YOUTUBE VIDEO: “What we believed to be ‘unachievable’ in 1998 may in fact now be within our grasp,” stated Kim Stephens when he provided a UDI Victoria audience with the provincial context for developing the online Water Balance Model as an extension of British Columbia’s Stormwater Guidebook (Flashback to March 2008)
“A decade ago, we thought that the best we could do would be to Hold the Line for 20 years; and if we could do that for 20 years, we believed that we might be able to improve conditions over a 50-year period,” stated Kim Stephens. “We went back to the basics to gain an understanding of how we could protect or restore the natural water balance by changing the way land is developed. A decade ago, the breakthrough in thinking came when we developed the concept of a Rainfall Spectrum to categorize the rainfall-days that occur each year.”
IN MEMORIAM: A Tribute to Charles Rowney – It is unfathomable to think he is gone. He was an unparalleled force.
Charles Rowney, PhD, was larger than life. A leader and innovator, he was a giant in the field of water resource modelling. In British Columbia, the enduring legacy of Charles Rowney resides in the web-based Water Balance Model suite of modelling tools. In the United States, creation of the Center for Infrastructure Modelling and Management (ncimm.org) in 2016 was a crowning achievement in the career of Charles Rowney. He was a driving force to provide sustainable research, development and outreach for water infrastructure modeling.
BOWKER CREEK RESTORATION IS A BEACON OF HOPE: “Agree on the vision. Set the targets. Provide planners with the detail necessary to guide site level decisions as opportunities arise. Then implement,” urges Jody Watson, Capital Regional District
Replacement of the old Oak Bay High School with a new facility created the opportunity for a flagship creek restoration project. Completed in 2015, this has been a catalyst for action – for example, the Bowker Creek Developers’ Guide, in collaboration with the Urban Development Institute. “Channel restoration at Oak Bay High was a true ‘watershed moment’ for the creek and the community. It is a wonderful example of how a long-term coordinated plan to restore function to a degraded watershed can happen,” stated Jody Watson.
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.
URBAN TREE CANOPY: “A new science of valuing nature will shape our urban projects of the future,” says Bonnie Keeler – her area of expertise at the University of Minnesota is natural capital and the value of ecosystems
Bonnie Keeler reviewed 1,200 scientific studies on increasingly popular green infrastructures such as urban forests, parks, rain gardens, and wetlands and found in a recent paper that it’s unclear how well any of them stack up against “gray” solutions like concrete storm sewers and air conditioning. “There is a huge interest in expanding funding for green infrastructures,” she said. “But we don’t have a tool to understand their value.”
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.
WHOLE-SYSTEM, WATER BALANCE APPROACH: “We know there are development practices that could help restore our environment, increase resilience to climate change, and reduce infrastructure costs,” says Emanuel Machado, CAO of the Town of Gibsons. “So why are we having so much trouble implementing them?”
“Last October’s Meeting of the Minds was invaluable,” said Emanuel Machado, Gibsons’ Chief Administrative Officer. “One of the key impediments to implementing a whole-systems, water balance approach is the many policies, practices and ideas the various players within a particular watershed bring to their work. Our roundtable session helped promote a better understanding of the challenges faced by peers and provided the opportunity to brainstorm solutions to perceived roadblocks.”
Primer on the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) – A Methodology for Valuing the ‘Water Balance Services’ Provided by Nature (released January 2019)
“The concept of natural capital and natural assets can be a challenge to integrate effectively into asset management practices. EAP deals with a basic question: what is a creekshed WORTH, now and in future, to the community and various intervenors? We landed on the notion of the ‘natural commons’ as the starting point for calculating the financial value of a stream bed and riparian corridor. The EAP valuation methodology yields an asset value for the stream corridor that can then be used for budget purposes,” stated Tim Pringle.
SUSTAINABLE WATERSHED SYSTEMS: Every urban creekshed comprises a ‘constructed commons’ and a ‘natural commons’, and each is a system – this way-of-thinking is foundational to the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) which looks at the value of the lands that underlie the natural commons
Professor John Henneberry in the United Kingdom and the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC have identified the same methodological problems – that is, natural systems do not dissect conveniently in order to be quantified and given financial value. ”Quantifying and valuing nature are complex tasks. Undertaking them alters our conception of nature. As a result of it, nature appears more fragmented because we have to slice it into categories and dice those categories into bits before we can value bits of those bits,” states John Henneberry.
LIFE AFTER CARBON: “The emerging idea inverts the modern-city hierarchy, restoring nature, instead of the city, as the dominant context,” wrote Peter Pastrik and John Cleveland in their book about cities that are reinventing themselves to combat climate change (published in 2018)
“Part of urban renaturing is a restorative exercise, a way to reinstate balance and sustainability to the city’s relationship with nature,” wrote Peter Pastrik. “When cities renature themselves, they pursue three distinct, interrelated applications of the idea. They expand the use of green infrastructure. They protect and enhance ecosystems and biodiversity. And they provide people with ways to immerse in nature. Each of these methods involves innovative practices used at multiple urban scales.”