LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Now, with the passage of time, we can state the obvious. The Comox Valley experiment is a success. The collaborative spirit has taken root,” stated Derek Richmond, Partnership for Water Sustainability Director and Comox Valley resident

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 May 30, 2023 featured the story behind the story of the “experiment in collaboration” involving the four local governments in the Comox Valley over the past two decades. The Partnership’s hope is that having this record of their oral history will serve to inform and inspire future generations of local government staffs.

Comox Valley is an experiment in collaboration

Everyone learns through stories, and this is how the Partnership hopes to inspire readers. The Partnership for Water Sustainability is releasing a series of comprehensive “stories behind the stories” of inter-regional collaboration among local governments along the east coast of Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia.

The second in the series features the four Comox Valley local governments. The Partnership describes the regional team approach in the Comox Valley as an “experiment in collaboration”.

To Learn More:

To download a copy of the Comox Valley story, click on Stream Systems and Watershed Stewardship in the Comox Valley: Moving Towards Sustainable Service Delivery.

Look beyond your boundaries

“When I moved to Vancouver Island, I carried on what I brought with me from my legacy at Alberta Environment,” states Derek Richmond, Partnership Director and Comox Valley resident. “And that was to go beyond your localized boundaries and find out who was doing what and where. Somebody, somewhere, had found a solution to something. And it was through meetings, contacts, and a regular forum that you found those answers.”

He is a former Manager of Engineering with the City of Courtenay and Past-Chair (2011-2014) of the CAVI-Convening for Action on Vancouver Island program.

Derek Richmond’s experience with Alberta Environment was foundational to what he brought to the City of Courtenay and CAVI. In Alberta, he was responsible for the maintenance and operation of all provincial water resource projects, with the exception of irrigation.

Story of the Comox Valley journey is a legacy resource for local government collaboration

“Knowledge is passed on verbally and we learn through stories. This is the big picture context for the Partnership for Water Sustainability initiative in creating this legacy resource. Thus, this story behind the story of the region’s journey through time is the Partnership’s gift to the four Comox Valley local governments,” explains Derek Richmond.

“It is our hope that having this record of their oral history – because that is what it is – will serve to inform and inspire future generations of local government staffs. At the end of the day, there are three takeaway messages from this successful experiment in collaboration.”

Message #1 – Each local government has contributed something of value to the big picture

“Everyone cannot do everything. What really stands out about the Comox Valley is that each local government has developed an area of expertise or strength that is provincially significant. The combination is potentially quite powerful in terms of shaping the future of the valley. But only if there is an enduring commitment to walk the talk.”

Message #2 – Collaboration is the gift that keeps on giving over time

“Collaboration helps everyone better deliver on policy goals and outcomes. But one has to believe, truly believe, in collaboration to make it so. Lip service does not cut it. What this means is that collaboration must be embedded in an organization’s culture. There is no other way. It must be a commitment, a guiding principle.”

Message #3 – Understand the WHY!

“Collaboration is all well and good as a desire. But it must be founded on an understanding of oral history in order to pass the baton. For lack of a better phrase, it means successive generations of local government staffs must understand the WHY. Learn from these words of wisdom by G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) who said:


To read the complete story, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Moving Towards Sustainable Service Delivery in the Comox Valley.