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Vancouver Island Water

The island is a demonstration region for the ‘regional team approach’. Communicate. Cooperate. Coordinate. Collaborate. Share resources and learn from each other. CAVI, Convening for Action on Vancouver Island-Leadership in Water Sustainability, started with a conversation in 2005. Formally launched in September 2006, and funded by government, the form of the initiative has evolved over the years. The program has demonstrated what can be done through partnerships and collaboration.

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GEORGIA BASIN INTER-REGIONAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE: “The IREI is a unique mechanism for growing a network based on shared aspirations and delivering results across organizational boundaries. It differs in every way from building an organization in any conventional sense,” stated Derek Richmond, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC


The pressing need for timely, affordable, and effective solutions is the driver for the IREI. A goal of collaboration is to build local government capacity, capability, and competence to deliver on expectations. The IREI program brings the right people together in constructive ways with good information, such that they create authentic visions and strategies. “The Ambassadors Program complements the IREI Program and is emerging as a foundation piece for inter-generational collaboration. This was the breakthrough to articulate our need for succession planning and sustainability of the network,” stated Derek Richmond.

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WATER SUSTAINABILITY AND ASSET MANAGEMENT ARE INEXTRICABLY LINKED: “Our understanding of water balance as a point to build relationships continues to grow,” stated Paul Chapman, Chair of the Watershed Moments Symposia Series on Vancouver Island (November 2022)


“Our understanding of ‘water balance’ has grown beyond the graphics of how water travels across a landscape, is absorbed or taken up to be distributed again. Water balance at a very key level is about our relationship with water and with each other. We design and build our communities based on our relationship to water. Our neighbourhoods arise from this relationship. Resilient communities will embrace the language and lessons of Sustainable Service Delivery and Eco-Asset Management. Budgets can be aligned with ecological know-how and boots in the stream to steward the critical infrastructure that is our watersheds,” stated Paul Chapman.

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A SENSE OF PURPOSE IS POWERFUL MOTIVATION: “The City of Nanaimo has a culture of commitment to community, risk-taking and innovation. But you really see the effect of good governance on the willingness to take risks,” stated Bill Sims, General Manager, Engineering & Public Works


“There is something within the culture of the City of Nanaimo that says I care about the people I work with; I care about my community; I care about doing the right thing. It is a sense of higher purpose that most of the staff seem to carry with them. The corporate culture seems to transcend the people who work for the city at any given time. During times of good governance, creativity re-emerges, and the momentum of the organization accelerates. When Council is very careful to be respectful of staff, and always to be respectful in their own debates, it is startling how positive the effect is on the organization,” stated Bill Sims.

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DRINKING WATER & WATERSHED PROTECTION IN THE COWICHAN REGION OF VANCOUVER ISLAND: “We have taken on responsibilities downloaded by the provincial government because we have a necessity to get things done. Yet downloading is especially hard on regional districts because of the demands it places on everyone to pick up the slack,” stated Lori Iannidinardo, Chair (2022) Cowichan Valley Regional District


“We need a provincial hammer. But there is nobody on the ground to take responsibility and follow through to resolve issues and concerns. How do we get everybody up to speed and working together when participation on committees is not a provincial priority to help local government? You need a team to be effective. Land use is a local government responsibility. But we need much stronger provincial regulations and support so that regional districts are able to mandate requirements for better and more effective land use practices,” Lori Iannidinardo.

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GEORGIA BASIN INTER-REGIONAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE: “By accounting for and integrating the services that nature provides, communities can achieve the goal of Sustainable Service Delivery for watershed systems,” stated Liam Edwards, (a former) Executive Director with BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs, when Beyond the Guidebook 2015 was released


‘Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework’ makes the link between local government services, the infrastructure that supports the delivery of those services, and watershed health. “The BC Framework points the way to integration of natural systems and climate change thinking into asset management. Resilient cities will be the ones that can absorb water and manage the water cycle as a closed loop,” stated Liam Edwards. The BC Framework provides context for the Ecological Accounting Process for operationalizing natural asset management.

