FLASHBACK TO 2011: “The award recognizes those who are leading the way and demonstrating overall commitment to water sustainability,” stated Daisy Foster when the BC Water & Waste Association honoured the ‘Comox Valley Regional Team’ with the Leadership in Water Sustainability Award

Note to Reader:

In April 2011, the British Columbia Water & Waste Association (BCWWA) awarded the second Leadership in Water Sustainability Award at its annual conference. 

“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: Innovative Products and Tools; Networking and Outreach; Education and Training; and CapacityBuilding,” stated Daisy Foster, (former) BCWWA Chief Executive Officer.

This article profiles the 2010 winner, namely the Comox Valley Regional Team. The article was adapted from the nomination submitted by the BCWWA Water Sustainability Committee.

The Goal: Influence Choices that Create a Legacy

The Comox Valley demonstrated a ‘regional team approach’ when a convergence of interests 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 was 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 paved the way for the 2011 Series titled A Regional Response to ‘Infrastructure Liability’: Collaboration, Adaptation and Risk Management.

During the period 2008 through 2011, the series were open to all. In 2012, however, the process was an internal one. The goal was to move from awareness to action. An outcome was a Landowners Guide for Water-Wise Development in the Comox Valley. The 2012 Series contributed to the ‘proof of approach’ for the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative involving four regional districts on Vancouver Island.

Water Sustainability Action Plan:

Comox Valley demonstration applications were undertaken under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia and facilitated by Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC. Released in February 2004, the  Action Plan provides a partnership umbrella for on-the-ground initiatives in the local government setting. The over-arching goal is to encourage province-wide implementation of fully integrated water sustainability policies, plans and programs. The genesis for the Action Plan dates back to March 2003 when the vision and partnership concept first took shape for doing a 5-year update on A Water Conservation Strategy for British Columbia, released in 1998

Regional Team Approach

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.

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 was a case study on how to meet the targets and commitments in Living Water Smart, released in 2008. 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.

To Learn More:

The story of the CAVI-Comox Valley Regional Team is told elsewhere on this community-of-interest. Click on the links below to read about the annual Learning Lunch Seminar Series.

Also, visit 2011 State of the Island Economic Summit to learn about the ‘forum within the summit’ that featured the Comox Valley regional team.

The Award Winning Team

Top row (from left to right) in the photo above:

  • Kevin Lorette (Comox Valley Regional District)
  • Kevin Lagan (City of Courtenay)
  • Marc Rutten  (Comox Valley Regional District)
  • Michael Zabarsky (Comox Valley Regional District)
  • Geoff Garbutt (Comox Valley Regional District)
  • Derek Richmond (City of Courtenay)

Bottom row (from left to right):

  • Glen Westendorp (Town of Comox)
  • Shelley Ashfield (Town of Comox)
  • Marvin Kamenz  (Town of Comox)
  • Judy Walker (Village of Cumberland)
  • Jack Minard (Comox Valley Land Trust)

Sharing and Learning

“The learning opportunity for all of us was 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 learn better how local government works and for all practioners to learn what the environmental constraints really are and what they mean,” stated Jack Minard, (former) Executive Director of the Comox Valley Land Trust.

“The experience gained substance as we added the development and builder community. This type of collaboration can only benefit all interests, improve processes and deliver better outcomes.”

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 defined the goal of a regional team approach to be An Integrated Watershed Approach to Settlement Change.

The major outcome from this initiative was the demonstrated effectiveness of the regional team approach, a model that has broad application potential throughout Vancouver Island and beyond. It demonstrated 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?”

Townhall discussion at the 3rd in the 2009 Comox Valley Seminar Series