WHOLE-SYSTEM, WATER BALANCE TRAINING FOR ENGINEERS: “The Town’s experience is that the weak link in drainage analyses is always the assumptions,” stated Shelley Ashfield, Municipal Engineer, when she explained why the Town of Comox took on responsibility for an educational process to bridge a gap in practitioner understanding
How water gets to a stream, and how long it takes, is not well understood among land and drainage practitioners. “A lack of explicit identification and justification of the assumptions and simplifications made in the analysis of stormwater impacts has resulted in stormwater systems that address hypothetical as opposed to actual site characteristics and development impacts,” stated Shelley Ashfield. “Learning from this experience, the Town now requires that assumptions be stated and explained. We are saying WHAT is your assumption, and WHY.”
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.
IMPROVE WHERE WE LIVE: Ecological Accounting Process and Water Balance Methodology – the twin pillars of a whole-system, water balance vision for restorative land development in British Columbia
“The vision for EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, is that it would help local governments progress along the Asset Management Continuum for Sustainable Service Delivery. Once a life-cycle approach is standard practice, the next logical step is to integrate ecological services from natural systems into asset management,” stated Tim Pringle. “The principal focus of EAP is on the investment of resources already made by many stakeholders, as well as their aspirations concerning prevention of degradation to and work on enhancement of ecological services in the creekshed.”
DESIGN WITH NATURE / IMPROVE WHERE WE LIVE: Hubristic and techno-utopian, 50 years ago Ian McHarg’s emphasis in his landmark book on creating a rational, systematized design process expanded the fields of landscape architecture and environmental planning, pulling practitioners out of gardens and small parks and into territorial-scale design
Alongside Rachel Carson’s classic Silent Spring, Design With Nature helped activists translate the energy of the 1960s into a string political victories in the 1970s, including: the National Environmental Policy Act (1970), the Clean Water Act (1972), the Endangered Species Act (1973), and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality (1970). Much of that regulatory regime remains intact today, indispensable to the broader aims of environmental stewardship and climate action.
IMPROVE WHERE WE LIVE: “Since the problem of environmental generation amnesia has its genesis in childhood, I suggest that childhood is a good place to start solving the problem,” says Peter Kahn, Professor of Psychology, University of Washington
While communities cannot restore lost diversity, they can halt its decline and consciously direct efforts into bending the trend-line in an upward direction. First, however, they must understand the psychology of why we unwittingly allow environmental degradation. “People take the natural environment they encounter during childhood as the norm against which they measure environmental degradation later in their life. Each generation takes that degraded condition as the non-degraded condition, as the normal experience,” explains Peter Kahn. He describes this phenomenon as ‘environmental generational amnesia’.
IMPROVE WHERE WE LIVE THROUGH RESTORATIVE DEVELOPMENT: “In the 1980s, the lack of science was a real issue. Science is no longer the issue. We have enough science to know what needs to be done to reconnect hydrology and ecology,” stated Bill Derry in his keynote address at the Parksville 2019 Symposium
Bill Derry provided a critically important historical perspective when he explained the origins of the science-based approach to understanding how ‘changes in hydrology’impact on stream stability and health in the urban environment. An early pioneer in an emerging practice circa 1990, Bill Derry chaired the local government committee that framed eight key questions. These then defined areas of research at the University of Washington. “Context is everything. Four decades ago, understanding was scant,” stated Bill Derry. A program goal for Parksville 2019 was to bring to life the phrase “reconnect hydrology and ecology”.
YOUTUBE VIDEO ABOUT VANCOUVER’S HIDDEN STREAMS: “In the future I think we’ll be seeing more and more city planners, engineers and architects work with and learn from nature instead of burying it underground,” stated Uytae Lee, CBC Vancouver video columnist (April 2019)
The industrialization of Vancouver was rapid, and soon the creeks that connected land-to-ocean were buried. “Streams such as Still Creek and others like it were once considered a nuisance, They would often get in the way of road construction or buildings. They were also these dumping grounds for garbage, so there was really this incentive to bury them and that’s kind of just what happened,” stated Uytae Lee. “We’re sort of finally realizing that nature has a lot more value than we often give it credit for.”
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.