Inter-Regional Collaboration: Partnership for Water Sustainability updated members of Cowichan Valley Regional Board in April 2014
Note to Reader:
In 2012, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia asked the Boards of five regional districts – namely Capital, Cowichan Valley, Nanaimo, Comox Valley and Metro Vancouver – to endorse local government collaboration under the umbrella of the Inter-Regional Education Initiative (IREI). The partners are now in Year 3 of inter-regional collaboration.
In April 2014, Kim Stephens, Partnership Executive Director met with the Regional Services Committee of the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) to present a progress report on inter-regional collaboration for watershed sustainability.
Why and How Collaboration Will Help Everyone Better Deliver on Regulatory Compliance
“It is always a pleasure to meet with this group,” commented Kim Stephens as his opening statement to the members of the CVRD Regional Services Committee. “As you will recall, it was June 2013 when I presented the last progress report to you. And it was two years ago, in March 2012, when I asked you to support the inter-regional education initiative. It is hard to believe that we are now in Year 3.”
“My purpose in being here tonight is to present our Progress Report to the Partners. I am in the process of meeting with all the partners to update each one on the progress that is being made in working together. In February, I met with Capital Regional District. In three weeks, I will meet with Metro Vancouver.”
Benefits of Inter-Regional Collaboration
“The Water Balance Model Express is an example what we mean when we refer to the regions sharing resources, information and expertise. The financial contribution by this region was a mere $5000 for a project that was in excess of $300,000. The major funders were Metro Vancouver and the federal government through the Regional Adaptation Collaboratives program,” Kim Stephens informed the CVRD elected representatives.
“This leverage is a very tangible benefit for a very small investment. What excites the Partnership is how the Cowichan Valley stepped up to become one of our first demonstration applications for the WBM Express. This allowed us to work through the approach to populating it with watershed-specific Water Balance Targets.”
“The other tangible example that I want to talk about is the rainwater brochure that Kate Miller’s group produced. This shows the interaction that is taking place between the various local governments. Part of the inspiration for the brochure resulted from Kate and her folks meeting with Melony Burton of the City of Coquitlam. She is a member of the inter-regional leadership team. The mere fact that the various local governments are meeting with each other, and saying this is what I am doing, is helping to fuel progress.”
Change Behaviour of Individuals at the Site Scale to Protect Watershed Health
“Watershed health is a priority is a priority and everyone has these over-arching plans and strategies. Think in terms of the Cowichan Basin Water Management Plan that you have,” stated Kim Stephens. “I think the key take-away is that everybody is primed to move from talk to implementation and integration.”
“If you can recall some of my previous presentations, we have moved beyond the high-faluting language. It is all about practices on the ground that can create the real change. And so, in terms of restoring watershed health, it starts with an understanding of mimic the water balance. We are beginning to make these words real to people.”
“If the average person is not doing anything to their property, then of course they will not be thinking about the Water Balance. But when someone proposes to make a change, that changes everything. The inspiration for the WBM Express came from the District of Central Saanich in 2010 when they passed their Surface Water Management Bylaw and included certain provisions relating to the Water Balance Model.”
“It was an Ah-Ha Moment for the Partnership. We realized that to support Central Saanich and other local governments, we needed to evolve the original Water Balance Model to provide a tool which is easy for the average home person to use.”
“As a result of the bylaw, the folks in Central Saanich have seen a change in behaviour, and that is the key. Changing behaviour at the site level, getting people to understand that they actually live in a watershed, that is where the education starts. But there has to be a reason to start educating them. The reason is when someone wants to make a change to their property.”
Goal of Inter-Regional Collaboration is……
“So, why collaboration? Here are the key words – affordable and effective. This is what it is all about. Money is not unlimited,” emphasized Kim Stephens.
“So what is the goal of collaboration? We are talking about standards of practice, whether those practices be engineering or planning. They have to be affordable and effective. Where we are trying to get to is a healthy watershed with healthy streams.”
“For a person like me who has the career perspective of 40 years, I have seen the consequences today of the way we did things 20 years ago. And therefore I know that we need to do things differently. That is the context, but it is very much focussed on what to do on the ground at the site level.”
It’s About Turning Vision into Action
“Because it can be so easy to go off-track, the mantra of the inter-regional leadership team is that through sharing and learning, we will ensure that where we are going is indeed the right way,” continued Kim Stephens.
