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Water-Centric Planning

Plan with a view to water – whether for a single site, a region or the entire province. Choose to live water smart. Prepare communities for a changing climate. What happens on the land matters – therefore, take into account potential impacts of land use and community design decisions on watershed function. Look at water through different lenses. When collaboration is a common or shared value, the right mix of people and perspectives will create the conditions for change.

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WATER SUSTAINABILITY ACTION PLAN: The Partnership’s Water-Centric Planning community-of-interest provides a legacy record for preserving stories about “Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan” and adapting to a changing climate


“The partnership umbrella provided by the Water Sustainability Action Plan has allowed the Province to leverage partnerships to greatly enhance the profile and resulting impact of Living Water Smart. In effect, the Action Plan partners are functioning as the on-the-ground Living Water Smart implementation arm with local government, allowing my team to focus on legislative reform. Living Water Smart comprises 45 commitments grouped into five themes. The Action Plan has played a key delivery role in two of the five,” stated Lynn Kriwoken.

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WATER SUSTAINABILITY ACTION PLAN: Historical context for evolving from a community-of-interest on the waterbucket.ca website to implement and mainstream “Water-Centric Planning” in British Columbia


“Originally, this COI was to be called Watershed-Based Planning for consistency with the community planning element of the Water Sustainability Action Plan. However, federal and provincial funding enabled us to broaden the scope of the COI to encompass a spectrum of perspectives, ranging from provincial watershed planning to local government community planning. This expanded scope is an ambitious undertaking. We are excited by the challenges that integration of perspectives involves,” stated Robyn Wark.

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WATER SUSTAINABILITY ACTION PLAN: Metro Vancouver guidance document for a “Watershed / Landscape-based Approach to Community Planning” is the genesis for an actionable vision for water-centric planning in British Columbia


Published in March 2002 by the Greater Vancouver Regional District, the “Watershed / Landscape-Based Approach to Community Planning” was developed by an interdisciplinary working group and is the genesis of “water-centric planning”. “An important message is that planning and implementation involves cooperation among all orders of government as well as the non-government and private sectors,” stated Erik Karlsen.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “We will be successful when community development is guided by a vision that  embraces ‘design with nature’ approaches to reconnect people, land, fish, and water in altered landscapes,” stated Peter Law, a Founding Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability, when he provided context for the Partnership’s Living Water Smart Series (May 2021)


“Released in 2008, Living Water Smart was the provincial government’s call to action, and to this day transcends governments. With Living Water Smart as its starting point, the Partnership has a primary goal, to build bridges of understanding and pass the baton from the past to the present and future. The Living Water Smart Series is an integral part of the knowledge-transfer process. In the Series, featured authors explore specific themes, with an objective of connecting dots. The Partnership goal is to facilitate understanding of how to build greener communities and adapt to a changing climate,” stated Peter Law.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “There is a context that allowed Mike Wall to see an opportunity and take it on. The right questions were asked. The right professionals were on board. This combination led to self-evident success. The takeaway message is to understand your role, understand what is possible, and then find the opportunities,” stated Gracelyn Shannon, asset management professional (June 2021)


“Michael Wall is the Manager of Strategic Initiatives and Asset Management at qathet Regional District. On one of Michael’s projects in 2020, the team was presented with an $850,000 engineered solution to manage runoff at the landfill closure site. Michael and his team questioned the proposed engineered solution and wondered if there may be a way to better use the surrounding forest instead. Michael and a small army of local professionals were able to develop a natural asset solution to manage the landfill runoff. The new green infrastructure plan saved $700,000 of taxpayer money and 0.5 hectares of second growth forest,” stated Gracelyn Shannon.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “If we are going to tackle the huge challenge that is the climate emergency, then we are absolutely going to need to work with nature and put aside the idea that we can dominate it,” stated Laura Dupont, a Councillor with the City of Port Coquitlam, and President of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association


“Covering the region from Pemberton to Hope, the Lower Mainland Local Government Association is a diverse membership with diverse needs. It advocates for members on various Provincial and Federal issues and works to inform and advance local government interests. The group also holds a seat on the UBCM executive and some of the committees within. Priorities of the current board are to advance resolutions related to climate resiliency, food security and inequality. The group is open minded and exceedingly progressive on these important issue,” stated Laura Dupont.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “An unintended outcome of customizing the BC Landscape Water Calculator for Abbotsford is in the way it gives homeowners direction for plant selection. This is powerful,” stated Amy Peters, coordinator of the City of Abbotsford water conservation program


