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BC Water Sustainability Action Plan

    APPLICATION OF WATER BALANCE PERFORMANCE TARGETS: “By design or default, re-development choices and practices bend the hydrology of a watershed, and for either better or worse,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia


    “The Water Balance Methodology and Model were created for scenario comparison purposes. These were transformational in helping decision makers visualize HOW their municipalities could meet watershed targets and mitigate population growth and climate change, one property at a time. This built support for changes in development practices and galvanized action in the 2000s. Unfortunately, memories are short and knowledge is either forgotten, lost or ignored as the players change. And so, momentum is dissipated and backsliding sets in,” stated Kim Stephens.

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    ADDRESSING AFFORDABLE HOUSING’S HIDDEN UTILITY COSTS: “Supersizing pipes to accommodate drainage demand is costly and disruptive to communities,” stated Robert Hicks, career engineer-planner in local government in the Metro Vancouver region of British Columbia


    “The Province has come out with their transit-oriented development legislation. What that means is redevelopment. And redevelopment means a demand on utilities. Sometimes these demands have already been anticipated and planned for. And sometimes these are new and somehow have to be accommodated. Sewage and drainage are a little trickier than other utilities. That is where we have this crunch of priorities and a concern. Yes, we need affordable housing. But affordable housing must be serviced with infrastructure that is also affordable,” stated Robert Hicks.

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    LANDSCAPES AND WATERSHEDS IN BC ARE AT A HEIGHTENED RISK: “Relying solely on engineering solutions will never be adequate for managing flood risk,” stated Younes Alila, professional engineer and professor in the UBC Faculty of Forestry who is raising the alarm about scientifically indefensible practices in forest hydrology


    Younes Alila is in the news. He is courageous in challenging conventional wisdom about what he believes to be the misguided practice of forest hydrology in BC. His message boils down to RISK and LIABILITY. “Engineering solutions to flood risk mitigation deal only with symptoms. And they fail to account for cumulative effects. The outcome is unintended consequences,” he says. “Flood mitigation work in the low land must be in sync with our land use and forest cover policies in the uplands. This is our only hope of increasing our chance of managing flood risk.” His findings are relevant to urban drainage practice.

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    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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    BRING SCIENCE INTO LOCAL GOVERNMENT: “Over the years, we worked on a whole range of things which were innovative. Without the participation by someone like Richard Boase, I doubt we could have done it,” stated Dr. Hans Schreier, Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Land and Water Systems at the University of British Columbia


    “Municipalities have limited access to science and they do not have time to do the science. So, why not use the students? Not only is it a benefit to community leaders, the students benefit because they are doing something that makes a difference. And so, connecting with Richard Boase in the 1990s was really fundamental because he is on the inside. Richard identified projects where the students could benefit directly and make a difference. To me, that was the opportunity,” stated Hans Schreier.

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    LOOK AT RAINFALL DIFFERENTLY: “Drainage in the context of urban planning and development decisions has historically been an afterthought…let’s just get the water out of here,” stated Hugh Fraser, former Deputy Director of Engineering, City of Delta


    “Delta’s rain garden program started with a phone call from Deb Jones, a volunteer with the Cougar Creek Streamkeepers. In 2004, she approached me with a request that the municipality undertake a stormwater pilot infiltration pilot project in North Delta. We identified the opportunity to build the first rain garden at an elementary school. The project was a success and so was the ensuing program. Within the first decade, for example, Delta had constructed a total of 50-plus rain gardens. 10 of these were located at elementary schools,” stated Hugh Fraser.

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    DOWNLOAD: Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia


    “Released in 2002, the Guidebook provides a framework for effective rainwater management throughout the province. This tool for local governments presents a methodology for moving from planning to action that focuses on implementing early action where it is most needed,” states Laura Maclean. “The Guidebook approach is designed to eliminate the root cause of negative ecological and property impacts of rainwater runoff by addressing the complete spectrum of rainfall events. The Guidebook approach contrasts with conventional ‘flows-and-pipes’ stormwater management.”

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    PRECEDENT FOR AN ECOSYSTEM-BASED APPROACH TO WATERSHED PLANNING: “Passage of the Fish Protection Act in 1997 spawned an array of initiatives, including the Stormwater Planning Guidebook,” stated Kim Stephens, principal author and project manager


    “BC communities are experiencing the unintended environmental consequences of policy frameworks that have not been well implemented. But despair not. Knowledge and wisdom that would pull us back from the brink are waiting to be rediscovered and mobilized so that communities can change course in time. Charting a course through perilous waters starts with understanding WHY certain dots from the period 1997 through 2005 are foundational. The Fish Protection Act 1997 is one such dot. Yet this rich history may be largely ignored and/or forgotten,” stated Kim Stephens.

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    FLASHBACK TO THE 2000s: “The City of Coquitlam turned a crisis into a transformational outcome and emerged as a green infrastructure leader in the Metro Vancouver region,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability


    “In 2003, the City was clearly visionary when it first embraced and then formalized a watershed-based approach as a foundation piece in the Official Community Plan. By the latter part of the decade, however, Coquitlam was viewed by others in the region as the example of what not do. A noteworthy aspect of the Coquitlam story is how quickly municipal staff learned from experience, adapted their approach, and successfully instilled a new way of doing business. Coquitlam is the model for keeping things simple, practical, and implementable,’ stated Kim Stephens.

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    KEEP IT SIMPLE, PRACTICAL AND IMPLEMENTABLE: “If people rely too much on standards, they park their brain at the door. Its much better to think about the principles behind the standards and use judgement in implementing them,” stated Pete Steblin, former City Engineer and City Manager


    “When I became City Manager, the City’s approach to watershed-based community planning, rainwater management and green infrastructure was quite idealistic. As a result, the city could not implement what was proposed. We had to do a re-think. That is when we came up with the monicker net environmental benefit. So, what we did was to re-think things and say something is better than nothing. When we made those changes to on-site rainwater management requirements, they were good changes, and they were well received,” stated Pete Steblin.

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