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Vancouver Island Water

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FLASHBACK TO 2009: The key message for the 2009 Comox Valley Seminar Series, titled “Getting Ahead of the Wave”, was about the ‘call to courage’ in order to ‘move from boundaries to commonalities’, and implement ‘design with nature’ solutions on the ground through partnerships and collaboration


“The power of the 2009 Series resulted from the fact that it was internally driven by staff. As a result, the process of organizing the series and developing the curriculum enabled people in all four local governments to work together,” stated Judith Walker, Municipal Planner with Cumberland. “The research conclusions by Tim Pringle really struck home for me, in particular his finding that proponents of major development projects are much better resourced than local government. We are always in a position of having to react.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2009: “It takes time for people to wrap their minds around a concept such as regional-based planning; and understand what it really means on the ground, and on a daily basis,” stated Jack Minard following release in 2008 of ‘Nature Without Borders: The Comox Valley Land Trust Regional Conservation Strategy’


“The Strategy aims to provide reliable and accessible conservation information to politicians, planners, developers, community groups and residents, and to assist in wise and informed land use decisions and conservation actions,” stated Jack Minard, (former) Executive Director of the Comox Valley Land Trust. “The desired outcome in developing the Strategy is to contribute to the quality of life of Comox Valley residents by working to protect the lands that are essential for ecosystem function, human health and well-being, economic sustainability, and civic pride.”

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CONVENING FOR ACTION IN THREE REGIONS: “Smart Planning and Living Water Smart: Approaches and Tools for Doing Business Differently in British Columbia” – hosted by three provincial ministries, the 2009 Penticton Forum showcased the work of the Comox Valley Regional Team


“The Penticton Forum supports and/or complements various provincial initiatives, notably: Living Water Smart, the Green Communities Initiative, A Guide to Green Choices and Beyond the Guidebook. Collectively, these initiatives establish expectations that, in turn, will influence the form and function of the built environment in general and green infrastructure on the ground in particular,” stated Glen Brown.

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FLASHBACK TO 2008: Capacity-building program branded as the “Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series” – and implemented in the Comox and Cowichan valleys – was a demonstration application of how to build inter-departmental and inter-governmental alignment to achieve the vision for Living Water Smart, BC’s Water Plan


Launch of the Living Water Smart outreach program commenced with a precedent-setting approach to capacity-building in the local government sector. “We are using the slogan The New Business As Usual to convey the message that, for change to really occur, practices that until now have been viewed as the exception must become the norm moving forward. We have to build regulatory models and develop models of practice and expertise to support The New Business As Usual,” stated Dale Wall, former Deputy Minister (Municipal Affairs) when he announced the Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series

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CONVENING FOR ACTION IN THE NANAIMO REGION: “The stewardship groups comprising the Nanaimo Watershed Health Community of Practice have set out to build relationships with City Council and staff in a collegial and collaborative way. The relationships will grow as we build a culture of stewardship,” states Paul Chapman, NALT Executive Director


Galvanized by what they learned during the Nanaimo 2018 Symposium, a diverse group of stewardship groups took their first coordinated action before leaving the symposium when they formed a creekshed coalition. Eighteen months later, in October 2019, the group took the Mayor and members of Council on a creekshed walkabout so that they would see firsthand the nature of the issues of concern. “The saying from the hiking community is: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” stated Paul Chapman when he provided the context for collaboration.

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FLASHBACK TO 2007: Inter-regional sharing of green infrastructure approaches, tools, experiences and lessons learned as an outcome of designing with nature – Comox Valley local governments co-hosted the finale event in the inaugural “Vancouver Island Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation Series”, an initiative under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia


“Local government leaders are telling our staffs that we want to be a sustainable community tomorrow. We are not being so unrealistic as to ask for this yesterday,” stated former City of Courtenay Mayor Starr Winchester when she welcomed participants. “Like most other areas on Vancouver Island, the Comox Valley is at a major cross-roads as to how we will develop and still maintain the natural beauty of our community. This is a real challenge. We want to keep our rural areas rural, yet we are faced with many people coming into the valley, especially now that we have an international airport.”

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TAPPED OUT: “The Koksilah case study highlights a pressing problem in implementing the Water Sustainability Act: existing groundwater users may already be taking too much water,” wrote Tanis Gower, lead author


Losing access to water has serious economic impacts for farms and businesses. Every effort should be made to prevent this scenario. Instead, a more proactive and collaborative water management system needs to be developed for overdrawn watersheds like the Koksilah, to protect aquatic life, manage conflict between water users, prioritize water uses, and recognize Aboriginal rights and title. This can only be accomplished through water planning,” stated Tanis Gower.

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WATER STEWARDSHIP IN A CHANGING CLIMATE: We set out to bring together a diverse and balanced audience at ‘Parksville 2019’. And we succeeded. We informed. We educated. We inspired. The bar is now raised even higher for ‘Comox Valley 2020’, the third in the Vancouver Island Symposia Series.


Close to 200 delegates came from far and wide to participate in the Parksville 2019 Symposium, the second in the symposia series. “Thank you so much for the immense amount of work you do to protect ecosystem services and teach us all about taking responsibility. The Vancouver Island symposium on water stewardship was so inspiring and informative. It was a wonderful experience. I left Parksville feeling hopeful,” stated Councillor Laura Dupont, City of Port Coquitlam.

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URBAN DESIGN, NEIGHBOURHOOD PLANNING & PACKAGE OF ECOLOGICAL SERVICES: Town of Comox precedents are working examples of what “reconnecting hydrology and ecology” looks like in practice


Town of Comox experience demonstrates that ‘Ecological Services are Core Municipal Services, not an Add-On’. Mayor Russ Arnott elaborates: “The ecological services within Brooklyn Creek are integral components of the Town’s core services of rainwater management, parks and fish habitat protection. Once the Town switched to viewing ecological services as core municipal services, we then asked ourselves: how can we do things better? The Draft Anderton Corridor Neighbourhood Concept Plan is the result.”

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WATER STEWARDSHIP & RESTORATIVE DEVELOPMENT IN A CHANGING CLIMATE: Unifying theme for Vancouver Island Symposia Series is the power of local government collaboration with the stewardship sector


“A goal of restorative land development would be to restore the integrity of the natural water balance. If this work is done right, it should be possible to: first, halt ecosystem decline; and after that, bend the trend-line in an upwards direction,” states Paul Chapman. “Guided by a whole-system, water balance approach, restorative land development would reconnect hydrology and ecology. Connecting dots, then, a key message is that restorative land development results in sustainable stream restoration.”

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