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GEORGIA BASIN INTER-REGIONAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE: “History is important. It is important to understand how we got to where we are. And we need to celebrate that work,” stated Brian Carruthers, Chief Administrative Officer (2014-2022), Cowichan Valley Regional District


“I had a real incentive to come to the Cowichan Valley Regional District in 2014 because water was the primary focus. The region was in the midst of a watershed governance study. It was looking at how the CVRD could take a more active role in watershed governance. The Board Chair and I did tours of First Nations communities and met with their chiefs and councils around the intent of this initiative and what would their interest be. We realized that this was bigger than we could take on at that time. Instead, we turned our attention to the Drinking Water & Watershed Protection (DWWP) model for a regional service,” stated Brian Carruthers.

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GEORGIA BASIN INTER-REGIONAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE: “One can have implementation without integration, but implementation will likely be ineffective without integration,” stated Tim Pringle, Past-President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, when he explained the process for designing with nature in a systems context


“The purpose of the IREI is to learn and apply what ‘designing with nature’ looks like in practice. Integration means a holistic approach to use and conservation of land and water. The process involves drilling down from the vision and goals of a regional plan to explore the ‘how-to’ details of implementation and integration. It encompasses physical infrastructure, the built environment, and the ecosystems within which we work and recreate. And it includes all practitioners whose profession, work, volunteer role or responsibility as a landowner affects land and water sustainability.”

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THE TALE OF ONE URBAN CREEK ON VANCOUVER ISLAND: “This Shelly Creek art exhibit is such a unique project as we look at these environmental conversations through artists’ lenses and what happens is a very dynamic and exciting experience,” stated Jennifer Bate, Executive Director of the McMillan Arts Centre in Parksville (July 2022)


Shelly Creek is a tributary of the Englishman River, a major watershed system on the east coast of Vancouver Island. Shelly Creek is important to salmonids. In 1999 the Englishman River was first declared to be one of the most endangered rivers in BC. Extinction of the fisheries resource was viewed as a very real possibility. “With 8 local artists collaborating on this singular exhibit, we are then able to have an important conversation about Shelly Creek, water conservation, and rain gardens through an artist lens. We are privileged to have the 8 artists come together for a single purpose but with 8 very different art mediums,” stated Jennifer Bate.

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FLASHBACK TO 2013: “Collaboration among Vancouver Island local governments, and with Metro Vancouver and its member municipalities, has grown steadily since 2007. The Inter-Regional Educational Initiative provides a framework for consistent application of tools and understanding on both sides of the Georgia Basin. Everyone benefits from sharing information and experiences,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability


“Collaboration is the pathway to a consistent approach to implementation and integration of water sustainability and green infrastructure policies and practices within and between regions. Yet there is no formal mechanism to enable or facilitate inter-regional collaboration. The Partnership fills this gap. At the heart of the IREI is ‘Beyond the Guidebook’, an ongoing initiative to provide local governments with the tools and understanding necessary to integrate the Site with the Watershed and the Stream. The IREI will help all local governments bridge the ‘implementation and integration’ gap,” stated Kim Stephens

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BEYOND THE GUIDEBOOK 2022 / FINANCIAL CASE FOR STREAMS: “In the process of completing the Ecological Accounting Process for the Millstone River, everyone became versed in the common language of natural assets and can now bring that forward in the ongoing collaborative work ahead,” stated Julie Pisani, Program Coordinator for the Nanaimo region’s Drinking Water & Watershed Protection Program


“The Millstone River EAP project brought together municipal and regional interests, community stewardship sector perspectives and academic research capabilities. Not only were we able to assign a proxy value to the riparian corridor land area, but we also connected this to an understanding of the integrity of its current condition — and compared a riparian deficit to an infrastructure deficit / liability. This is a powerful communication tool to elevate the importance of local policies and investment to protect and restore riparian areas for the benefit of our communities,” stated Julie Pisani.

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