s focus is on the analytical tools that produce the numbers that make the case for innovation,” stated Rémi Dubé, former Drainage Planning Manager with the City of Surrey


“There is a need for a new approach to hydrologic design, Jim Dumont advocated in the mid-2000s. So, Fergus Creek became the pilot for a runoff-based approach because duration of discharge links directly to stream health,” stated Rémi Dubé. “In 2006, when Surrey hosted the showcasing green innovation innovation series, Jim and I said that Fergus Creek is going beyond the guidebook. The phrase stuck. Fergus led to the Beyond the Guidebook Initiative. Jim also maintained that what the watershed will look like in future should drive the approach to rainwater management.”

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DESIGNING WITH NATURE IN SURREY TO CREATE A LIVEABLE COMMUNITY WHILE PROTECTING STREAM HEALTH: “We treat our watercourses like the gift that they are. We try to do the best we can with how we grow and develop the community,” stated Samantha Ward, Drainage Manager with the City of Surrey


“There are so many benefits associated with watercourses that go well beyond moving water from A to B. This understanding is reflected in our Biodiversity Conservation Strategy. Without our watercourses, Surrey would feel different. It would not be the place that it is. In the uplands, it is the biodiversity piece. And going beyond just setting a corridor to ask, how can we enhance that corridor to maximize the biodiversity value it brings. On the coast and in the lowlands, we have been focusing on flood resiliency and adaptation,” stated Samantha Ward.

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EDUCATIONAL PROCESS BRIDGES GAP IN UNDERSTANDING IN ENGINEERING COMMUNITY: “The result is an approach where assumptions and simplifications are understood by both parties and where there is mutual agreement as to their applicability to development site characteristics and the rainwater management objectives,” stated Shelley Ashfield, Director of Operations with the Town of Comox


Comox is a beacon of inspiration for the Town’s water balance approach to land development. Their experience illustrates what it takes to successfully move the land development industry and engineering profession in a new direction. “Opening minds to accept changes in practice is challenging, especially when there is no direct regulatory or prescriptive requirement at the provincial level. Now that the Northeast Comox rainwater management plan is in place, water balance modeling is a requirement, and supporting bylaws help us regulate what developers must do on the ground,” stated Shelley Ashfield.

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SEATTLE’S THORNTON CREEK, A BLUEPRINT FOR ENHANCING BIODIVERSITY THROUGH A SYSTEMS APPROACH: “You can restore the hyporheic zone. You can restore natural processes to the extent that we are actually attracting salmon to the site to spawn. I think there really is hope for the future,” stated Katherine Lynch, stream biologist with Seattle Public Utilities (May 2022)


Across North America and the world, cities have bulldozed their waterways into submission. Seattle was as guilty as any until 1999 when Chinook salmon were listed as an endangered species. In 2004 biologist Katherine Lynch was sitting through yet another meeting on how to solve these problems when she had an epiphany. Maybe restoration projects were failing because they were overlooking a little-known feature damaged by urbanization: the stream’s “gut”. A stream is a system. It includes not just the water coursing between the banks but the earth, life and water around and under it.

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GENERATIONAL AMNESIA: “We transform the world, but we don’t remember it. We adjust our baseline to the new level, and we don’t recall what was there. You can have a succession of changes. At the end you want to sustain miserable leftovers. And the question is, why do people accept this? Well, because they don’t know that it was different,” stated UBC’s Dr. Daniel Pauly, a living legend in the world of marine biology


In September 2021, Greystone Books published The Ocean’s Whistleblower. It is the first authorized biography of Daniel Pauly, a truly remarkable man. Daniel Pauly is a living legend in the world of marine biology. And he lives in British Columbia. Among his many contributions is the Shifting Baseline Syndrome. This is a foundational concept. And it goes to the heart of the vision for intergenerational collaboration.

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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


“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,” stated Charles Axelsson.

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CITY OF VANCOUVER’S RAIN CITY STRATEGY: “We know how to design it (green infrastructure). What we’re aimed at now is mainstreaming it,” stated Melina Scholefield, the City of Vancouver’s manager of green infrastructure implementation


“Though the City of Vancouver has an over 20-year history installing green infrastructure, until 2018, it was rarely done systematically and did not use geotechnical studies to understand how fast water could penetrate the ground underfoot. The good news is we get to learn from our peers. We get to leapfrog a bit. Some of the biggest hurdles have been simple regulations grandfathered in from another era. Meanwhile, direction from Metro Vancouver, and ultimately the province, is up in the air as the regional body updates its Regional Liquid Waste Management Plan,” said Melina Scholefield.

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FLASHBACK TO 2008: “There is no piped drainage system on the site. Water stored on the roof spills onto a dry creek bed and flows sub-surface to a marsh,” stated the City of Nanaimo’s Dean Mousseau when he described the ‘design with nature’ approach to rainwater management at the Inland Kenworth site (YouTube Video)


The Inland Kenworth truck and heavy equipment facility in the City of Nanaimo illustrates what can be accomplished through collaboration when a municipality challenges a development proponent to be innovative, green the built environment, and protect stream health. “We view this project as the one that changed the thinking of the consulting community in Nanaimo, particularly on redevelopment projects. We are turning the tide because projects are now incorporating features for rainwater runoff capture,” stated Dean Mousseau.

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