5-YEAR FLASHBACK TO 2011: ‘Comox Valley Regional Team’ received the BCWWA Leadership in Water Sustainability Award, one of only two ever awarded

Note to Reader:

The British Columbia Water & Waste Association (BCWWA) has only awarded two Leadership in Water Sustainability Awards, and the second was to the Comox Valley Regional Team. 

logo_Water-Sustainability-Action-Plan_June2007“The award recognizes those who are leading the way and demonstrating overall commitment to water sustainability in their governance, administration, operations, education, culture and outreach.  Leadership in water sustainability must be demonstrated in any or all of four areas that correspond to the four elements of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia.

The article below was first posted on waterbucket.ca in April 2011 after the award was presented to Kevin Lorette (Comox Valley Regional District) at the 2011 Annual BCWWA Conference.

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Regional Team Approach in the Comox Valley

The Comox Valley is demonstrating a ‘regional team approach’ because a convergence of interests has created an opportunity for all the players to set their sights on the common good, challenge the old barriers of jurisdictional interests, and make water sustainability real.

The paradigm-shift is being accomplished through annual Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series, the first of which was hosted by the City of Courtenay in 2008. The regional team approach was an outcome of that series. It provided the springboard for the 2009 Series and 2010 Developers Dialogue, which in turn have paved the way for the 2011 Series titled A Regional Response to ‘Infrastructure Liability’: Collaboration, Adaptation and Risk Management.

The regional team approach is founded on partnerships and collaboration; and seeks to align actions at three scales – provincial, regional and local. The term ‘regional approach’ has been part our vocabulary for a generation or more, but it has never resonated the way ‘regional team approach’ has resonated in the Comox Valley.

Demonstration Application for ‘Living Water Smart’

In November 2010, the four local governments and the Comox Valley Land Trust decided that the time had come to brand their collaboration as the CAVI-Comox Valley Regional Team. This decision recognized their relationship within the over-arching Convening for Action on Vancouver Island (CAVI) initiative.

The Comox Valley is a case study on how to meet the targets and commitments in Living Water Smart. The target that fifty percent of new municipal needs will be acquired through conservation by 2020 framed the learning outcomes for the 2009 Series. Achieving the target relies on a regional team approach.

Sharing and Learning

“The learning opportunity for all of us is extraordinary at these CAVI seminars. Municipal and Regional District departments learning from each other, the various jurisdictions learning from each other and the incredible opportunity for the Stewardship community to Jack minard (120p)learn better how local government works and for all practioners to learn what the environmental constraints really are and what they mean. The experience gains substance as we add the development and builder community. This type of collaboration can only benefit all interests, improve processes and deliver better outcomes,” explains Jack  Minard, Executive Director of the Comox Valley Land Trust.

An Integrated Watershed Approach

The Regional Growth Strategy, Regional Sustainability Strategy, Regional Water Strategy and Regional Sewer Plan provided the backdrop for the 2009 Series. The four Comox Valley local governments have defined the goal of a regional team approach to be An Integrated Watershed Approach to Settlement Change.

The major outcome from this initiative has been the demonstrated effectiveness of the regional team approach, a model that has broad application potential throughout Vancouver Island and beyond. It demonstrates that when the parties reach for a common vision and work through their jurisdictional differences it is possible to accomplish mutual goals and implement sustainable practices within an overriding watershed context.

Taken further, and applied throughout all the regional districts on Vancouver Island, An Integrated Watershed Approach To Settlement Change becomes a reality for the whole of Vancouver Island and provides a practical tool to address the question “What do we want Vancouver Island to look like in 50 years?”

The Award Winning Team

  • Kevin Lagan, Derek Richmond, Nancy Hofer (City of Courtenay)
  • Kevin Lorette, Marc Rutten, Michael Zbarsky & Geoff Garbutt (Comox Valley Regional District)
  • Glen Westendorp, Shelley Ashfield & Marvin Kamenz  (Town of Comox)
  • Judy Walker (Village of Cumberland)
  • Jack Minard (Comox Valley Land Trust)