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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-Centric Planning Community-of-Interest


“Water-centric planning means planning with a view to water – whether for a single site or the entire province. At the core of the approach is a water balance way-of-thinking and acting. The underpinning premise is that resource, land use and community design decisions will be made with an eye towards their potential impact on the watershed,” explains Kim Stephens.

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“Watershed / Landscape-based Approach to Community Planning” – genesis of water-centric planning in BC


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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LEARNING FROM THE BURNING: “We keep talking about adaptation in service of resilience; but more than that we need to adapt now for what is to come,” stated Bob Sandford, Canada’s Winston Churchill of Water


“The foundation of my work is science. It seems to me that the commandments of science can be reduced to two: tell the truth and stand up for all humanity and for the planet,” says Bob Sandford. “Good science is not just the sharing of knowledge about the world, it is a candle we light when we want to see and be warmed by the truth. There has probably never been a time in history when making what science is telling us understandable to a vastly diverse and often preoccupied public has been more important.”

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Australia is the world’s driest continent, but when Europeans first arrived, it also had deep flowing rivers, expansive wetlands, clear creeks and drinkable billabongs


“There is an emerging discourse and practice around cultural flows, that is, water that can contribute to the meanings and practices of Traditional Lore. A greater emphasis on restoring and protecting cultural flows would be a leading innovation in water management,” Bruce Lindsay says. “The Indigenous connection to waterscapes is not just about the water itself. It is about the whole landscape and country and the obligations up and down the rivers.” In the state of Victoria, new water policy approaches have engaged Traditional Owner groups in developing management plans for catchments and major waterways

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ROADS TRUMP RIVERS IN AUSTRALIA: “The question is: can we not reorient the infrastructure model to protection and restoration of waterways? We need to turn urban streams back into functioning ecosystems,” wrote Bruce Lindsay, Environmental Justice Australia


“Freeways and waterways are not incompatible. But the legal privilege and financing of infrastructure is a question of priorities and perspectives and, for the sake of healthy communities and places, we need to give far greater priority to the city’s green infrastructure. The model of infrastructure laws and funding for freeways can potentially provide a model for protection, repair and restoration of urban waterways,” says Bruce Lindsay. “If it is necessary to acquire land along waterways, drive innovation in building and engineering standards, and use public finance to enable a restoration economy, then we should do it.”

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FIRE WEATHER SEVERITY: ‘Abnormally dry’ conditions across Pacific Northwest could spell long wildfire season for British Columbia (May 2019)


“The signs of climate change are all around us. Earth mother’s lifeblood (i.e. water) is becoming sparse in the Pacific Northwest, and some Indigenous Elders say this is happening because humans are not showing respect to water,” said Michael Blackstock. “Water withdraws itself from the disrespectful. Water is transforming from ice, to sea and river water, and then to traversing atmospheric rivers. Water was sleeping as ice, but now it is moving rapidly and unpredictably around our planet. Some places are deluged, while others lay tongue-parched.”

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ADAPT TO A CHANGING CLIMATE: “If we help nature, then nature can help us – that’s the message of this report,” said Kristalina Georgieva – in a joint report, World Bank and World Resources Institute show how the next generation of infrastructure projects can tap natural systems and, where appropriate, integrate green and gray infrastructure


21st century challenges require innovative solutions. Integrating ‘green’ natural systems like forests, wetlands and flood plains into ‘gray’ infrastructure system shows how nature can lie at the heart of sustainable development. “Measures like replanting wetlands can shield cities from storms and flooding, and protecting forests improves watersheds. Infrastructure should make use of plants and nature to boost resilience and create a more livable environment,” stated Kristalina Georgieva.

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“Climate change is already leading to unprecedented flooding, but urban planners have many tools to help them keep things dry,” wrote Ziqian (Cecilia) Dong, PhD, in an article published on the Scientific American Blog Network


“Rising water levels have already wrought havoc across the country. From 2000 to 2015, coastal ‘sunny day flooding’, or flooding caused by high tides rather than storms, more than doubled on the Southeast’s Atlantic coast, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. And it increased 75 percent on the Northeast’s coast,” said Ziqian Dong. “Climate change is also making storms more destructive and frequent by heating up ocean waters, increasing flooding. The United States experienced its most expensive hurricane season in history in 2017.”

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Governments of Canada and British Columbia announce ‘B.C. Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund’: “Wild salmon are deeply woven into B.C.’s cultural, social and economic fabric,” stated Premier John Horgan (March 2016)


“When it comes to our wild salmon stocks, there is no better indicator of the challenges we face than rising water temperatures, low snow pack, rivers that aren’t full with enough water to sustain our salmon, and that’s where we need to intervene,” said Premier John Horgan. “The salmon don’t know boundaries. The orca don’t know boundaries. They don’t know jurisdictions, one order of government over another. All they know is that humans have been interfering in their life cycles and it’s time for humans to get in the game and make a better choice and better decisions and help the salmon survive.”

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OUR CHANGING CLIMATE: British Columbia is in Year 5 of its ‘new reality’


“British Columbia’s climate is changing; and change is occurring at a rate much faster than anticipated. Looking back, 2015 marks the beginning of a ‘new normal’ which is defined by recurring extremes. Floods, drought, forest fires and windstorms – all are happening within the same year, and year after year,” states Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC. “Last week, a new scientific report from Environment and Climate Change Canada said Canada is warming up twice as fast as the rest of the world and it’s ‘effectively irreversible’.”

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IMPROVING WHERE WE LIVE: “Engagement of community through stewardship is a credible formula to be encouraged and mainstreamed at every opportunity,” states Eric Bonham – as a Director in the B.C. Ministry of Environment in the 1990s, Eric oversaw the highly successful Urban Salmon Habitat Program


“Stewardship operates under a different dynamic than the private sector or government. Stewards are drawn together for a common cause, like-minded individuals with a vision for the greater good,” states Eric Bonham. “This purpose is not to be found in the policy manuals of government, nor in regulations or legislation. Rather, it is built upon an enthusiastic personal commitment and passion by a band of individuals to make a difference. Financial gain is not a factor, nor is fame, and hard work is not grudged.”

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WATERSHED HEALTH AND YOU: At the Parksville 2019 Symposium, Gilles Wendling elaborates on “Groundwater & Surface Water Interaction in the Englishman River Watershed: One Water – Always Moving”


Because he looked at groundwater differently in the Englishman River, Dr. Gilles Wendling has advanced the science and he has developed a practical application of water balance thinking. His contributions to science-based understanding extend beyond the technical and into the communication and education realm. His work provides a bridge between rainfall and stream health.

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