FLASHBACK TO 2010: “The way we see the world is shaped by our vocabulary,” observed Metro Vancouver’s Robert Hicks when commenting on ‘what is an appropriate term to use’ for different uses of water in different languages

Note to Reader:

Stormwater Management, Low Impact Development, Sustainable Drainage, Green Infrastructure, RAINwater Management, Design with Nature, Water Sensitive Urban Design, Innovative Stormwater Management, Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems…. what is an appropriate term to use?

To download and read a story published on Water Bucket in March 2009, click here.

Robert Hicks, Senior Engineer in the Policy & Planning Division at Metro Vancouver, was the source of inspiration for that article. Posted in December 2010, the article below captured his latest thinking at that time.

Total Water Management Introduced

“The concept of ‘total water management’ is the new buzz phrase in Europe.  LID is so passé,” commented Robert Hicks in 2010, “When you think about it, the way we see the world is shaped by our vocabulary.”

How Relationships and Worth are Perceived

“Other languages like French and German often use more exact terms than English for ‘stormwater’ and ‘wastewater’, and this changes how relationships and worth are Robert hicks (120p) - metro vancouverperceived – for example, eaux pluvials, eaux usées transliterate as rainwater and used water; and Regenwasser and Abwasser transliterate as rainwater and ‘out’ water.”

“The reason why other languages use more exact terms relates to the structural nature of those languages. German is more logical in its grammar than English; and French grammer is also very structured.”

“In German, the nouns, verbs and adjectives each have specific forms depending upon the role in a sentence – their syntax can be switched and the logic and meaning is not altered.”

“English on the other hand has devolved into simpler syntax where the switching of the word changes the meaning.”

“Therefore, in German, communication has stricter rules and much more memorization of conjugated forms than English – but it offers exactness.”

Use of Jargon in English

“With English, there is a tendancy to build jargon whereas Germans add words together to define new concepts, but in a very literal way.”

“Reflecting on what we see happening with the English language, many new jargon words and phrases being coined seem to be the result of framing a political agenda (e.g. tax relief, solid waste, liquid waste, war on terror).”

“The literal combining of words in English does not always occur – e.g. LIDs, SmartGrowth, etc.”

“Also, in English we use wastewater where waste has a negative value, and stormwater where storm disregards all the other precipitation events at work.”

“While these all share the common thread of water, wasser or eau, ‘total water management’ may be more easy rationalized in some other languages as water is either rainwater, drinking water or used water.”

“Nothing is waste in the water cycle and the word waste does not appear in the terminology,” concluded Robert Hicks.


Total Water Management Explained

As explained in the Water Encyclopedia, Total Water Management is the exercise of stewardship of water resources for the greatest good of society and the environment.

A basic principle of Total Water Management is that the supply is renewable, but limited, and should be managed on a sustainable-use basis. Taking into consideration local and regional variations, Total Water Management:

  • Encourages planning and management on a natural water systems basis through a dynamic process that adapts to changing conditions;
  • Balances competing uses of water through efficient allocation that addresses social values, cost effectiveness, and environmental benefits and costs;
  • Requires the participation of all units of government and stakeholders in decision-making through a process of coordination and conflict resolution;
  • Promotes water conservation, reuse, source protection, and supply development to enhance water quality and quantity; and
  • Fosters public health, safety, and community goodwill.

This definition focuses on the broad aspects of water supply. Examples can be given for other situations, including water-quality management planning, water allocation, and flood control.

Practices for a Sustainable Future

total-water-mgmtTotal Water Management: Practices for a Sustainable Future, by Neil S. Grigg,  explains what TWM means in unambiguous language.

It expands, explains, and illustrates TWM concepts and how to apply them. It is about the balance between our responsibilities to provide safe and reliable water services and to protect the environment.

To Learn More:

To read a story posted on Waterbucket in 2005, click on Using ‘total water management’ to meet the challenges of population growth and climate change