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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.

Latest Posts

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: 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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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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HYDRATING LANDSCAPES TO MITIGATE CLIMATE CHANGE: “Interweaving is a collaborative process where apparently contradictory ways of knowing water, such as Western Science and Indigenous Knowledge, are brought together as co-existing threads to produce a new cooperative theory called Blue Ecology,” stated Michael Blackstock in his panel presentation at the virtual Living Soils Symposium hosted by Regeneration Canada (February 2021)


“Blue Ecology has five guiding principles and aligns with the whole-system, water balance approach. Adoption of the principles – Spirit, Harmony, Respect, Unity and Balance – would move Blue Ecology from theory to practice, as an aid for water managers. To make the right choices moving forward, we must understand how and where the rhythms of water are changing. Then we can apply ecosystem-based understanding to adapt our practices to suit a changing climate,” explained Michael Blackstock.

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A SHINING EXAMPLE OF COLLABORATION IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “We call it community-based water monitoring (rather than citizen science) because it is driven by community, and by sense of place within community, both for Indigenous and non-Indigenous stewardship initiatives,” stated Kat Hartwig, Founder & Executive Director of Living Lakes Canada, when she spoke about the Columbia Basin Water Hub, a new online tool for open source data collection and sharing


“In a national survey coordinated by Living Lakes Canada to see what groups were doing across the country, we found there had been an exponential growth in community-based water monitoring – CBWM – in Canada over 10 years. We want to ensure that CBWM, which is rather sophisticated in some parts of Canada, does not get left behind and is acknowledged and built upon in this new Canada Water Agency. During this era of biodiversity crisis and climate crisis, we need all hands on deck if we’re doing to try and build resilience into our communities,” stated Kat Hartwig.

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RECONNECT HYDROLOGY AND STREAM ECOLOGY BY DESIGN: “Changes to hydrology and riparian condition due to changes in land use are the top two factors influencing system integrity,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC, in an article published in the Winter 2021 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter


“EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, provides local governments with a tool to establish benchmarks for maintenance and management of stream corridor systems in the built environment. The Partnership’s desired outcome is that local governments would apply the EAP methodology and metrics to determine real numbers for budget planning purposes. Then inter-departmental conversations would have a starting point for operationalizing M&M of natural assets within Asset Management Plans,” stated Kim Stephens.

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JOURNEY FROM STREAMKEEPER TO ELECTED REPRESENTATIVE: “Salmon brought me a strong sense of community, something I had never really felt before. I felt protective of what we share, and that the next generation deserves it as much as we do,” stated Laura Dupont, President, Lower Mainland Local Government Association


“Salmon pulled me into appreciating nature on a whole other level. I could not learn enough about them. They are the most fascinating and resilient creatures. One cannot underestimate their importance to Indigenous communities and coastal ecosystems. Next step was to join a watershed group and become a streamkeeper, and then a river protector. Salmon led me to learn more about, and fall in love with, the flora and fauna of the BC Coast. I will always be eternally grateful to live here,” stated Laura Dupont

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CLIMATE ADAPTATION / USE PLAIN LANGUAGE: “A lot of fantastic studies are misinterpreted outside of scientific circles because the language, style and meaning of science writing is very different to non-specialists,” stated Charles Axelsson, PhD candidate, University of Venice


“I have re-evaluated how I discuss my own research. I was taking some of the terminology for granted as it is repeated in the literature time and time again but words like ‘stormwater’, ‘rainwater’ and ‘drainage’ can have such powerful unconscious effects on how you interpret the discussions and they can mean different things to different stakeholders in the system. These terminology choices ultimately have a large effect in science communication and the message you intend to convey,” stated Charles Axelsson.

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FLASHBACK TO 2010: “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,” stated Lynn Kriwoken of the BC Ministry of Environment (article in Environmental Science & Engineering Magazine)


“Living Water Smart contains a key message – green development makes sense. Fostering new thinking about development leads to more green spaces, more water and fish in streams, improved community vitality, reduced demand for water, and reduced expenditure on infrastructure. Water issues are complex and best solved collaboratively, which include using strategies and solutions that fall outside government control,” stated Lynn Kriwoken.

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FLASHBACK TO 2010: “The ‘From Rain from Resource Workshop’ highlighted the importance of rainwater management to climate change adaptation and showcased examples from other areas that could be applied to the Okanagan,” stated Anna Warwick Sears, Executive Director of the Okanagan Basin Water Board


“Managing stormwater effectively will be a critical climate change adaptation tool. A key component of managing for storms is redesigning our approach to handling the more frequent, lighter rainfall events. Rainwater management keeps water on-site, improving water quality by reducing runoff pollution, allowing the rain to infiltrate and recharge aquifers, and establishing ways to harvest water for other uses. Rainwater management complements management of larger storm events, and reduces infrastructure requirements overall,” stated Anna Warwick Sears.

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FLASHBACK TO 2008 / LIVING WATER SMART: “British Columbia is making the rules serve the goals. Adapting to climate change and reducing the impact on the environment will be conditions of receiving provincial infrastructure funding,” foreshadowed the Province’s Catriona Weidman at Seminar 1 in the inaugural Comox Valley Learning Lunch Series for peer-based education


“We all work with rules. We don’t want to argue about the rules. What we really want to do is change some of the rules to create the greener, more sustainable communities that people would like. The provincial government is using infrastructure funding to encourage a ‘new business as usual’ – one results in the right type of projects – rather than taking a stick approach. The Province is leveraging its grants programs to influence changes on the ground. British Columbia is in transition,” stated Catriona Weidman.

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INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE SALMON: Reconnect People, Fish, Land and Water – a unifying theme for module #3 in the Watershed Moments Virtual Symposium (livestreamed on YouTube; December 3, 2020)


“From an International Year of the Salmon perspective, large efforts of a very large mass of people around the rims of the North Atlantic, North Pacific and likely Arctic oceans will need to ‘come together’ for any real change to occur. From this perspective the requirement in an increasingly interconnected world is closer to ‘humankind’ than to a few of us in the local community. That said, it’s the sum of us in local communities that will move this closer to a humankind undertaking,” stated Dr. Kim Hyatt.

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TOWARDS WATERSHED SECURITY IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: A report on the role of water in modernized land use planning by the University of Victoria’s POLIS Water Sustainability Project (July 2020)


“In the past decade, land and water planning by the provincial government have advanced in fits and starts. Plans were often developed in response to conflict and litigation by Indigenous Nations or by local governments and authority holders seeking to fill planning gaps. While these plans are highly local and fit for purpose, they lack provincial authority and resources making them challenging to enforce. The report provides direction to both provincial and Indigenous decision-makers by outlining the need for, and elements of, a reformed provincial land and water planning framework,” stated Rosie Simms.

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