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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PREPARE FOR TOMORROW: “Policy changes required to mitigate climate change appear far less disruptive — economically, socially and culturally — than the measures being taken right now to tackle COVID-19,” say Eric Galbraith and Ross Otto of McGill University

“The alarms for both COVID-19 and climate change were sounded by experts, well in advance of visible crises,” stated Eric Galbraith. “As scientists who have studied climate change and the psychology of decision-making, we find ourselves asking: Why do the government responses to COVID-19 and climate change — which both require making difficult decisions to avert future disasters — differ so dramatically? We suggest four important reasons.”

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WILL LIGHTNING STRIKE TWICE? — “The International Year of the Salmon program has the potential to be a game-changer. It is not just about the fish; it is about humankind creating sustainable landscapes for people and salmon,” say Kim Hyatt and Peter Tschaplinski, the federal-provincial science duo who will inform, educate and engage participants in the finale module at the Comox Valley 2020 Symposium

In British Columbia, the iconic salmon is the canary in the coal mine. The multi-year program that is the International Year of the Salmon could be a ‘carpe diem moment’ (i.e. seize the day) for communities. “Significant initiatives and projects directly relevant to sustaining and enhancing wild salmon and their freshwater habitats are under way such as the federal-provincial BC Salmon Innovation and Restoration Fund. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy together with other provincial natural resource ministries are key players,” states Peter Tschaplinski.

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WATER SUSTAINABILITY LEGISLATION IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Not obtaining a groundwater licence and hoping that government will never find out is doomed thinking,” say Mike Wei, formerly BC’s deputy comptroller of water rights, and David Slade, water well drilling contractor

“If an existing groundwater user applies after March 1, 2022, they will be viewed as a completely new user and that seniority will be gone! In many watersheds, the chance of an existing user getting a licence applying after March 1, 2022 may not even be possible – imagine how that would impact the business or land owner? It may not seem like it, but we have entered a new reality. A reality of no return. Existing groundwater users need to realize this, so they can do the right (and smart) thing and apply for a licence prior to March 1, 2022,” stated Mike Wei.

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CLIMATE CHANGE, POLLUTION AND URBANIZATION THREATEN WATER: “Canada could support the world in achieving water sustainability, but it must first get its own house in order and achieve the UN’s water goals nationally,” urge Corinne Schuster-Wallace, Robert Sandford and Stephanie Merrill in an op-ed (February 2020)

“Canada already has the expertise, technologies, industries and research capacity to make good on a commitment to water sustainability and universal achievement of the UN’s water goals for all Canadians. But it needs leadership to advance research and practice to expand our existing strengths, and export these internationally,” wrote Corinne Schuster-Wallace. “Canadian research institutions have a role to play in bringing the country together by showing Canada and the world the solutions and benefits of achieving these goals.”

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SINKING LAND AND RISING SEAS: Architects and planners from the Netherlands are advising coastal cities worldwide on how to live with water

‘For the Dutch, consulting with cities about their response to relative sea-level rise has become a growth industry. They’re the Silicon Valley of water management, a laboratory testing strategies that have evolved over the centuries. No wonder. Water has been both a daily threat and a national identity for a country about the size of Maryland. More than half the nation’s 17 million people live on land below sea level,” wrote Jim Morrison. “Rising seas threaten 10 percent of the world’s urban population so there’s never-ending demand.”

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AMAZON FIRES ARE CAUSING GLACIERS TO MELT EVEN FASTER: “Currently, the climate models used to predict the future melting of glaciers in the Andes do not incorporate black carbon; this is likely causing the rate of glacial melt to be underestimated in many current assessments,” wrote Matthew Harris, PhD Researcher, Keele University Ice Lab

“Despite being invisible to the naked eye, black carbon particles affect the ability of the snow to reflect incoming sunlight, a phenomenon known as “albedo”. Similar to how a dark-coloured car will heat up more quickly in direct sunlight when compared with a light-coloured one, glaciers covered by black carbon particles will absorb more heat, and thus melt faster,” stated Matthew Harris. “With communities reliant on glaciers for water, work examining complex forces like black carbon is needed more now than ever before.”

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A WATERSHED SECURITY FUND FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA: Position Paper on Building Resilience and Advancing Reconciliation (released November 2019)

“First Nations communities often lack the necessary financial resources to meet the demands placed upon them from Crown governments and industry, and to proactively develop and implement their own water protection plans, policies, and laws. A Watershed Security Fund would provide lasting financial support to First Nations and community partners to build and strengthen their capacity to undertake watershed stewardship, planning and governance activities for the benefit of all British Columbians,” stated Susi Porter-Bopp.

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INTERWEAVE INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE & WESTERN SCIENCE: “Indigenous knowledge is an essential asset for communities to adapt to climate change, by knowing the land, using the local natural resources, sharing capital, and taking a community approach to local issues,” stated Dr. Mylène Ratelle, University of Waterloo

“Indigenous groups in northern Canada, with their traditional interpersonal networks and social initiatives, seem to have developed a unique structure to cope with climate change and environmental stressors without relying on federal or local policies and infrastructure. Based on this, it seems that one way to enhance peoples’ resilience to climate change is to improve the social capital — or social networks — of populations,” stated Mylène Ratelle.

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WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM SEA LEVELS 125,000 YEARS IN THE PAST: “Our research reveals that ice melt in the last interglacial period caused global seas to rise about 10 metres above the present level. The ice melted first in Antarctica, then a few thousand years later in Greenland,” stated Dr. Fiona Hibbert, Australian National University

“What is striking about the last interglacial record is how high and quickly sea level rose above present levels. Temperatures during the last interglacial were similar to those projected for the near future, which means melting polar ice sheets will likely affect future sea levels far more dramatically than anticipated to date,” stated Fiona Hibbert. “This means that if climate change continues unabated, Earth’s past dramatic sea level rise could be a small taste of what’s to come.”

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SOUTH AFRICA’S REAL WATER CRISIS: “It is easy to blame climate change for water problems. Yet it is by no means certain that climate change will dramatically reduce water supplies,” wrote Mike Muller, a former Director General of the South African Department of Water Affairs and Forestry

“The different challenges faced in different places may look like a single crisis. But the fact is that the underlying problems are often not the same,” wrote Mike Muller. “What is clear is that South Africa’s not yet confronting an absolute water shortage. But the extent of public panic suggests a disturbing level of ignorance about how water is made available and what needs to be done to ensure adequate and reliable supplies. The key to this water security is for government and citizens to understand and manage what the country has.”

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