Moving Along the Soft Path to Water-Centric Sustainability

Kelowna experience - outdoor vs indoor use


Sustainability is a buzzword. We hear it daily…but what does it mean in the community context? The Building SustainAble Communities conference, organized by Joanne deVries and held in the City of Kelowna, was designed to address these questions:

  • What are the social, environmental, and economic benefits of building sustainable communities?
  • What are the barriers to achieving a sustainable community?
  • How can local governments actually save money and promote economic activity while protecting human and environmental health?
  • What sustainability models have been used successfully, and where?
  • What best practices and legislative tools are being used, and how?
  • What do citizens think and how can you engage them in the move towards sustainability?
  • How can you move from idea to implementation?
  • What’s available in the way of senior government planning and funding support?
  • And, is sustainability politically survivable?

The conference attracted well over 200 attendees from all regions for British Columbia. World-renowned experts, such as Bill Rees of 'ecological footprint' fame, used a complementary blend of plenary sessions, facilitated table exercises, and breakouts to help participants answer these questions in a meaninful, memorable, and motivational way.

“We were thrilled by the response , especially by the fact that one-quarter of the delegates were elected officials,” commented Joanne deVries, “The interest in doing this again is so strong that we have already booked the conference venue for the same dates in November 2007.” For complete information on the conference program and speaker line-up, please click on this link to Program for November 2006 Building Sustainable Communities Conference.

logo - buildign sustainable communities conference


The trio of Oliver Brandes, Don Degen and Kim Stephens combined to provide an entertaining breakout session that introduced conference attendees to the world of water-centric planning.

  • OLIVER M BRANDES joined The POLIS Project on Ecological Governance aOliver brandes (200 pixels)t the University of Victoria in 2003 to lead the Water Sustainability Project. As a senior research associate, his work at POLIS focuses on sound resource management and ecological-based legal and institutional reform. Oliver also provides strategic water policy advice to non-government organizations (NGOs) and all levels of government, and has authored several major reports, with At a Watershed: Ecological governance and sustainable water management in Canada released in summer 2005, and The Soft Path for Water in a Nutshell released last fall (both available at being the most recent. As a core member of the national water 'soft path' research team, Oliver is focusing on urban water planning and management and innovative approaches to water sustainability for communities.

    To download a copy of Oliver's presentation, please click on this link to Going Beyond Efficiency: The Soft Path to Water Sustainability According to Oliver, “While climate change will be the challenge of this generation — water will be THE critical resource for the 21st Century.  We must protect, restore and enhance our understanding of this most fundamental resource.  It is increasingly evident that we have the tools and the approaches to begin reducing our water demands and impacts on the landscape — we know enought to begin managing this resource for sustainability.  The era of water-centric planning is upon us.  Now it is up to all of us, especially our elected and community leaders, to accelerate the adoption and the change in practice to begin balancing our water budget.  The world is changing and to achieve a secure and properious future requires healthy watersheds PERIOD — the place to start is right in your backyard.”

    Soft path graphic

  • DON DEGEN  has been with the City of Kelowna since 1990, and is currentlDon degen (200pixels)y the water and drainage manager. He is responsible for all water and drainage management functions including continuous improvement programs, long-range planning, engineering, operations, water conservation, and water quality programs. Don is a recent past president of the B.C. Water and Waste Association and currently sits on the Board of Directors for the American Water Works Association. He has been involved in a number of collaborative water quality improvement projects and initiatives with the Ministry of Health Services, Interior Health, and the Kelowna Joint Water Committee. Don currently chairs the City of Kelowna Energy Management Committee and is an active participant in the development of Kelowna’s Community Sustainability Action Plan.

    To download a copy of Don's presentation, please click on this link to Kelowna's Water Conservation Experience The focus of the presentation was on what level of water saving can be achieved through landscaped-based measures such as soil amendments and irrigation system improvements.
    Kelowna experience - focus on outdoor use

  • KIM A STEPHENS is an engineer-planner with 30-plus years of on-the-Kim stephens (200pixels)ground experience related to water-centric planning, water resource management, water supply development and infrastructure servicing. He has received international recognition for his pioneering efforts related to rainwater management, water conservation and smart land development; and has been invited to speak on ‘the British Columbia experience’ and make keynote presentations at forums in Australia and throughout North America.  Kim is Program Coordinator for implementation of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, which is the partnership umbrella for an array of on-the-ground initiatives that promote a water-centric approach to community planning. Previously a Vice-President with CH2M Hill, his work related to the UniverCity sustainable community on Burnaby Mountain in Greater Vancouver is featured in the book Dancing with the Tiger: Learning Sustainability Step by Natural Step.

    To download a copy of Kim's presentation, please click on this link to Soft Path to Water-Centric Sustainability: Conversations with Elected Officials. “Elected officials are being bombarded with information on any number of issues,” said Stephens, “In having one-on-one conversations about green infrastructure, my objective was to see the world through the eyes of elected officials. That is an important first step in figuring out how to translate technical information into a form that elected officials can readily absorb so that they can make informed decisions.” For the complete story on Kim's presentation, please click here.

    How we develop land


Posted December 2006