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Contextual Resources

SUSTAINABLE WATERSHED SYSTEMS: An understanding of Daniel Pauly’s “Shifting Baseline Syndrome” is a foundation piece for reconnecting hydrology and ecology, and turning the clock back to move towards restorative development


The phrase Shifting Baseline Syndrome describes an incremental eroding of standards that results with each new generation lacking knowledge of the historical, and presumably more natural, condition of the environment. Each generation then defines what is ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ according to current conditions and personal experiences. “Every generation will use the images that they got at the beginning of their conscious lives as a standard and will extrapolate forward. And the difference then, they perceive as a loss. But they don’t perceive what happened before as a loss,” stated Daniel Pauly.

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SUSTAINABLE WATERSHED SYSTEMS: Reinvigoration of the provincial oversight function is essential to help local governments be effective in moving British Columbia towards restorative land development.


Water defines B.C., and the rhythms of water are changing. Civil engineers, urban planners and decision-makers must change their mind-sets and grasp the inherent complexity and unpredictability of working with natural systems.“80% of the revitalizing work done by urban planners and civil engineers in the 21st century will undo 80% of the work their predecessors did to cities and nature in the 20th century,” foreshadows Storm Cunningham, author of the Restoration Economy. “We don’t fully understand complex systems, so humility and adaptive management are needed to restore nature, and to revitalize cities.”

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SUSTAINABLE WATERSHED SYSTEMS: What is the provincial government role in supporting BC communities so that they “get it right” when moving from policy to action in implementing initiatives flowing from the Living Water Smart framework?


“British Columbia is at a tipping point vis-à-vis Sustainable Watershed Systems. Without provincial government leadership and direction, the process to adopt, change or evolve standards of practice and apply tools in the local government setting may be painfully slow, might not happen, or could simply peter out due to indifference or neglect,” stated Kim Stephens. “As a minimum, provincial government support is necessary if communities are to “get it right” from a water balance perspective vis-à-vis land use, infrastructure servicing of land, and asset management.”

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YOUTUBE VIDEO: “Hydrology is the engine that powers ecological services,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair, Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) Initiative, at the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium (April 2018)


“The worth of a creekshed is a package of ecological services made possible by the hydrology. These inter-dependent ecological systems provide uses we call nature; examples are wetlands, ponds, riparian areas, woodlands, habitat for flora and fauna, etc. These systems add appeal and quality to parks, greenways, trails, as well as opportunities to focus on natural processes such as salmon spawning and nesting sites,” stated Tim Pringle. “The next step is doing. A strategy is the path to success.”

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Interview offers insight into ‘watershed / stream’ approach: What makes BC’s stormwater approach different than other jurisdictions in North America?


James Careless had an assignment to look into stormwater modelling tools (for projecting flow and other patterns); both to determine the most common tools used, and some of the most innovative approaches that are coming into use. His research into BC’s water balance approach led him to switch gears from an examination of modelling tools to learning what ‘establishing watershed objectives for stormwater management’ means in practice.

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SUSTAINABLE WATERSHED SYSTEMS: “The Gibsons Eco-Asset Strategy allows the Town to bring the value of nature into the DNA of municipal decision-making,” states Emanuel Machado, Chief Administrative Officer


Gibsons is leading by example in successfully implementing its visionary Eco-Asset Strategy. The Town is the Living Laboratory for the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative. It is also a demonstration application for Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management. “Since declaring Nature its most valuable infrastructure asset, the Town has integrated the Eco-Asset Strategy into everything that the municipality does,” states Emanuel Machado.

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SUSTAINABLE WATERSHED SYSTEMS: Flood, drought, fire, wind and cold – because extreme events are becoming the norm…..


As communities face the increasing impacts of climate change, there is an unfunded liability – the cost to restore watershed hydrology and water resilience in the built environment. “The Partnership for Water Sustainability is evolving, online tools that support implementation of the whole-system, water balance approach. British Columbia, Washington State and California are leaders. We are moving forward in parallel on this journey,” states Jim Dumont.

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FLASHBACK TO 2012 (Video): River advocate, Mark Angelo, and others tell an inspiring story about salmon and the transformation of Still Creek, a long-abused urban stream in the Vancouver region – "Never give up on any river!," says Mark Angelo


“Over many decades, people in the area have worked tirelessly to help bring the creek back to health,” stated Mark Angelo, founder of World Rivers Day. “To see salmon return has been incredibly exciting, especially given that just a few decades ago, this stream was widely viewed as one of Canada’s most polluted waterways. Quite simply, the events that have unfolded on Still Creek highlight the fact that we should never give up on any river,” states Mark Angelo.

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SUSTAINABLE WATERSHED SYSTEMS, THROUGH ASSET MANAGEMENT: "We are looking at the water cycle with fresh eyes to develop new approaches, methodologies and tools," stated Kim Stephens in his keynote presentation to the Coquitlam River Watershed Roundtable (June 10, 2017)


“The keynote presentation by Kim Stephens was a highlight of the day,” reports Melissa Dick, Coordinator for the Coquitlam River Watershed Roundtable. “The messages he shared about what happens on the land matters, and the steps needed to succeed at convening for action, resounded well with the Roundtable participants. His support for the Community Meeting and his contributions throughout the day were very much appreciated.”

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"Cathedral Thinking aptly describes the vision for achieving Sustainable Watershed Systems through Asset Management," concluded Kim Stephens in his keynote presentation at the Comox Valley Eco-Asset Symposium (March 15, 2017)


“Think about when cathedrals were built a thousand years ago. They took 100 years, and sometimes up to 200 years, to build,” stated Kim Stephens. “So, what it meant was – when people started on those projects, they knew that they would not see the end. But they still committed to doing it. We can learn from them. In the era of the 8-second attention span, it is the opposite end of the spectrum to say that we have to think inter-generationally and be serious about it.”

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