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Vancouver Island Water

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RECONNECT HYDROLOGY & ECOLOGY TO MOVE TOWARDS RESTORATIVE DEVELOPMENT: An understanding of Daniel Pauly’s “Shifting Baseline Syndrome” is a foundation piece for turning the clock back to replicate desired creekshed conditions


A shifting baseline (also known as sliding baseline) is a type of change to how a system is measured, usually against previous reference points (baselines), which themselves may represent significant changes from an even earlier state of the system. “Every generation will use the images that they got at the beginning of their conscious lives as a standard and will extrapolate forward. And the difference then, they perceive as a loss. But they don’t perceive what happened before as a loss,” stated Daniel Pauly. “And the question is, why do people accept this? Well because they don’t know that it was different.”

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BRITISH COLUMBIA IS AT A TIPPING POINT: The time has come to transition drainage engineering practice from “voodoo hydrology” to a water balance approach branded as “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management”


Drainage engineering practice for servicing of land still relies on very simple formulae and methodologies to calculate peak rates of flow. Such analyses are empirical, not science-based. Andy Reese coined the term Voodoo Hydrology in 2006 to describe drainage engineering and stormwater management practice. “We have for years relied upon common design methodologies and trusted their results. But, should we? It is an inexact science at best. We rely on judgment and guesswork,” states Andy Reese.

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JOIN US FOR A WATERSHED MOMENT (April 2-3-4, 2019): Parksville 2019 Symposium on restorative development is the outcome of collaboration involving three non-government organizations that share a vision for reconnecting hydrology and ecology – the Nanaimo & Area Land Trust (NALT), the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, and the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES)


“Now is the time to get it right. Restoring water balance is crucial for our human and natural habitats. The 2018 Symposium brought us together and gave us energy for change, the 2019 Parksville Symposium will show us real world examples of planning for the water we want and need,” states Paul Chapman. “Some of the challenges to stewardship, the barriers, are upstream, literally and figuratively. Outdated development decisions and practices continue to disrupt the water balance and undermine the health of watersheds. Some of the challenges require a step past the comfortable – political action.”

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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)


“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. The program is well positioned, with a model of innovative collaboration, to tackle the issues and chart a new course to a sustainable water future.”

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THE RESTORATION ECONOMY: “The major driver of economic growth in the twenty-first century will be redeveloping our nations, revitalizing our cities, and rehabilitating and expanding our ecosystems,” wrote Storm Cunningham, author & futurist (2002)


“In the late ’90s, I began noticing a miraculous new trend: a number of places – both ecosystems and communities – were actually getting better, some spectacularly so,” wrote Storm Cunningham. “I began investigating this seeming miracle and discovered a monstrously huge, almost entirely hidden economic sector. It was restoring our world – both our built environment and our natural environment – and it already accounted for over a trillion dollars per year. But nobody was paying it any attention! I wanted to help bring the millions of restorationists together. All were working in isolation, unaware that they were part of the fastest-growing economic sector on the planet.”

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“Parksville 2019” – Coming Soon!

In April 2019, the 2nd Annual Vancouver Island Symposium on Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate will be held in the City of Parksville. This 3-day event will celebrate local government initiatives on Vancouver Island that are “getting it right”. These success stories are characterized by commitment, collaboration and the “hard work of hope”. A decade of effort, by partnerships of local governments and community stewards, is demonstrating success on the ground where it matters. They are on a pathway to reconnect hydrology and ecology. Follow the leaders!

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Convening for Action in Shelly Creek: “Because the stream is pushing so much water through, the trees and land around the stream are eroding,” said Peter Law, Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society, in a newspaper interview (November 2017)


“We decided to look into what was causing the sediment load that was making the stream wider and reducing the pools. We did a survey, looking at every metre of the stream to find the sediment source and to see if it was coming from one site, or many,” stated Peter Law. MVIHES, working in partnership with the City of Parksville, the Regional District of Nanaimo, Pacific Salmon Foundation and the Partnership for Water Sustainability in B.C. co-funded an engineering study on how to restore watershed hydrology, prevent stream erosion and ensure fish survival.

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DOWNLOAD: “The Story of the 2008 Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series” – demonstration applications in two regions pioneered a ‘regional team approach’ to aligning efforts to implement Living Water Smart, BC’s Water Plan


Inter-departmental participation by all member local governments effectively meant closing front counters on three Fridays for most of the day so that planning, engineering, operations and building inspection staff could attend the Learning Lunch seminars. “Each session started at 11:00am and ended at 2:30pm,” stated Peter Nilsen. “This was the right length of time to maintain the interest and energy level of participants. Three and a half hours sounds like a lot of time, but it goes quickly; and we were just scratching the surface in terms of the material that we presented.”

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LIVING WATER SMART ON VANCOUVER ISLAND: Cowichan Water Use Plan Unveiled for Cowichan Region


“During many years, there has no longer been enough water to support the varied needs of fish, local residents, industry and other users. By 2050 critical snow pack is projected to decrease by 85%, reducing lake inflows in the spring and early summer. This will be compounded by a reduction in summer rainfall of 17%,” said Jon Lefebure, Cowichan Valley Regional District Board Chair. “Further, water storage to support continued flow in most years will not be possible in the future without additional storage and adjusted management regimes.”

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LOOK BACK TO LOOK FORWARD: Experience and relationships flowing from the precedent-setting 2008 Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series ultimately led to the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative (IREI), recalls John Finnie, CAVI Chair during the period 2006 through 2011


Five provincial guidance documents formed the curriculum backbone for the 2008 series. Local case study experience informed the program design. Each series comprised three sessions that provided an inter-departmental learning opportunity for collaborative exploration. Each series was conducted as a cumulative process, from philosophy to tools. “It came to fruition because of the commitment, the energy and the dedication of our local government partners in three regional districts – Cowichan, Comox and Nanaimo,” recalls John Finnie.

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