THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE WHOLE-SYSTEM, WATER BALANCE APPROACH: Bill Derry will co-present with Dr. Chris May at the Parksville 2019 Symposium (April 2019)

Note to Reader:

Washington State’s Bill Derry has a unique combination of career experience: local government innovator, consultant with cross-border experience, and, stewardship sector leader. One of the first stormwater utility managers in Washington State, he worked to convince Puget Sound local governments to create and fund research at the Center for Urban Water Resources Management.

His professional career began as a consultant in planning and environmental work.  In 1983 he went to work for Snohomish County where he worked to create and then manage the Snohomish County Surface Water Management Utility.  A decade later, he joined CH2M Hill. This allowed him to work with almost every city and county in Western Washington (as well as communities in Oregon, California, Alaska and British Columbia), developing stormwater plans and helping to restore habitat. 

In 1988 he co-founded the APWA Stormwater Managers Committee and was co-chair for 20 years.  This committee was the primary source of technical advice and review for writing Washington State stormwater regulations and the State’s stormwater technical manual. At the conclusion of the consulting phase of his career, he transitioned into the stewardship sector and became Board Chair and President of People for Puget Sound in 2010.

At the Parksville 2019 Symposium in April, Bill Derry and Dr. Chris May will elaborate on why and how the ‘salmon crisis’ in the 1990s was the driver for pioneer research at Washington State University that correlated land use changes with impacts on stream health; and how the resulting science-based understanding opened the door to the Whole-System, Water Balance approach to rainwater management in British Columbia.

Hydrology Rules! – protect the integrity of water balance pathways

The September-October 2016 issue of Canada Water magazine featured an article by Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia. In the article, he describes the influence that Washington State research had in the 1990s about changing the conversation from one that was engineering-centric to one that is about whole systems thinking.

“In the 1990s, Bill Derry, the founding Chair, Washington State Stormwater Managers Committee, and I led a workshop program for B.C. local government, and provided cross-border sharing of the latest research. Early access to the findings of two experts (Drs. Richard Horner and Chris May) allowed us to create what became known as the ‘fish pictures’,” wrote Kim Stephens. “These graphics translated the science…and set the stage for British Columbia to move towards sustainable watershed asset management.”

These workshops created the momentum that led to the SmartStorm Forum Series. In turn, these events were the springboard to Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, released in 2002.

To Learn More:

Download Watershed Moment: How British Columbia has incorporated watershed thinking into its asset management to read the complete article published in the September-October issue of Water Canada magazine.

Science-Based Ecosystem Approach

Two decades ago, the SmartStorm Forum Series comprised events on Vancouver Island (Nanaimo in January 1999) and the Sunshine Coast (Sechelt in September 1999), and in the Fraser Valley (Abbotsford and Pitt Meadows in March 2001). Kim Stephens and Bill Derry developed the core content for the program. They described it as a science-based ecosystem approach to differentiate from a pipes-and-flow engineering approach.

The genesis for the series was a focus group workshop held in October 1997. Convened by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), the workshop was part of the rollout process for the Fish Protection Act, enacted only a few months before.

At the workshop, Kim Stephens and Bill Derry led a discussion on a ‘science-based’ ecosystem approach to rainwater/stormwater management. Through their work with local governments, Stephens and Derry are recognized as having facilitated a paradigm-shift in British Columbia in the late 1990s.

They achieved this by translating the emerging Washington State science into a set of communication graphics. This approach enabled a common understanding among broad and diverse audiences about the impacts of urbanization on stream health. This helped local governments make informed decisions about urban watershed planning.

The coming together of a group of change agents in October 1997 set in motion a chain of events that has reverberated through time. Looking back, and in terms of ‘green’ rainwater management, much of what has happened in British Columbia can be traced back to October 1997 and who was in the room when UBCM convened the focus group workshop on the Fish Protection Act.

To Learn More:

Read Historical Importance of SmartStorm Forums (1999-2001): Series was the Catalyst for Looking at Rainfall Differently in British Columbia

‘FISH PICTURES’ BASED ON WASHINGTON STATE RESEARCH (Source: Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, 2002). (Adapted from research by Drs. Richard Horner & Chris May at Washington State University)