LIVING WATER SMART PANEL AT GREENLINK VANCOUVER CONFERENCE: “On Monday nights at Council meetings, what Councillors see are the individual applications for land development. Focusing them on the big picture requires a paradigm-shift in the way we talk to them,” stated Kim Stephens (October 2010)

Note to Reader:

Released in February 2004, the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia demonstrates what can be achieved through a ‘top-down & bottom-up strategy’. In retrospect, 2010 was a milestone year for ‘convening for action’ under the umbrella of the Action Plan. Much was accomplished by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in an extremely busy year.

The Partnership organized and provided program development for three flagship events under the umbrella of CAVI, Convening for Action on Vancouver Island. The Partnership also delivered program components within seven other major events organized by other organizations. The latter events were held in three regions, namely: Vancouver Island, Metro Vancouver and the Okanagan. 

At the Greenlink Conference held in Vancouver in October 201o, the Partnership delivered a module as part of the outreach for Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan. The Water Sustainability Action Plan flows from Living Water Smart, released in 2008. The Action Plan is guided by the Living Water Smart vision, and the set of actions identified therein for building greener communities and adapting to a changing climate.

Greenlink 2010 provided a high-profile platform for continuing the roll-out of the “Beyond the Guidebook 2010″ guidance document which had been released only months before in June 2010.

Smarter Water Management

Sponsored by IBM, the breakout session on Smarter Water Management was initiated, organized and facilitated by Peter Williams of the IBM organization. Based in northern California, he is Chief Technology Officer for IBM’s Big Green Innovations program.

Peter Williams first approached Lynn Kriwoken of the Ministry of Environment. Lynn then recruited Ted van der Gulik of the Ministry of Agriculture and Kim Stephens to round out the panel.

“The team of Lynn, Ted and Kim provide insight into some of the issues around water management in British Columbia,” stated Peter Williams when he introduced the interactive format for the Smarter Water Management panel session (which was sponsored and organized  by IBM).

To Learn More:

Download a copy of the announcement, GreenLink 2010 to Inspire Action, that describes the vision for the conference.

Download a copy of the Agenda for GreenLink 2010 – Linking Sustainable Communities, Investment Capital, Technology and Governance.

Backdrop for Making the Water Panel Meaningful and Relevant

“We called ourselves the Living Water Smart Panel because of the roles that we were each playing in the delivery of Living Water Smart. We worked collaboratively with Peter Williams over a period of two months to frame a set of questions that would guide each of our components in an integrated presentation,” recalled Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.

“We set out to make our integrated presentation relevant to an audience for which the topic of ‘water’ was not normally top of mind. The program as a whole reflected what I described as a Downtown Vancouver (or ‘big city’) way of seeing one part of the urban world. Thus, we wished to provide a perspective that reflected the broader ‘suburban reality’ where most of the population lives in British Columbia.”

“Most people don’t understand ‘water’ because it is  abstract beyond what happens when they  turn  the  tap or flush the toilet, but light bulbs go on when we say we are actually talking about the ‘land ethic’. The critical message is that it is ‘land + water’, not water in a silo.”

Implementing a New Culture for Urban Watershed Protection and Restoration in British Columbia

The Partnership’s outreach spotlight in 2010 was on the release and rollout of the second in the Beyond the Guidebook series of guidance documents for rainwater management and restoration of hydrologic function in urban watersheds.

Beyond the Guidebook 2010 describes how a ‘convening for action’ culture has taken root in British Columbia. Bringing together local government practitioners in neutral forums has enabled implementers to collaborate as regional teams. Their action-oriented focus has resulted in ‘how to do it’ examples that help decision-makers visualize what ‘design with nature’ policy goals look like on the ground.

Design With Nature

“The ‘land + water’ way-of-thinking leads into the concept of respect for the land and a ‘design with nature’ approach to community design that is in stark contrast to the ‘dominate and destroy’ mentality described by Ian McHarg when he published his call to action, Design With Nature, in the 1960s.

“A suburban reality is that no large-scale project proceeds until ‘water issues’ (usually drainage) are resolved because water is at the  heart of environmental impact. Great battles are fought over water-related issues during the land development project approval process, but once resolved the water discussion is recorded as a deceptively small part of a project storyline.

“Ted van der Gulik and I were reminded of an observation by Zo-Ann Morten, Executive Director of the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation, at a Sustainability by Design workshop series in 2009. Organized by Patrick Condon, the James Taylor Chair at the University of British Columbia, the process brought together a group of folks with a range of perspectives in different theme areas.

“Zo-Ann Morten provided this reality check about all the other theme groups (i.e. energy, business, etc): ‘They don’t get it, do they? Ultimately, water rules. It is not  just one of six equal topics.’ Her observation succinctly framed the educational challenge.”

To Learn More:

Download a copy of Living Water Smart, the integrated presentation by Lynn, Ted and Kim.

Watch Kim Stephens introduce an approach called ‘convening for action’ (5:30 minutes)

“A key to our on the ground approach is recognition that, those who make development decisions on Monday nights at Council meetings, don’t always see the big picture. What Councillors see are the individual applications for land development. And that requires a paradigm-shift in the way we talk to them. We have to see the world through their eyes because their decisions are not the same as somebody who sees the big picture. So we tried something different in the South Okanagan. It started with a conversation. We had to find the champions rather than writing another guidebook,” stated Kim Stephens.

“Conversations helped us identify the issues.  That was the beginning of what we call ‘convening for action’ in British Columbia. Through this process we realized that people don’t want another guidebook. They want to hear the stories of those who are doing it; and they want those who are doing it to come and share those stories. So, we said, it is going to take us five years to find the stories.  And that is what Beyond the Guidebook is about.”

To Learn More:

2006 Mini-Summit on Water Stewardship

2006 Convening for Action in the Town of Oliver

2005 Convening for Action in the South Okanagan