LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “There is a context that allowed Mike Wall to see an opportunity and take it on. The right questions were asked. The right professionals were on board. This combination led to self-evident success. The takeaway message is to understand your role, understand what is possible, and then find the opportunities,” stated Gracelyn Shannon, asset management professional (June 2021)


The edition of Waterbucket eNews published on June 15, 2021 featured the qathet Regional District on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, in particular the leadership of Michael Wall, Manager of Asset Management and Strategic Services. He and his team stepped back, recognized an opportunity, and seized the moment to do business differently and integrate a “natural asset solution” into a landfill closure plan.

Because of frequent confusion between the identical names of Powell River Regional District and City of Powell River, the regional district’s name was changed in 2018 to qathet, meaning “working together” in the language of the Tla’amin Nation. The name was gifted by the Elders of Tla’amin Nation and is intentionally lower case.

Integrating Natural Assets into Infrastructure in Powell River on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast

“The qathet landfill closure story illustrates why and how innovation is most likely to occur when the focus is on the end goal of Sustainable Service Delivery,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

“Michael Wall and his team channeled the words and wisdom of Wally Wells, Executive Director of Asset Management BC, when they stepped back and asked themselves: “What is the service we are trying to provide, and what is the most sustainable way to provide it?”

“Upon interviewing Michael Wall and Gracelyn Shannon, co-authors of the Asset Management article, it was immediately apparent to me that “the qathet story” is one that needs to be told and re-told. The design with nature solution for restoration of the water balance at the landfill showcases ‘Living Water Smart in action’. It is already a success story. There is no need to wait for performance monitoring over many years.”

“The essence of the story is that the qathet Regional District rejected an engineered solution in favour of a natural asset solution.”

qathet Regional District rejected this engineering solution for landfill closure and drainage

Looking at Drainage Design Differently

“We received a proposal to manage stormwater using pipes, ditches, and a large sedimentation pond. It was going to cost roughly $850,000 and they were going to clear around a hectare of forest,” stated Michael Walls, Manager of Strategic Initiatives and Asset Management at qathet Regional District.

“Jason Gow, a senior planner from the City of Powell River, and I went on site to review the proposed engineering design. We wondered “why are we clearing a forest to put in infrastructure to manage run-off, when we know the forest can provide that service to some extent?”

“We tried to look for any similar case studies for a “volume of water per area of forest” that can be safely managed, but we could not find anything. We had to get a hydrogeologist and professional engineer to take a look and give the go ahead,”

“Michael and a small army of local professionals were able to develop a natural asset solution to manage the landfill runoff. The new green infrastructure plan saved $700,000 of taxpayer money and 0.5 hectares of second growth forest,” continued Gracelyn Shannon.


To read the complete article, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Integrating Natural Assets into Infrastructure on BC’s Sunshine Coast.