FLASHBACK TO 2015: “A Guide to Water-Wise Land Development in the Comox Valley” – Joint Staff Training Workshop initiated educational process for communicating ‘design with nature’ expectations in urban watersheds

Note to Reader:

In 2008, the four Comox Valley local governments volunteered to be a ‘demonstration application’ for exploration of a regional team approach to ‘designing with nature’ in order to achieve desired rainwater management outcomes. The approach has been guided by the watershed health target (p.43) in Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan.

Comox Valley staff have “shared, learned, leveraged and cross-pollinated” through their participation in the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative. A Guide for Water-Wise Land Development in the Comox Valley, showcased in 2014 and finalized in 2015, was an outcome of this inter-governmental collaboration.

Comox Valley_breakout groups_collage_Dec2015

Desired Outcome: Ongoing dialogue/collaboration that would lead to healthy, resilient local natural infrastructure

The Joint Staff Training Workshop held in December 2015 commenced the internal rollout of the Water-Wise Guide in each of the partner jurisdictions – Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD), City of Courtenay, Town of Comox and Village of Cumberland. The workshop also showcased the Water Balance Model Express for the Comox Valley, an online scenario comparison tool, and introduced the Water-Wise Website (under development).

“The passion of the regional team came through in their individual presentations. Their enthusiasm infected the audience in a good way. The moment everyone broke into discussion groups one could feel the energy in the room. At the workshop conclusion, it was clear that the session had achieved a transformative outcome,” observed Kim Stephens, workshop facilitator, and Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

Expectations for Watershed Protection

Kris La Rose_2014_v2_120p“The Water-Wise Guide communicates expectations for land development that respects nature and helps get watershed health ‘right at the front-end’,” stated Kris LaRose, CVRD Manager of Liquid Waste Planning. He chairs the regional team.

“The Water-Wise Guide is designed to be visually engaging, easy to read, have front counter ‘branding’ consistent to all four local government planning counters – with tips for applicants on how to prepare successful plans that will reduce financial and environmental risk, improve watershed health and fulfill regulatory objectives.”

Road Map for Action

Nancy Gothard_2016_cropped_120pThe Water-Wise Guide can be viewed as a communication tool,” continued Nancy Gothard, City of Courtenay environmental planner. “But more than that, it is both a call to action (for the community, but also for us) as well as a road map for that action. So, our goal is to begin to brand the story and depict visually that we are developing a consistency in expectations as to how development would address environmental concerns. Having the Water-Wise Guide available on every front counter and every website is a first step.”

Rainwater Management: Slow It-Sink It-Spread It

Glenn Westendorp3_Dec2015_120pThe online Water Balance Express tool provide us with a means to engage and educate homeowners and the development community on what is possible,” foreshadowed Glenn Westendorp, Town of Comox works superintendent. “Slow it – Sink it – Spread it. This simple saying summarizes the means by which we can manage Rain Water to alleviate both drought and flooding. Easy access to the Express and the Water-Wise Guide are the beginning of the education process. The solutions that fall out of them are not daunting.”

Shared Responsibility

Judy Walker_March2015_2_120pIt does not matter how far away you live or build from a creek, lake, bog or the ocean – you are in a watershed. The Comox Valley consists of 26 watersheds. Each of us has a role to play to ensure these watersheds remain healthy for generations to come,” stated Judith Walker, Village of Cumberland planner. “The four local governments in the Comox Valley are striving for consistent application of outcome-oriented actions.”

Watershed Knowledge = Save Money

JackMinard_120pCollaboration is an important part of ‘developing water wise’. And collaboration with the stewardship sector is crucial,” concluded Jack Minard, (former) Executive Director of the Comox Valley Land Trust. “Community stewards have the long-term knowledge of how a watershed is functioning on the ground. They know and understand the whole watershed. Collaboration with stewardship groups can save local governments and developers money both in the short term and long term.”

Moving Forward Collaboratively

Alexandra-Hitchcock_120pThe Joint Staff Workshop is intended to begin an ongoing dialogue/collaboration among local government staff. To this end, “the workshop concluded with a group activity which enabled the regional team to solicit ideas and input from other staff on how best to continue the internal conversations within each jurisdiction. Then all staff can “share and learn” from each other,” summarized Alexandra Hitchcock, CVRD Engineering Analyst.

To Learn More:

To read a set of stories posted elsewhere on the waterbucket.ca website, click on: