LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Inspired by Buzz Holling, the Stormwater Planning Guidebook established an international precedent for application of an adaptive management approach in the local government setting. The Guidebook developed the ADAPT guiding principles for reconnecting hydrology and stream ecology through use of Water Balance performance targets,” stated Kim Stephens in the Partnership for Water Sustainability’s tribute to the late Buzz Holling (1930-2019)


The edition of Waterbucket eNews published on January 14, 2020 paid tribute to Dr. Crawford “Buzz” Holling (1930-2019), recognized as one of the world’s leading ecologists. His work is frequently cited in the fields of ecology, environmental management, ecological economics and the human dimensions of global change.

Buzz Holling was a source of inspiration for the whole-system, water balance approach that is the technical foundation for the precedent-setting Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia. The approach underpins everything that the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC does.

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How Buzz Holling influenced “Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia”, released in 2002

“My first contact with Buzz Holling was in 1998. An assignment for King County allowed me to delve into the origins of adaptive management, and research experience around the world. Specifically, we were looking for a local government precedent, and there was none. This led me to phone Buzz,” recalled Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.

“Buzz Holling highlighted the importance of considering surprise, system reorganization, and learning when trying to understand social-ecological dynamics. These efforts led to new ideas about the dynamic nature of resilience. His contributions include Adaptive Management and the Adaptive Cycle.”

“One of the talents of Buzz Holling was his ability to bring people together to understand, assess and act on new solutions to complex problems of people and nature. The Resilience Alliance, an international research organization founded in 1999, was one of his ‘experiments’.”

“More than a decade later, in 2010, it was an inspirational experience when we had a reflective conversation at a UBC symposium on resilience planning. I was part of a panel session. I was there to tell the story of the Water Sustainability Action Plan and the Living Water Smart vision for ‘designing with nature’ to adapt to climate change.”

To Learn More:

Read 2ND ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM ON PLANNING FOR RESILIENCE: “Living Water Smart lays out out the vision of where British Columbia needs to go in order to build greener communities and adapt to a changing climate,” stated Kim Stephens when he represented the Water Sustainability Action Plan as a panel member on Uncertain Water Supplies (March 2010)

How will communities ‘get it right’ as land develops and redevelops? 

“In 1998, my Aha Moment was realizing that our cross-border response to the ‘salmon crisis’ in the Pacific Northwest paralleled the efforts of Buzz Holling and Lance Gunderson related to Florida Everglades Restoration,” continued Kim Stephens. “They were great communicators, they used imagery to translate the science so that folks could understand it, and they undertook a workshop program that informed, educated and inspired government action.”

“Bill Derry, the founding Chair, Washington State Stormwater Managers Committee, and I led a workshop program for B.C. local government, and provided cross-border sharing of the latest Puget Sound research. Early access to the research findings by Richard Horner and Chris May at the University of Washington allowed us to create what became known as the ‘fish pictures’. They illustrate the impact of land use decisions on aquatic diversity and abundance.”

Guiding Principles for Whole-System, Water Balance Approach to Rainwater Management

“The acronym ADAPT (illustrated above) summarizes five guiding principles for a systems approach to rainwater management in the urban setting. The British Columbia Guidebook is based upon the five principles.”

“Guiding Principle 2 forms the foundation of integrated solutions that mimic the most effective rainwater management system of all – a naturally vegetated watershed.”

“The goal of adaptive management is to learn from experience and constantly improve rainwater management practices. Implicit in the approach is recognition of the need to both accept and manage risk if the state-of-the-practice is to be advanced. Accepting risk opens the door to engineering creativity and resulting innovation.”


Download a copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: A Tribute to Buzz Holling.  This is the downloadable version of the feature story published online by Waterbucket eNews in January 2020.

Watch the YouTube video of Crawford ”Buzz” Holling, Volvo Environment Prize laureate 2008. An influential ecologist, Buzz Crawford is considered the father of the resilience theory.