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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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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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RIVER DELTAS ARE DROWNING: “Many of the world’s deltas are now facing an existential crisis. Sea levels are rising as a result of climate change, while deltas are themselves sinking, and together this means the relative sea level is rising extra fast,” wrote Dr. Frances Eleanor Dunn, geosciences researcher, University of Utrecht


“We found that most of the world’s major deltas will receive less river sediment by the end of the century, regardless of the environmental change scenario. Our results suggest that many deltas – already significantly stressed – will become sediment starved, further compounding the risks of rising relative sea levels,” stated Frances Eleanor Dunn. “Some of the most severe reductions will be found in major Asian deltas such as the Ganges (81% less sediment) and the Mekong (77%).”

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DOES WATER FLUORIDATION REALLY DAMAGE THE IQ OF CHILDREN? — “Fluoridation continues to be an extremely cost-effective public health measure. It can help to reduce socio-economic inequalities,” stated Professor Catherine Carstairs (November 2019)


“A recent study showed that community water fluoridation was associated with lower IQ scores in young children. Opponents of water fluoridation jumped on the study, claiming that it confirms the dangers of fluoride on the developing brain,” wrote Catherine Carstairs. “Since then, a number of critics have pointed out that the differences in IQ scores were small and that there were some methodological problems with the research.”

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EAST COAST OF AUSTRALIA IS ABLAZE: “Whatever the successes and failures in this crisis, it is likely that we will have to rethink the way we plan and prepare for wildfires in a hotter, drier and more flammable world,” conclude Ross Bradstock and Rachael Helene Nolan (November 2019)


Large fires have happened before. But this latest extraordinary situation raises many questions. It is as if many of the major fires in the past are now being rerun concurrently. What is unprecedented is the size and number of fires rather than the seasonal timing. Typically wet parts of the landscape have literally evaporated, allowing fire to spread unimpeded. It is no coincidence current fires correspond directly with hotspots of record low rainfall and above-average temperatures.

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THREE WAYS CANADA’S CITIES CAN PREPARE FOR CLIMATE EMERGENCIES: “Resilience is rapidly becoming a buzzword that’s at risk of losing its meaning,” wrote Dr. Darby McGrath and her Brock University co-authors


“We define resilience thinking as an approach that recognizes the complex interactions between society and our ecosystems, embraces the idea of change and acknowledges uncertainty. Resilience thinking requires acknowledgement from municipal governments that climate-related changes may be unanticipated and sometimes catastrophic. With resilience thinking, however, we can move forward with solutions that allow municipalities to continue to flourish despite changes we anticipate and those that surprise us.’

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