“In 2011, the City looked at options to reduce peak water demands due to the high cost of a new water source. This included conservation, optimizing existing sources and system efficiencies. Several different conservation programs were explored, one of the programs implemented was a voluntary program for irrigation and landscape water efficiency. The solution to our need was the BC Landscape Water Calculator. Homeowners can now provide us with a report that shows how their choice of water efficient plants and landscape design meets their water budget,” stated Amy Peters.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “The Regional District of Nanaimo’s ultimate vision is to support land use decision-making with local water information. In the next decade, the DWWP program will further hydrology-focused efforts and add the new lens of ecosystem financial valuation of natural watershed assets,” stated Julie Pisani, Program Coordinator, Drinking Water & Watershed Protection Program


“The EAP methodology reflects the understanding that landowners adjacent to the stream corridor and setback zone (30 metres on both sides of the stream) and the broader community share responsibility for and benefit from the condition of the stream as well as the financial and ecological value of the land it occupies. The study’s intent was to pilot EAP (the Ecological Accounting Process) in the context of the Millstone River, an important ecological feature in the Nanaimo region, to test the methodology and take away learnings for further refinement in future applications,” stated Julie Pisani.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “The study looked at the existing policies, rules and practices used to protect salmon in the Lower Fraser Watershed. Then it compared Indigenous, federal, provincial and local government policies with standards used in the Fraser Basin Council’s Salmon-Safe Urban B.C. program,” stated Andrea McDonald, author of Creating Safe Cities for Salmon (May 2021)


Creating Safe Cities for Salmon seems straightforward as a vision and a goal. But creating this outcome depends on bringing together a myriad of small pieces to create the big picture. This takes a career and requires enduring commitment. “I am inspired. I feel like I know the direction that I will take and that is local government. And I am passionate about having a career in local government because that is where I see the needed changes happening. It is where I see bringing my environmental perspective to both policy making and implementation,” stated Andrea McDonald.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Launched in March 2021, the Columbia Basin Water Hub will make critical water data readily available to decision makers for watershed management in an era of climate change impacting hydrological flows,” stated Kat Hartwig, Founder & Executive Director of Living Lakes Canada


Kat Hartwig is the passion and vision behind Living Lakes. At the same as she is building Living Lakes, Kat is also mentoring a growing team of young environmental professionals who are very passionate about water stewardship. Everyone wants to continue Kat’s vision. “We set out to build an open source data hub for the Upper Columbia Basin. Now we’ve got the platform built, we’re training groups to upload their data, and we’re receiving feedback from groups and provincial and local governments to ensure we’re supporting their needs. It’s an iterative process,” stated Kat Hartwig.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “At the end of the day, good decision-making comes down to a good process. But it also relies on wisdom in terms of balanced advice,” stated Peter Steblin, Chief Administrative Officer with the City of Coquitlam


“Balance is key to good government. One needs good administrative expertise to advise and serve the political arm. At the same time, the political arm has to trust the administrative arm. The two arms must work together. Council buy-in follows when Council fundamentally respects the work that Staff does. In Coquitlam, respect has grown over time. It would not be possible without a really wise, good servant’s heart within the Council table. An airplane analogy is one way to describe the relationship. Think of one wing as political and the other as administration. If either wing is not functioning properly, the plane will crash,” stated Peter Steblin.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “By mobilizing vast external resources, networked nonprofits can focus on their own expertise. At the same time, these external resources enhance the value and influence of each organization’s expertise,” stated Dr.Jane Wei-Skillern, co-author of The Networked Nonprofit, which provides context for the Partnership for Water Sustainability vision for collaborative leadership


“The network emerges around a common goal, rather than a particular program or organizational model. The community mobilizes the resources from throughout the network, and based on existing relationships in the community. The solution is emergent and comes from the community members themselves, rather than being pushed from the top down. And finally, once a network is up and running and proves itself to be effective, it becomes the primary vehicle for change, rather than the individual organizations themselves,” stated Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern.

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THE EMERGING CRISIS AROUND GROUNDWATER LEGISLATION IMPLEMENTATION IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “By not applying, the historical water users are effectively giving the government back the volumes of water they were using. After March 1, 2022, these volumes go back into the communal system for reallocation and when they apply, the historical users will be at the back of the line,” stated Donna Forsyth, former Legislative Advisor in the Ministry of Environment (May 2021)


“When the government changed the rules with the Water Sustainability Act, it recognized that it was placing a new regulatory burden on historic groundwater users and gave them time to continue using their water while they applied for the licences. Now, the time to get those applications in is running out. If historic, non-domestic water users don’t get their licence applications in by March 1 2022, they’ll not only lose their authority to use the water, but they could experience a gap of years before a decision is made on their applications,” warns Donna Forsyth.

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