“By interacting with people who are also trying to do a good job, we learn from each other. And so, for the inter-regional vision, the words are pretty simple: Mimic the Natural Water Balance and Protect Water Quality. The challenge is in how you move from that vision to action.”
“And yes, we do have a deliverable. If you recall my previous presentations, I have made reference to Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia. What we are now talking about is how the outcomes of the current inter-regional series will be compiled to become Beyond the Guidebook 2015.”
“We are using the word ‘workbook’ because the five regions are really case studies. And so in terms of vision becoming action, it is how we ensure that we actually have cumulative benefits over time, not cumulative impacts. In my career, I have seen a lot of cumulative impacts, one property at a time. The flip side of a problem, of course, is an opportunity. It is the same with impacts and benefits. It is very simple. We have to turn our thinking around from negative to positive.”
Align Local Actions and Provincial Policies
“I decided to present the ‘cloud diagram’ to you because it captures what I mean when I refer to inter-regional collaboration and what we are trying to accomplish,” stated Kim Stephens.
“The two clouds represent the province and local government. We are trying to align efforts between the two clouds. When we look at the provincial scale, there is a provincial policy framework in place. And the last piece is the new Water Sustainability Act.”
“All these pieces all enable action to achieve the Watershed Health Goal. Now at the local government level what you have is five regions who all have a slightly different perspective. And any differences in perspective are not because the goal is different. The goal is the same. It is the starting point that is different.”
“This is something that has really struck home for me in the last couple of months as I have been working with team members in the various regions. The perspective of a particular regional district really reflects which group within the regional district staff is actually leading the initiative.”
“In the Capital Region District, for example, the Integrated Watershed Management group is leading on the watershed health front. Their specific mandate is water quality (in streams and harbours). That is how they started. In the case of the CVRD and Kate Miller’s group, the climate change emphasis is a driver for your region’s approach to community resiliency.”
“And so, when you look at how all these perspectives have to come together, you can hopefully appreciate that we are trying to align the efforts of five regional districts and their member local governments. We are also trying to align provincial goals and policies with regional actions. This is the Collaboration Goal.”
“Fundamental to what we are doing is the mantra that through sharing and learning, we can ensure that where we are going is indeed the right way. Another dimension that I want to share from my professional perspective is this – if you get the water part right, the rest will follow. Think of any kind of development project. Invariably the process starts with some aspect of water being an upfront issue, whether it be water supply, drainage or sewage treatment.”
The Deliverable is “Beyond the Guidebook 2015”
“Where we are at now is that each region is hosting a collaboration session. In the process, they are learning from each other,” reported Kim Stephens.
“We kicked the series off in January. The Metro Vancouver session was actually held in Victoria, and was hosted by the province. The Metro Vancouver working group came to the island to save all the island folks from having to travel across to Metro Vancouver. In March, Capital Regional District hosted. The Cowichan Valley is next. A glance at the series schedule (above) shows that the themes reflect the perspectives of the regions.”
“Then what? Earlier I made reference to Beyond the Guidebook 2015. Where we are heading with this is not just getting together to talk. It’s how we capture these lessons learned. When we look ahead to the rollout, the purpose is to inform anyone involved in a watershed health monitoring process.”
“People like Kate Miller (Manager, Environmental Initiatives Division are the ones who are pioneering and trying things and doing a better job. It is how we capture their experience so that others will have the starting point for sharing, learning and adapting over time. At the end of the day, what we are hoping is that local governments will take these lessons learned from these case study applications and apply them in order to adjust their actions, inform community planning and create a legacy.”
“It is all about how we create that legacy of making things better for our children and grand-children,” concluded Kim Stephens
To Learn More:
To download a copy of the Progress Report,click on Inter-Regional Collaboration for Watershed Sustainability: Overview of 2014 Work Plan.
To download a PDF copy of the supporting PowerPoint presentation by Kim Stephens, click on Inter-Regional Collaboration for Watershed Sustainability: Collaboration Will Help Everyone Better Deliver on Regulatory Compliance.
To Watch the Video:
Click on http://cvrdmeetings.ca/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=367&doctype=AGENDA (note: the presentation by Kim Stephens starts at 1:04:00 elapsed time and ends at 1:14:00).