Okanagan Sustainable Water Strategy



Note to Readers:

The following story about innovation and leadership in the Okanagan Basin is extracted from Chapter 6 of Beyond the Guidebook 2010, released in June 2010. This water-centric guidance document tells the stories of how change is being implemented on the ground in BC. To download a PDF copy of the article below, click on Okanagan Sustainable Water Strategy.

Okanagan sustainable water strategy - cover (360p)

Living Water Smart

Completed in late 2008 by the Okanagan Watershed Stewardship Council, the Okanagan Sustainable Water Strategy seeks to ensure water resources are managed in a broader sustainability framework.

Okanagan basin water board - anna sears (120p)“The Sustainable Water Strategy is grounded in action. Twelve high-level Guiding Principles for water management and policy provide a framework for the Strategy. The key action items were developed respecting these Guiding Principles,” explains Anna Warwick Sears, Executive Director of the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB).

“When Living Water Smart was released, we could not help but notice that it bore a remarkable resemblance to our Water Strategy!”


What ‘Convening for Action’ Means

“In the Okanagan, we are ‘convening for action’ at four levels to facilitate valley-wide change,” continues Anna Warwick Sears. She identifies these levels as follows:

  1. Inter-jurisdictional elected officials convening as OBWB directors.
  2. Appointments of key partners to the Board – including First Nations and water suppliers. 
  3. The Okanagan Water Stewardship Council, a multi-stakeholder technical advisory group 
  4. The way the OBWB does business.

“The convening for action concept can be expanded to encompass all our activities. The Okanagan Basin Water Board is the hub for water science and policy. Our mandate is to communicate and coordinate. In the process, we are tapping into a huge reservoir of volunteers. This creates the energy and momentum for change.”


Build a Vision, Create the Legacy

“The Stewardship Council developed the Okanagan Sustainable Water Strategy over a 30-month period. It literally involved thousands of hours of effort on the part of Council members,” reports Ted van der Gulik, who is Vice-Chair.

Ted van der gulik (120p) - 2005 photo“The Council is a diverse group. We went through a process of informing and educating each other. We reached a common understanding and consensus on a shared vision for achieving settlement change in balance with ecology.”

“The Council’s Vision is that the Basin will have clean and healthy water in sufficient abundance to support the Okanagan’s natural ecosystems, agricultural lands and high quality of life for perpetuity.”

“Accurate, up-to-date water information and scientific knowledge will support community and regional planning. Water will be managed in a spirit of cooperation, and a valley-wide ethic of conservation will create a lasting legacy of sustainable water resources for future generations.”

“The Okanagan Sustainable Water Strategy starts the process and has been developed with input from many water professionals. To achieve fruition, the plan will need a coordinated effort from law makers and practitioners and buy in from residents to ensure that changes are made on the ground.”


Collaborative Governance Explained:

The story of Convening for Action in the Okanagan is really about putting collaborative governance to work,” reflects Anna Warwick Sears.

“Water stakeholders and citizens from many different parts of society contribute advice and ideas that influence the decision-making process. At all levels of convening, we are actively undertaking collaboration for action. In short, ‘convening for action’ reflects a synergy – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”

“Everyone in the Okanagan agrees on the need to protect our quality of life in a healthy environment with a balanced use of water. The way the OBWB does business is collaborative. Through our grant programs, we are able to maximize partnerships; and in turn increase the convening of community by bringing together the resources to make things happen.”


To Learn More:

In April 2009, the Penticton Forum showcased three regions where communities are ‘convening for action’ and embracing a ‘regional team approach’ to make a difference. Each regional initiative is developing a vision and road map to change the way that land is developed and water is used.

Leading up to the Penticton Forum, a series of downloadable documents were published on Water Bucket to preview the Forum content. Click on Doing Business Differently – Convening for Action in the Okanagan for more information on what it means to have a clear vision, what is possible when the vision is shared, and how 'convening for action' is taking place in the Okanagan.

To download a copy of the Strategy, please click on Action Plan 1.0 – 4.4MB PDF

Creating a legacy in the okanagan - july 2010 version


Beyond the Guidebook 2010

Released in June 2010 at the ‘Dialogue in Nanaimo’, Beyond the Guidebook 2010 describes how water sustainability can and will be achieved through implementation of green infrastructure policies and practices.

Beyond the Guidebook 2010 demonstrates that the practitioner culture is changing as an outcome of collaboration, partnerships and alignment; and provides local governments with 'how to' guidance for developing outcome-oriented urban watershed plans.

To download a copy, click on Beyond the Guidebook 2010: Implementing a New Culture for Urban Watershed Protection and Restoration in British Columbia

Beyond the guidebook 2010 - cover (360p)

Posted August 2010