The University of Victoria’s POLIS Project Thinks Beyond Pipes and Pumps – and Takes Action Towards a New Water Infrastructure in BC and Beyond



The meet-and-greet for Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation at the University of Victoria starts at 8:30am on October 10. Program concludes at 2:30pm after a walkabout. To download the agenda, click here. To register, contact Jennifer Wong at either (250) 721-8189 or Registration will be capped at 40.


UVIC showcasing - polis collage


Doing Business Differently

Building on the interest and momentum generated by successful series on both sides of the Georgia Basin in 2007, Convening for Action on Vancouver Island (CAVI) is collaborating with the Capital Regional District and the Green Infrastructure Partnership to present Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation in the Capital Region: The 2008 Series.

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The third in the series will be held on October 10 at the University of Victoria, and will be co-hosted by the Office of Campus Planning and Sustainability and the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance. For a program overview and registration details, click on this link to download a copy of Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation at the University of Victoria.


The POLIS Story

Since 2000 the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance at the University of Victoria has filled a unique niche on campus as a place where academic and UVIC showcasing - polis officepolicy research meets community action.

Acccording to Oliver Brandes, Water Sustainability Project Leader and Associate Director of POLIS, “The question that motivates and unites our work is: What does governance that is shaped by the principles of ecological sustainability look like? How, in other words, can we embed environment in all levels of decision-making?”


Design with Nature Guiding Philsophy:

In British Columbia, the on-the-ground application of ecological sustainability principles is captured by the phrase ‘design with nature’. Borrowed from Ian McHarg UVIC showcasing - design with nature (240p)and the title of his 1969 book, this means let the landscape inform development; it also sythesizes Smart Growth principles with an infrastructure way-of-thinking and acting. The mind-map for a Design with Nature strategy is presented opposite and comprises six elements. For more information, click on Green Infrastructure explained: A common vocabulary for a new way-of-thinking in British Columbia. Design with Nature is one approach to achieve Green Value, and is supportive of community goals that relate to building social capacity.


POLIS Water Sustainability Project:

The Water Sustainability Project began at POLIS in 2003 to address the abovenoted central question in the context of urban water use in Canada. “Our work focuses on Oliver brandesreorienting Canadian water management from a supply development approach toward stewardship and managing demand as priorities for governments and decision makers,” continues Oliver Brandes.

“Our goal is to catalyze the movement toward a new paradigm of sustainable water use and conservation by building capacity from the ground up and engaging communities to make lasting structural and behavioral changes,” concludes Oliver Brandes.


At a Watershed:

In 2005, POLIS published At a Watershed:  Ecological Governance and Sustainable Water Management in Canada. This report built on the strength of the UVIC showcasing - at a watershed (240p)action plans laid out in previous reports.  At a Watershed went beyond the urban environment, addressing specific issues of governance that are relevant to a multi-jurisdictional watershed such as Bowker Creek.

“Through detailed case studies and innovative practices from around the world, At a Watershed reveals models and best practices that can be adapted in Canada.  This report outlines the enabling environment that fosters ong-term, integrated and comprehensive water management where ecosystem health and social sustainability take the primary role,” explains Oliver Brandes.


On-the-Ground Successes at UVic:

A community of more than 25,000 people, the University of Victoria (UVic) is a case study for green buildings and compact growth. According to Sarah Webb of UVIC showcasing - sarah webbthe Office of Campus Planning and Sustainability, “UVic has seen a number of successes in the past decade when it comes to comprehensive water management — notably the integrated rainwater/stormwater management plan, the green building program, and the treated wastewater program have helped to reduce both potable water consumption and rainwater leaving campus even while the campus has continued to grow in size.”

“The surrounding municipalities now have an opportunity to learn from, and adapt, the UVic experience,” suggests Sarah Webb. 

CAVI- 2008 showcasing series - uvic green roofs


Natural CIty Vision for Bowker Creek:

On October 10, Councillor Vic Derman of the District of Saanich will round out the UVic program by elaborating on his vision for a Natural City. He will pose the UVIC showcasing - vic derman (120p)question: What do we want this place to look like in 50 years, and how will we get from here to there?

Well-versed in a water-centric way-of-thinking, Vic Derman chaired the organizing committee and was the driving force behind the highly successful 2006 Water in the City Conference, held in Victoria.



Meeting the Water Challenge

POLIS launched its Water Conservation and Stewardship Pilot Project Program in Spring 2008 to engage local governments in Canada in discussions and action about the need for sustainable water management and strategies for achieving it.

According to Oliver Brandes, “This program seeks to actively engage communities and build capacity to move away from supply-side solutions and move along the water management spectrum towards a sustainable approach to water management….sometimes called the Soft Path.”

“To date, few communities or institutions in Canada are sufficiently equipped with the capacity needed to plan and implement a comprehensive, long-term and POLIS - suzanne porter-boppintegrated approach to water conservation,” notes Susanne Porter-Bopp, Community Water Coordinator at POLIS.

“The Water Conservation and Stewardship Pilot Project Program allows us to provide communities with the latest research and tools to help them adapt to future challenges and entrench water sustainability as a core focus,” elaborates Susanne. “These outcomes will be advanced through initiatives such as our Water Soft Path Conservation Calculator and our Water Conservation Program Implementation 101 toolkits for municipal and regional decision-makers. These are being undertaken in partnership with the Ministry of Community Development,”

View royal - create a legacy


Getting from Here to There – Showcasing Best Water Practices from Canada and Beyond

“The water sustainability challenge is now a question of accelerating the implementation and commitment to new approach to water managemen,” states Oliver Brandes.  “A managing demand and Soft Path approach, coupled with a clear focus on watershed governance offers a genuine win-win solution, as communities can reap environmental, economic and social dividends from balancing their water use with local availability.”

“The session on Friday October 10th will allow participants to expand their toolbox for  promoting sustainable water use by showcasing the latest and greatest local, national and international examples of offsetting  future growth through conservation and new sources of water such as rainwater and reuse and recycling,” adds Susanne Porter-Bopp..

“Our goal is to demonstrate that not only 1/3 to 1/2 water savings are readily available, but, more importantly, that water sustainability is possible,” concludes Oliver Brandes.


UVIC showcasing - format

About the 2008 Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation Series

The goal of the Showcasing Innovation Series is to promote networking, inform and educate practitioners, and help local governments move ‘from awareness to action’ in doing business differently — The New Business As Usual — through sharing of approaches, tools, experiences and lessons learned that will ultimately inform a pragmatic strategy for climate change adaptation.

UVIC showcasing - 2008 schedule


Previous Water Bucket Stories:

Four stories about Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation at the University of Victoria and the Capital Region Series as a whole were posted previously:


Registration for Showcasing Innovation at UVic:

To register, contact Jennifer Wong at either (250) 721-8189 or Registration will be capped at 40. For an agenda and registration details, click on Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation at the University of Victoria.


Who is CAVI?

The CAVI Partnership comprises the British Columbia Water & Waste Association, the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, the provincial Ministries of Environment and Community Development, and the Green Infrastructure Partnership. CAVI is co-funded by the Province and the Real Estate CAVI logo - june 2008 revised (240p)Foundation of British Columbia. The Water Sustainability Committee of the BCWWA is the managing partner and is providing program delivery. For more information about the CAVI Partnership and what it wants to do, please click here




Posted October 2008