CHARTING A NEW COURSE TO A SUSTAINABLE WATER FUTURE: “The Regional District of Nanaimo’s long-term innovative regional program to protect water resources recognizes watersheds as the best management unit and enables collaborative initiatives, including community participation in water monitoring and water conservation,” wrote Julie Pisani (Innovation Magazine, 2018)
Note to Reader:
The rhythms of water are changing in British Columbia – winters are wetter and warmer; summers are longer and drier. In short, the water cycle is out of balance. Why is this? The answer is that warming of the planet’s atmosphere is causing water to move more quickly and disruptively through the global water cycle. Local consequences are magnified. Adapting to climate change requires transformation in how we perceive watershed worth and service land.
The Parksville 2019 Symposium is an opportunity for attendees to learn about the over-arching role played by the innovative and precedent-setting Drinking Water & Watershed Protection Program in the Regional District of Nanaimo. 2018 marks the tenth year of the DWWP program implementation. An Action Plan update will outline the priority actions and mandate for the next 10 years.
Sustainable Partnerships in the Regional District of Nanaimo
The Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) spans an area over 2,000 square km on the east coast of Vancouver Island from Deep Bay in the north to Yellow Point in the south.
The watersheds in the region are defined by short distances from mountain top to sea, with active forestry in the upper watersheds, productive agricultural lands in the middle watersheds, and growing urban and rural communities in the lower watersheds.
The land base is marked by some larger rivers and many smaller fish-bearing creeks. Drinking water for the region’s communities comes from a number of complex groundwater sources and a few surface water sources.
A Short History
In the early 2000s, RDN led a committee of stakeholders—including the local health authority, stewardship group members, professional biologists and hydrogeologists, provincial government professionals, water purveyors, and forestry professionals—in the development of an Action Plan to
guide the long-term management of the freshwater in the region, recognizing the pressures on the resource.
A number of key priority areas were identified including: the promotion of education and awareness of local water resources, collection of data and expansion of local scientific studies, and decision-making support to inform land-use planning in a watershed context.
By late 2007, the Drinking Water and Watershed Protection (DWWP) Action Plan was completed and endorsed by the RDN Board.
A Coordinated Response to Unknowns and Changes
“Like other locations in the province, the region is experiencing change: population growth as more residents are attracted to the area; climate change that manifests as longer, drier summers and more frequent short-duration intense rainstorms; and an evolving regulatory landscape that opens up possibilities for local water management,” explains Julie Pisani, Program Coordinator for the Drinking Water & Watershed Protection (DWWP) program in the RDN.
“What sets RDN apart is that in the face of unknowns and changes that can affect water resources, they are at the helm, actively steering to a sustainable and well-informed future. Their long-term innovative regional program to protect water resources recognizes watersheds as the best management unit and enables collaborative initiatives, including community participation in water monitoring and water conservation.”
To Learn More:
Download a PDF copy of Charting a New Course to a Sustainable Water Future, an article co-authored by Julie Pisani and Pat Lapcevic on the RDN’s Drinking Water and Watershed Protection program, and published in the January/February 2018 issue of Innovation Magazine.
A Look Back
In 2008, and as the outcome of a successful referendum, the RDN was the first regional government to create a Drinking Water and Watershed Protection (DWWP) service with taxation authority.
“Collaboration underscores the success of the RDN’s innovative program. It is charting a new course to a sustainable water future,” notes John Finnie, the RDN’s former General Manager of Regional & Community Utilities. He is the Chair, Nanaimo Symposium Organizing Committee. ”The 2008 referendum was the culmination of a 6-year effort. In 2012, the service area was expanded to include the municipalities within the regional district and they became active participants in the watershed function.”
“Over a decade ago, a growing population combined with known negative impacts created the need to tackle issues of groundwater depletion, stream degradation, surface water contamination and the changes climate change will bring. The Regional Board of the day understood that land use planning and development standards cannot be effectively modified without a clear understanding of our water resources, where they are changing and why,” continues Mike Donnelly, former RDN Manager of Water Services.
“Science and data collection are key focuses of the program,” reports Julie Pisani. “The DWWP program’s success is based on staying on course with reliable ongoing funding, collaborative fact-finding and project implementation, and recognition-in-action that watersheds don’t conform to jurisdictional boundaries. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to adapt to a changing climate.
“2018 marks the tenth year of the DWWP program implementation and an Action Plan update will outline the priority actions and mandate for the next 10 years. The solid foundation developed in the first 10 years provides a great opportunity to move forward with gained insight, practical understanding of the mechanics of program implementation, and context for the tools available through the new BC Water Sustainability Act.
“The RDN DWWP program is well positioned, with a model of innovative collaboration, to tackle the issues and chart a new course to a sustainable water future. Will other regions take notice and follow in RDN’s footsteps?”
To Learn More:
YOUTUBE VIDEO: “Regional coordination is a key to success in developing a regional water resource dataset to inform local planning and provincial decisions,” stated Julie Pisani, Regional District of Nanaimo
YOUTUBE VIDEO: “The RDN demonstrates commitment to watershed initiatives and water sustainability by delivering this service with a long-term reliable funding source,” stated Julie Pisani, Regional District of Nanaimo