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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: 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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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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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Dealing with life-cycle realities is such a challenging area of engineering and utility asset management to think about. Many other fields of engineering have already been through multiple life cycles of the asset. They have already felt the pain of not doing it right,” stated Daniel Horan, Director of Engineering and Public Works, when he explained Oak Bay’s Sustainable Infrastructure Replacement Plan (January 2022)


“Oak Bay is now coming to grips with how to deal with three parallel streams of effort all at once. There is the current maintenance load that must be done. There is also the maintenance backlog that must be cleared. On top of maintenance, we are also expanding the total amount of capital infrastructure work that we are doing,” stated Daniel Horan. “Infrastructure replacement is as big challenge for the next 50 years, as it was 100 years ago when community infrastructure systems were first being installed. But this challenge is not on everyone’s radar. Yet it is fundamental to what it means to live in a community now.”

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WATER RESOURCE USE AND CONSERVATION IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Over the past several years, the B.C. government dropped the ball on several important and varied water-related files with the result that threats to public health and safety, critical infrastructure and food security have all increased,” stated Donna Forsyth, lead author for an opinion piece published by the Vancouver Sun newspaper (January 2022)


“Mandates to facilitate development conflict with the protection of our water. This must change and it will require strong political leadership and the creation of a dedicated, independent and comprehensive water agency with a clear mandate to ensure the protection of our water resources as a top government priority. Last year’s floods and heat domes are a wake-up call. We can expect more and failure to make water policy changes now guarantees a torrent of trouble ahead,” stated Donna Forsyth.

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THE ERA OF WEATHER EXTREMES IS UPON US: “There’s that pit in your stomach where you’re thinking, ‘Is this the moment where I get to say I told you so?’ ” said Tamsin Lyle, an engineer and one of several experts who had warned of flood risks in the Lower Mainland, when she was interviewed on the Fifth Estate (November 2021)


Tamsin Lyle wrote a report for the provincial government in May 2021. In it, she stated that “the current model for flood risk governance in B.C. is broken.” Lyle said she was asked by senior bureaucrats to “tone down the language.” But she declined. “One of my proudest moments is that I kept that line in,” she said. “I think the province from about 20 years ago has a lot to answer for in terms of downloading the responsibility from the province – who had the better capacity to look at the problem at scale – to local governments who don’t have the capacity and don’t have the expertise.”

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BLUE ECOLOGY IS THE PATHWAY TO REACH WATER RECONCILIATION: “It costs you nothing to change your attitude. A new collaborative knowledge attitude will open up new worlds of possibility. The Blue Ecology vision is collaborative, not competitive,” stated Michael Blackstock, Independent Indigenous Scholar (January 2022)


“Our children’s children will be faced with daunting, complex, and urgent environmental problems. The impending crisis requires us to begin to lay a foundation for our children’s children to have a starting point, and some options to grasp in the urgent moment. We owe them hope,” stated Michael Blackstock. “Now is the time to act on the belief that if we interweave our strengths as traditional knowledge keepers, scientists, poets, artists, and architects in a collaborative manner, we can make a difference.”

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Blue Ecology is an idea whose time has come. If British Columbia water managers would embrace the Blue Ecology ecological philosophy, our communities would become more water-resilient, and we would successfully adapt to a changing climate,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia (January 2022)


“Blue Ecology has been a two-decade long journey of discovery for Michael Blackstock, highlighted by his appointment to a UNESCO Expert Panel for a 4-year term in 2008. His work on the Expert Panel resulted in an invitation to share his Blue Ecology message at an international symposium held in October 2008 by the International Association of Hydrological Sciences. Michael laid out the case for an attitude change and culture-shift related to water. Since then, he has written and/or contributed to a series of books that build on this theme,” stated Kim Stephens.

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FACT SHEETS FOR AGRICULTURAL WATER USE: “All reservoirs, whether natural or constructed, that take water from a stream to fill the facility will need a storage licence. The subsequent water use purpose, irrigation, also requires a water licence,” stated Stephanie Tam, Water Management Engineer with the BC Ministry of Agriculture (January 2022)


Farmers in British Columbia often need storage facilities to supply farmstead water or to support water licences from surface or groundwater sources that do not provide sufficient flow during summer months. Water storages can be on either private or crown land, but a licence will be required to store water that is vested to the Province. Storages can be in the form of dugouts, reservoirs with small berms, or large reservoirs behind a dam. The rules and regulations that must be followed will depend on the type of storage facility being built.

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ANTARCTICA’S DOOMSDAY GLACIER: “While uncertainty remains about exactly what will happen, one thing is for sure – the retreating Thwaites glacier will continue to add to global sea levels for many years to come,” stated Dr. Ella Gilbert, climate scientist at the University of Reading (January 2022)


“Thwaites glacier, the widest in the world at 80 miles wide, is held back by a floating platform of ice called an ice shelf, which makes it flow less quickly. But scientists have just confirmed that this ice shelf is becoming rapidly destabilised. The eastern ice shelf now has cracks criss-crossing its surface, and could collapse within ten years. If Thwaites’ ice shelf did collapse, it would spell the beginning of the end for the glacier. Without its ice shelf, Thwaites glacier would discharge all its ice into the ocean over the following decades to centuries.” stated Dr. Ella Gilbert.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “More hard surfaces in the uplands means more surface runoff volume is discharging into the agricultural lowlands. And the increased flows in streams are over longer durations. This is the real issue,” stated Ted van der Gulik, former Senior Engineer in the Ministry of Agriculture, when he explained the ARDSA criteria that have defined design practice for a half-century


“In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, ARDSA was a Federal and Provincial capital program that funded rural irrigation water supply, rural drainage infrastructure as well as rural electrification projects. The rules were quite strict. Projects were required to have a return on the investment greater than 1. In other words, the value of the increase in agriculture production due to project implementation had to return more than the original cost of the project over a 20-year time frame, in net present value dollars at the time of project approval,” stated Ted van der Gulik.

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GRANTING A RIVER ‘PERSONHOOD’ COULD HELP PROTECT IT: “Galvanized by widespread environmental degradation and rising Indigenous rights movements, Indigenous communities around the world are leading the way in upholding the rights of sacred and ancestral rivers,” wrote Justine Townsend, University of Guelph, in an opinion piece published by The Conversation Canada (June 2021)


“Extractive values — the belief that natural entities are resources that can be used for human benefit with little regard for their well-being and longevity — are deeply embedded in Canada’s legal and economic systems. These values influence the ideologies at the root of our biodiversity and climate crises. These ideologies justify the transformation of rivers, forests and the atmosphere into commodities and private property at our own peril. Enshrining their rights in law is a promising legal innovation,” stated Justine Townsend.

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THE ERA OF WEATHER EXTREMES IS UPON US: “Scientists are generally reluctant to attribute single extreme weather events to climate change, but the exceptional events of recent years are shifting opinion,” stated John Clague, Emeritus Professor in Earth Sciences at Simon Fraser University (November 2021)


“The West Coast of Canada is known for its wet autumn weather, but the storm that British Columbia’s Fraser Valley experienced over the weekend of November 13-14, 2021 was one for the record books. A weather system called an “atmospheric river” flowed across the southwest corner of the province and, over a period of two days, brought strong winds and near-record amounts of rain, which caused widespread flooding and landslides,” wrote John Clague.

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