Collaborative Watershed Governance Initiative promotes shift toward ecosystem management in British Columbia

Living water smart - nature knows no boundaries


  • “As the population of BC grows, our land and water consuming footprint is also growing. Forestry, mining, energy production, agriculture, aquaculture and commercial recreation are all expanding on a finite land and water base. These are all legitimately tenured and independently regulated. While we are a rich society, capable of great human opportunity, there are growing concerns that we are also capable, to our long term detriment, of depleting the natural capital of our ecosystems.” (Fraser, 2007)

Framework for Collaboration

Early in 2008, the Living Rivers Advisory Group requested the Pacific Salmon Foundation, the Fraser Basin Council and the BC Conservation Foundation to plan, coordinate and host a workshop that would report on the innovation, best management practices and new governance models beneficial to salmonids and their watersheds as a result of investments made by:

  • the Living Rivers Trust Fund,
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada,
  • the Pacific Salmon Endowment Fund, and
  • others in the Fraser Salmon and Watersheds Program and Living Rivers – Georgia Basin/ Vancouver Island.

The purpose of the Collaborative Watershed Governance Initiative is to establish and implement a framework for collaborative watershed governance in BC. The result would be a shift toward ecosystem managementi in BC based on watersheds, using advanced governance arrangements and more local decision-making.

Why an Initiative?

Watershed management, and the call for a more integrated and collaborative approach, are emerging as central requirements in recent policy related to the sustainability of water and of its benefits and products.

Living Water Smart, BC’s Water Plan, now creates opportunities to move from talk to action…and do business differently in British Columbia. The plan commits to ensuring land and water managers are equipped with the understanding and tools to work with land and water users to secure stream health.

In November 2008, an invitation-only workshop was held to create a clear path forward or a terms of reference for the development and implementation of a framework for collaborative watershed governance in BC, and a commitment among workshop attendees to develop the framework together. This is the prelude to a Conference on Watershed Governance.

What is Ecosystem Management?

Ecosystem management is generally accepted to mean maintaining or restoring natural ecological processes in ecosystems over the long term, thereby establishing ecosystem integrity, natural biodiversity and resilience against short term threats.

Ecosystem management strives to maintain or restore processes that continue to provide the products and services that we need from ecosystems as the basis of our economy. These products include clean ground and surface water, diverse fish and wildlife populations, healthy forests and clean air. Services include flood and erosion control, soil formation, waste assimilation and carbon sequestration.

About the Collaborative Watershed Governance Initiative

To learn more, click on Collaborative Watershed Governance Initiative – Project Prospectus. This document contains the basic background of how the initiative started, why it is important, and what the process and goals of the initiative are. The prospectus is used as the main introduction to the initiative for the purposes of engaging participation into the activities that are being planned, including the Conference on Watershed Governance.

Link to Living Water Smart

Living Water Smart anticipates that future planning will integrate the management of rainwater/stormwater, drinking water, wastewater and oceans. Watershed planning helps to resolve land and water use problems or conflicts in a given region by bringing together interested agencies, First Nations, stakeholders and communities.

  • Living Water Smart will enable and support local water stewardship initiatives that recognize the broad value of freshwater ecosystems to find creative and suitable solutions to local water issues. Government will continue to be accountable for the protection of water resources in the public interest. (page 51)

The Province’s stated position in Living Water Smart is that government will support communities to do watershed management planning in priority areas.

Living water smart - bcs water plan