LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Getting involved in a Water Sustainability Plan is one thing. Leading it is another. Who is going to take charge, who is going to step up and really lead that process,” stated Brian Carruthers, former Chief Administrative Officer with the Cowichan Valley Regional District (January 2023)

Note to Reader:

Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the Living Water Smart vision. The edition published on January 24, 2023 previewed the Blue Ecology bridging seminar and primed readers for a panel discussion about interweaving of Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. The seminar goal is to raise the level of awareness of what “water reconciliation” means in practice.

It always comes down to people, how they get along, and who will lead

“When I think about the experience in the Cowichan, in many ways the region is still in the theoretical stage in terms of weaving Indigenous knowledge and Western science,” continues Brian Carruthers.

“We created the framework for that to happen, but I cannot say that it truly has happened. The foundation for interweaving in the Cowichan region is really with the Cowichan Tribes. Everything the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) has done has been shoulder to shoulder with them.”

“I was the CVRD’s Chief Administrative Officer for 8 years and it took a long time to get where we got to with the successful 2018 referendum and afterwards. The framework is in place and the Drinking Water and Watershed Protection service exists. But I do wish the Cowichan region was further along. However, a reality is that things do take time.”

“Now that I am retired, I like the opportunity the Blue Ecology Seminar provides to be able to speak freely and candidly around my observations. CVRD has a new Board. It is an opportunity for them.”

“CVRD is my frame of reference. That is my experience. I like the idea of igniting that fire again and sparking interest in taking up the charge again and moving it forward. That would be very valuable.”

“I was increasingly concerned as I was leaving the Cowichan that, in contrast to when I first started, the political will seemed to have waned. When I started, my Board was 100% behind anything water. In 2018, I saw a shift away from that wholehearted universal support due to, I believe, a lack of understanding.”

There is a window of opportunity for a new Board to rekindle the energy

“The question was, and still is, how do we rekindle that energy and fire in the belly? How do we rekindle that support for this important work amongst our elected officials? How do we bring the Cowichan Tribes, Cowichan Watershed Board and CVRD, as well as the other groups back together again? You need to have that political will to say, this is important.”

“My experience with elected representatives is that it always comes down to the people and how they get along. And how they act, and how they lead. Staff can only carry things so far. Only when someone who is elected takes the lead, and is the champion, does something happen.”

“CVRD has had chairs who were strong advocates for water, and strong advocates for Indigenous relations. And this resulted in genuine co-leadership with Cowichan Tribes at the Cowichan Watershed Board table. With a new Board, I believe there is a real opportunity to strike early and bring CVRD and Cowichan Tribes together to re-start the water conversation,” concludes Brian Carruthers.


To read the complete story published on January 24th 2023, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: A Pathway to Water Reconciliation and Resilience at the Local Scale.