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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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EARTH’S FRESHWATER FUTURE: “When you think about changing the distribution of precipitation, then you start to think that if you’re getting more heavy precipitation, that might mean more flooding,” said NASA’s Christa Peters-Lidard


“If we’re going to see more heavy rainfall events and we’re going to see them especially in areas that are not designed for those floods, that means that we need to think about how to adapt our infrastructure and rethink the way we’ve designed some of our bridges and drainage systems,” said Christa Peters-Lidard, Deputy Director for Hydrology, Biospheres, and Geophysics at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland. But while some areas are projected to get wetter, others will become much drier. Warming temperatures and changing precipitation patterns can lead to droughts.

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CLIMATE CHANGE AND HUMAN IMPACT: “There are three different types of flooding that can happen – rain, river and coastal,” says Dr. Tobias Börger, environmental economist, University of Stirling


“Engineered solutions are quite expensive to maintain which means unless there is constant investment they won’t be as effective as they should be in stopping floods,” stated Dr. Tobias Torborg. “However, there are also more natural, non-concrete options called blue and green infrastructure which focus on building vegetative river banks and wetlands – a system of plants and water – and more green areas to reduce flood risk and potential flood impact – because it means rainwater can enter the ground more easily.”

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ADAPTING TO A CHANGING CLIMATE: “Green infrastructure is an essential component of managing risks to people and property from extreme weather events,” stated Jan Cassin, Water Initiative Director, Forest Trends Foundation (July 2019)


“Globally, more sustainable land management through ‘natural climate solutions’ can deliver up to 37 percent of the mitigation needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s 2-degree target. Looking beyond their boundaries to achieve climate commitments can therefore simultaneously help cities achieve greater water security and forge more positive connections with their neighbors in rural communities,” wrote Jan Cassin. “Cities and their utilities should embrace natural asset management. “

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REPORT ON PROTECTION OF DRINKING WATER: British Columbians are not adequately being informed of the ongoing risks associated with the province’s drinking water, according to Carol Bellringer, B.C.’s auditor general (July 2019)


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. “We undertook this audit because of the considerable importance of safe drinking water and because the risks to drinking water are increasing. Thankfully, B.C. has not had a known outbreak of water-borne illness since 2004, but just a single event that contaminates a drinking water system can cause serious health impacts for numerous people,” Carol Bellringer said.

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LOOMING IMPACT OF HISTORIC EUROPE HEAT WAVE: “As a ‘blocking ridge’ sets up over Greenland, it could promote a widespread and significant melt event like the one in 2012. During that summer, nearly all of the ice sheet experienced melting,” stated Ruth Mottram, a researcher with the Danish Meteorological Institute


“Assuming this comes off (and it seems likely) we would expect a very large melt event over the ice sheet,” Mottram said. “This was a very similar situation to 2012 where melt reached all the way up to Summit station. The Arctic sea ice is already at record low for the time of year so clearly we may be looking at a situation where both Arctic sea ice and Greenland ice sheet have record losses even over and above 2012 — though we won’t know for sure until after the event.”

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COVERING CLIMATE NOW: “Can we tell the story so people get it,” stated Bill Moyers, legendary journalist and political commentator, at launch of major international media initiative


Each of the media outlets involved in the initiative have committed to a week of concentrated coverage beginning on September 16, 2019 in the lead up to Climate Action Summit hosted by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in New York. The summit is an attempt to spur world leaders to develop new plans to reduce carbon emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade and reach a target of zero net emissions by 2050. All that’s required is for each outlet to make a good-faith effort to increase the amount and the visibility of its climate coverage.

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Preliminary Strategic Climate Risk Assessment for British Columbia: “Only after wading into the executive summary did one realize it was one of the more alarming documents commissioned by this or any other B.C. government,” wrote Vaughan Palmer, Vancouver Sun columnist (July 2019)


“At first glance the report posted quietly on the provincial government website this week resembled a typical midsummer offering. Pretty pictures on the cover. The word ‘preliminary’ in the title. Not even the courtesy of a media release to flag its arrival. All seemingly calculated to be overlooked in the July political doldrums,” wrote Vaughan Palmer. “More than 400 pages, the report evaluates the risks to B.C. over the next 30 years of 15 specific climate-change-driven events, each weighed on a sliding scale of consequences from ‘low’ to ‘catastrophic’.”

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ENGLISHMAN RIVER ON VANCOUVER ISLAND: “The watershed is the base unit for the purposes of a forest company’s landscape level plan,” stated Domenico Iannidinardo, Vice-President of Mosaic Forest Management, when he explained the importance of hydrological balance in a panel session on ‘Watershed Health and You’ at the Parksville 2019 Symposium (watch on YouTube)


“The watershed is the base unit of ecology, certainly on Vancouver Island,” stated Domenico Iannidinardo. “Over 80% of the Englishman River watershed is dedicated to forest management. Applying a landscape level approach makes a working forest work for multiple values. Hydrology and ecology values are managed through conservation agreements, land sales, and cooperation with researchers and communities. A guiding objective is to keep sediment out of streams.”

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SHELLY CREEK ON VANCOUVER ISLAND: “This is a story about how a local group of streamkeepers has morphed from a focus on salmon and trout habitat restoration, to advocates for ecosystem monitoring of watershed functions… the Whole System Approach,” stated Peter Law, President of the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society, in a session on ‘Watershed Health and You’ at the Parksville 2019 Symposium (watch on YouTube)


“Since 2010, Our volunteers have embraced the idea of monitoring aquatic ecosystems and habitats in our watershed, often times partnering with agencies, local governments or private landowners to identify the status of certain indicators. We called the program ‘Watershed Health and You’,” stated Peter Law. “We are engaging our neighbours who live in the watershed, to discuss how the community can help restore Shelly Creek. The legacy of Faye Smith, and her mantra of engaging the community continues.”

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LONGER, DRIER SUMMERS = DROUGHTS EVERY YEAR: British Columbia is in Year 5 of its ‘new reality’ – prominent scientists say we have crossed a threshold into a new climate regime


FLASHBACK TO 2015: “The water supply issue and concern in a nutshell can be summarized in four points: Southwest BC dodged a bullet this past summer; there have been past crises; there is a repeating pattern; and increasing water supply storage is problematic,” summarized Kim Stephens in a series of year-end interviews following the drought of 2015. “The clock is ticking. Communities need to leverage this teachable year and seize opportunities to change how the water resource is viewed and managed.”

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