“Historical water users who have not applied by the March 1, 2022 deadline will be using water illegally,” said Ted van der Gulik, formerly with the Ministry of Agriculture and now President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC. “There may be any number of reasons why historic groundwater users are not applying for their licences but it doesn’t really matter. With the deadline less than a year away, Government needs to embark upon a concerted education and communication effort to urge them to do so.”
THE EMERGING CRISIS AROUND GROUNDWATER LEGISLATION IMPLEMENTATION IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Leadership at the highest level and a clear strategy to motivate historical groundwater users to apply, including signalling that government will deal with unauthorized water use, would be the game-changer that groundwater licensing desperately needs right now,” stated Mike Wei, former Deputy Comptroller of Water Rights (April 2021)
Effective March 2022, the transition period for groundwater licensing ends. The implication is that ‘historical uses’ without a licence would be considered ‘new uses’. “There will be no consideration of historical use for any application received after the transition period. Even if they apply after the deadline, any new use applications received prior to theirs will get a more senior priority date. By not applying, historical groundwater users are effectively giving their current volume of groundwater use back to the government for reallocation,” stated Mike Wei.
SHORT-TERM GRATIFICATION VS INTER-GENERATIONAL LEGACY: “We know what we need to do to adapt to a changing water cycle. Whether and how we deal with uncertainty, manage risk, and adapt to droughts and floods will depend on how effective we are in encouraging a spirit of inter-generational collaboration among decision-makers at all levels within government and with community,” wrote Kim Stephens (Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability) in an Op-Ed published in April 2021
“British Columbia’s communities have arrived at an ‘inter-generational moment’ in history. For quite some time we have known that climate mitigation is about carbon and climate adaptation is about water. Now what will we do? Sure, the climate is changing at an accelerating rate and we are experiencing an increased frequency of extreme events – drought, fire, wind, flood. However, the situation is by no means hopeless,” stated Kim Stephens. “Through experience, we do know that when we get the water part right, other parts of the puzzle will fall into place.”
WATERSHED CASE PROFILE SERIES: “The work of the DWWP is strategic. It is community based, and makes links interdepartmentally and with external agencies. And that in itself is the super power of what we do. It does not fit into a box of what a usual local government service is or does,” stated Julie Pisani, Program Coordinator for the Drinking Water & Watershed Protection Program in the Regional District of Nanaimo, Vancouver Island (released April 2021)
“The objective and mission of the DWWP program has always been about connecting land and water management. But the RDN couldn’t just leap straight there. We first had to build partnerships, trust, datasets and knowledge. We had to test ideas, learn, earn credibility, and deepen relationships across jurisdictions. The RDN demonstrates commitment to watershed initiatives and water sustainability by delivering the DWWP Action Plan with a long-term reliable funding source through parcel tax,” stated Julie Pisani.
FLOODS AFFECT SOME OF US. DROUGHTS AFFECT ALL OF US: Have you considered why climate change is a variable, not a driver? “The real issues are uncertainty and risk, more specifically how we deal with the first and manage the latter,” stated Robert Hicks, Metro Vancouver Senior Engineer, at the Achieving Water Balance Workshop which was the launch event for the Convening for Action in British Columbia initiative (April 2005)
The idea for the deceptively simple Water OUT = Water In equation originated with Robert Hicks. He believed it would be an effective visual means to explain complexity to a continuum of audiences, ranging from technical to elected. “How do you solve the OUT = IN equation when both sides are variable? After all, it is mathematically not possible to solve for two or more unknowns when one has a single equation. The inherent variability creates uncertainty which in turn creates risk,” stated Robert Hicks.
ADAPTING TO THE NEW REALITY OF LONGER, DRIER SUMMERS: Unlike other regions and countries, the water supply challenge in British Columbia’s mountainous environment is that seasonal water storage potential is limited – such that there is little margin for operational error even though our droughts are measured in months rather than years!
“Drought severity in B.C. is currently communicated through four “drought levels”. Because these categories are broad, it makes it difficult to communicate moderate levels of drought, worsening drought conditions over time, or when regions are experiencing abnormal water scarcity. Desired outcomes in going to a 6-level system include better understanding of current conditions, advance warning of extreme drought, and better alignment with other jurisdictions in North America,” stated Julia Berardinucci.
HYDRATING LANDSCAPES TO MITIGATE CLIMATE CHANGE: “Interweaving is a collaborative process where apparently contradictory ways of knowing water, such as Western Science and Indigenous Knowledge, are brought together as co-existing threads to produce a new cooperative theory called Blue Ecology,” stated Michael Blackstock in his panel presentation at the virtual Living Soils Symposium hosted by Regeneration Canada (February 2021)
“Blue Ecology has five guiding principles and aligns with the whole-system, water balance approach. Adoption of the principles – Spirit, Harmony, Respect, Unity and Balance – would move Blue Ecology from theory to practice, as an aid for water managers. To make the right choices moving forward, we must understand how and where the rhythms of water are changing. Then we can apply ecosystem-based understanding to adapt our practices to suit a changing climate,” explained Michael Blackstock.
A SHINING EXAMPLE OF COLLABORATION IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “We call it community-based water monitoring (rather than citizen science) because it is driven by community, and by sense of place within community, both for Indigenous and non-Indigenous stewardship initiatives,” stated Kat Hartwig, Founder & Executive Director of Living Lakes Canada, when she spoke about the Columbia Basin Water Hub, a new online tool for open source data collection and sharing
“In a national survey coordinated by Living Lakes Canada to see what groups were doing across the country, we found there had been an exponential growth in community-based water monitoring – CBWM – in Canada over 10 years. We want to ensure that CBWM, which is rather sophisticated in some parts of Canada, does not get left behind and is acknowledged and built upon in this new Canada Water Agency. During this era of biodiversity crisis and climate crisis, we need all hands on deck if we’re doing to try and build resilience into our communities,” stated Kat Hartwig.
RECONNECT HYDROLOGY AND STREAM ECOLOGY BY DESIGN: “Changes to hydrology and riparian condition due to changes in land use are the top two factors influencing system integrity,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC, in an article published in the Winter 2021 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter
“EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, provides local governments with a tool to establish benchmarks for maintenance and management of stream corridor systems in the built environment. The Partnership’s desired outcome is that local governments would apply the EAP methodology and metrics to determine real numbers for budget planning purposes. Then inter-departmental conversations would have a starting point for operationalizing M&M of natural assets within Asset Management Plans,” stated Kim Stephens.
JOURNEY FROM STREAMKEEPER TO ELECTED REPRESENTATIVE: “Salmon brought me a strong sense of community, something I had never really felt before. I felt protective of what we share, and that the next generation deserves it as much as we do,” stated Laura Dupont, President, Lower Mainland Local Government Association
“Salmon pulled me into appreciating nature on a whole other level. I could not learn enough about them. They are the most fascinating and resilient creatures. One cannot underestimate their importance to Indigenous communities and coastal ecosystems. Next step was to join a watershed group and become a streamkeeper, and then a river protector. Salmon led me to learn more about, and fall in love with, the flora and fauna of the BC Coast. I will always be eternally grateful to live here,” stated Laura Dupont