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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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HOW SCIENTISTS GOT CLIMATE CHANGE SO WRONG: “Few thought it would arrive so quickly. Now we’re facing consequences once viewed as fringe scenarios,” wrote Eugene Linden in an opinion piece in the New York Times (November 2017)


“The word ‘upended’ does not do justice to the revolution in climate science wrought by the discovery of sudden climate change. The realization that the global climate can swing between warm and cold periods in a matter of decades or even less came as a profound shock to scientists who thought those shifts took hundreds if not thousands of years,” wrote Eugene Linden. “Even if scientists end up having lowballed their latest assessments….climate change is already here. And it is going to get worse. A lot worse.”

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MITIGATING A CATASTROPHIC ROCKSLIDE ON THE SEYMOUR RIVER, NORTH VANCOUVER: “We have been working on this for four years so, for the community, this is just great news. It’s fabulous news. I’m handing out cigars like a new father,” said Shaun Hollingsworth, president of the Seymour Salmonid Society, which has led the rescue effort (Dec 2015 through 2019)


“Big thanks are owed to the six governments – local, provincial, and federal as well as Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations – in addition to a host of NGOs, who have worked on the project,” stated Shaun Hollingsworth. “It’s thrilling. It’s unbelievable. It’s just a great feeling and I just want those who have been part of it to be proud of what they’ve done. When I go and sit at the rock slide, I believe that it’s fish passable, and Mother Nature is proving my gut feel correct.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2015: The Water Sustainability Act allows for the development of Water Sustainability Plans to integrate water and land use planning to address the potential impacts of land use decisions and actions on water


“The scale and scope of each Water Sustainability Plan – and the process used to develop it – would be unique, and would reflect the needs and interests of the watersheds affected. Planning will be an effective tool where the need is great, and where other area-based management tools are not able to address the links between land use and watershed impacts,” explained the Ministry of Environment’s Jennifer Vigano. Water Sustainability Plans can be combined with other local, regional or provincial planning processes.

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NEW REPORT > ‘Tapped Out’ Sounds Alarm about British Columbia’s Looming Water Crisis


“Many people believe that B.C. has limitless water supplies. Unfortunately, this is simply not true. All over the province, communities are already experiencing water shortages, and low water levels in many rivers threaten the survival of salmon. I began this project about a year ago, and my mission was to find a way to demonstrate how B.C. does not have the abundant water that many people think it does. Unfortunately, BC has very poor information about how much water we have and how much we use,” stated Tanis Gower.

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ADDRESSING WATER CHALLENGES IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Water Sustainability Plans are a powerful new legal tool with a lot of potential and flexibility to address local needs and priorities across the province,” says Deborah Curran, Executive Director of the Environmental Law Centre, University of Victoria


Understanding how Water Sustainability Plans can begin meeting the needs of communities and healthy functioning watersheds will be critical to building necessary watershed resilience and ensuring B.C.’s freshwater future, says Deborah Curran. “They haven’t yet been implemented anywhere in British Columbia, which creates an opportunity for us to really explore how they could be used to their fullest extent.” Effective and sustainable freshwater management is an urgent priority for communities if they are to achieve multiple desired outcomes.

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2019 REPORT ON PROTECTION OF DRINKING WATER: “We undertook this audit because of the considerable importance of safe drinking water and because the risks to drinking water are increasing,” stated Carol Bellringer, B.C.’s auditor general


In July 2019, Auditor General Carol Bellringer released a report entitled “The Protection of Drinking Water: An Independent Audit”. It found along with not notifying the public of potential risks, the Ministry of Health and the provincial health officer (PHO) are not sufficiently protecting drinking water for all British Columbians. The Auditor General’s report tells a classic story of how a government initiative, launched with the best of intentions, lost momentum over the years as the sense of urgency faded and other priorities took over.

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WATERSHED BASED-STRATEGY FOR CLIMATE MITIGATION (CARBON) AND CLIMATE ADAPTATION (WATER): “Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today, and it provides hard evidence to justify the investment,” says Professor Thomas Crowther, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology


“Everyone is asking the ultimate question: what form will climate change take over the rest of this century, and how can we manage or conserve natural ecosystems to minimize these effects. If we understand how ecological processes are linked to the climate, we can also discover how to combat climate change through specific types of land use, for instance,” stated Thomas Crowther. “Worldwide reforestation could ultimately capture two thirds of human-made carbon emissions.”

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RESTORATION OF ARIZONA’S SANTA CRUZ WATERSHED: “We should rejoice alongside the Tohono O’Odham Nation and work with it to restore flow to our rivers and quicken our pace towards a more resilient future,” wrote Lisa Shipek, Executive Director of the Tuscon-based Watershed Management Group non-profit organization


“Our rivers are being reborn after a century of decline. This is a defining moment for all the communities that live in our Santa Cruz Watershed. It’s not just the Santa Cruz that is being reborn. I have good news to share from other parts of our watershed. The nonprofit I direct, Watershed Management Group, has been monitoring creek flows across the Tucson basin since 2017,” stated Lisa Shipek. “Having flow in the Santa Cruz River downtown provides a daily visual of what a desert river looks like, which will help open the hearts and minds of the greater community to what is possible.”

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THE FUTURE IS HERE, NOW: ‘Elders in Action’ trigger rethink of sewage treatment strategy for the replacement Lions Gate facility serving Metro Vancouver’s North Shore sub-region (Asset Management BC Newsletter, Fall 2019)


The decision to build a treatment plant has life-cycle implications that are multi-generational in terms of environmental outcomes – for example, the existing Lions Gate facility has been in service for 58 years. Drawing on their unique combination of expertise, these elders focussed political attention on the need to be visionary and dare to be bold in going beyond what is currently minimum standard of practice. “By making presentations to community groups and business leaders, we have experienced how public and political sentiments can be shifted,” stated Glen Parker.

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Planting 1 Billion Hectares of Forest Could Help Check Global Warming: “Action is urgent, and governments must now factor this into their national strategies to tackle climate change,” stated Dr. Jean-Francois Bastin, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (July 2019)


The Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich investigates nature-based solutions to climate change. In their latest study the researchers showed for the first time where in the world new trees could grow and how much carbon they would store. Dr. Jean-Francois Bastin, also suggests that there is further potential to regrow trees in croplands and urban areas, highlighting the scope for agroforestry and city trees to play a significant role in tackling climate change.

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