Water and the Urban Environment – Adapting to a Changing Climate


Soil Depth & IN-OUT_Aug-2014_changing climate

Moving Towards Settlement, Economy and Ecology in Balance

Water is a form maker. It defines communities. Furthermore, the consequences of water-centric decisions ripple through time. Hence, the “Managing Water Workshop” on December 9, 2014 is designed to spark a conversation and ultimately inform a shared vision for Vancouver Island. The workshop will demonstrate tools that can help communities move towards settlement, economy and ecology in balance.

The workshop program comprises four modules and is cascading – from high-level visioning to ground-level applications. Adaptation to a changing climate is a unifying theme. Both the urban and agricultural perspectives are represented.

In Module B, the 3-person presentation team will help workshop attendees understand what can be achieved in the urban environment. David Hislop, Richard Boase and David Pfortmueller will elaborate on aspects of the soil-water relationship, They will provide attendees with an appreciation of the cumulative beneficial impacts, one property at a time, of landscape-based initiatives that are guided by a “design with nature” philosophy”.


Adapt to a Changing Climate

To get to the big picture, start with the smallest pieces. Thus, the Module B team will elaborate on how tools and practices applied at the site scale enable local governments to protect and ultimately restore watershed health. Understanding how water flows through soil is the common thread for the three presentations. Module B comprises three topics:

  • The Important Role of an Absorbent Landscape in Managing Rainwater (David Hislop, Upland Drainage Engineer, City of Surrey)
  • The Water Balance Model Express – Educating Homeowners and Improving Stream Health (Richard Boase, Environmental Protection Officer, District of North Vancouver)
  • Summer Water Use – Irrigation Planning, Implementation and Scheduling (David Pfortmueller, Vice-President, University Sprinklers)

2014_AGM Workshop_Module B Team

Managing Rainwater – Role of an Absorbent Landscape in the Urban Environment

“Soil depth is a primary water management tool for use by local government to adapt to a changing climate. A well-designed landscape with healthy topsoil helps communities through both wet and dry times. Soil is a sponge. It holds and slowly releases rainwater. This can limit runoff during rainy weather; and reduce irrigation water need during dry weather,” states David Hislop.

“In the City of Surrey, an absorbent landscape that slows, sinks and spreads rainwater is becoming a requirement for new development. We specify a minimum soil depth of 300 mm. The City recognizes that the benefits of an absorbent landscape encompass water conservation and protection of the quality of stream habitat.

Educating Homeowners & Improving Stream Health

“An increasing building footprint on properties is short-circuiting the WATER BALANCE. This creates risks for local government, both financial and environmental. If we want to make change, then we have to influence landowners to look at their properties differently,” says Richard Boase. In addition to his District of North Vancouver responsibilities, he is Co-Chair of the Water Balance Model inter-governmental program.

“Addition of the web-based Water Balance Model Express for Landowners to the local government toolkit mean front counter staff can show landowners HOW to reduce their ‘water footprint’ through the use of soil and landscape features. The Express allows the user to integrate and balance three watershed-based performance targets established by a local government to ‘mimic the Water Balance’. The interface is no more complex than the dash board of a car.”

Summer Water Use – Irrigation Planning, Implementation and Scheduling

A complete picture of the benefits of an absorbent landscape requires an understanding  of summertime water use for irrigation, the need for good planning and some of the tools that can be used to help schedule irrigation properly,” adds David Pfortmueller.

About the Module B Team

Biographical sketches for the members of the Module B team are presented below. Relevant career experience is highlighted to connect the dots to three Module B presentation topics.

David Hislop

David Hislop is the City of Surrey’s Upland Drainage Engineer. Commencing with the East Clayton Sustainable Community more than a decade ago, he has played a continuing role in implementing changes in land servicing and drainage practices.

David’s experience includes developing and providing oversight for the absorbent topsoil requirements in East Clayton and elsewhere in the City. His experience informed development of the technical component of the Topsoil Primer Set, released by the Green Infrastructure Partnership in 2010. Subsequently, this experience was incorporated in the Topsoil Bylaws Toolkit, funded by the Province and released in 2012.

Richard Boase

Richard Boase is a geoscientist, and is the District of North Vancouver’s Environmental Protection Officer. He is also Co-Chair of the Water Balance Model Partnership.

Richard is the District’s project manager for case study demonstration applications that have been driving the evolution of the Water Balance Model for the past decade. The District of North Vancouver in pioneering the integrated application of performance targets for runoff management, at the neighbourhood scale, to protect stream health.  Under Richard’s leadership, the District has also demonstrated the cost-effectiveness and power of imagery analysis as a rainwater management tool.

David Pfortmueller

David Pfortmueller has been involved in irrigation system installation and service for over 22 years and is currently vice president of University Sprinklers.  He is a past president of the IIABC and current IIABC Certification Board Member.

He has been an active instructor for their courses, including a co-developer of one of the IIABC’s most recent certifications – the Certified Irrigation Scheduler course.  He holds a number of other certifications and designations from other associations including the Irrigation Association, BCWWA & BC Electrical Safety Authority.

To Learn More:

Developed by an inter-regional partnership led by the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB), the Topsoil Bylaws Toolkit gives local governments practical tools that support smart topsoil policies. The Toolkit presents basic principles of topsoil science and management. It also provides sample policy and bylaw language. For context, click on the links below:

Topsoil Bylaws Toolkit – new guidance document supports Water Conservation and Rainwater Management in BC

The Dirt Makes the Difference