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Water-Centric Planning

Plan with a view to water – whether for a single site, a region or the entire province. Choose to live water smart. Prepare communities for a changing climate. What happens on the land matters – therefore, take into account potential impacts of land use and community design decisions on watershed function. Look at water through different lenses. When collaboration is a common or shared value, the right mix of people and perspectives will create the conditions for change.

Latest Posts

WATER SUSTAINABILITY ACTION PLAN: The Partnership’s Water-Centric Planning community-of-interest provides a legacy record for preserving stories about “Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan” and adapting to a changing climate


“The partnership umbrella provided by the Water Sustainability Action Plan has allowed the Province to leverage partnerships to greatly enhance the profile and resulting impact of Living Water Smart. In effect, the Action Plan partners are functioning as the on-the-ground Living Water Smart implementation arm with local government, allowing my team to focus on legislative reform. Living Water Smart comprises 45 commitments grouped into five themes. The Action Plan has played a key delivery role in two of the five,” stated Lynn Kriwoken.

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WATER SUSTAINABILITY ACTION PLAN: Metro Vancouver guidance document for a “Watershed / Landscape-based Approach to Community Planning” is the genesis for an actionable vision for water-centric planning in British Columbia


Published in March 2002 by the Greater Vancouver Regional District, the “Watershed / Landscape-Based Approach to Community Planning” was developed by an interdisciplinary working group and is the genesis of “water-centric planning”. “An important message is that planning and implementation involves cooperation among all orders of government as well as the non-government and private sectors,” stated Erik Karlsen.

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WATER SUSTAINABILITY ACTION PLAN: Historical context for evolving from a community-of-interest on the waterbucket.ca website to implement and mainstream “Water-Centric Planning” in British Columbia


“Originally, this COI was to be called Watershed-Based Planning for consistency with the community planning element of the Water Sustainability Action Plan. However, federal and provincial funding enabled us to broaden the scope of the COI to encompass a spectrum of perspectives, ranging from provincial watershed planning to local government community planning. This expanded scope is an ambitious undertaking. We are excited by the challenges that integration of perspectives involves,” stated Robyn Wark.

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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)


“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,” stated 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 has done has been shoulder to shoulder with them. The framework is in place and the Drinking Water and Watershed Protection service exists.”

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BLUE ECOLOGY IS THE PATHWAY TO REACH WATER RECONCILIATION: “What Blue Ecology offers local government is a foundation, and starting point, that has both Indigenous and non-Indigenous buy-in. I believe this will alone remove some of the fear,” says Michael Blackstock, independent Indigenous scholar and creator of the Blue Ecology methodology


“I have been reflecting on the recent UN climate change conference in Egypt. It seems that the wind is coming out of the sails. It seems like climate adaptation is too big a hill for nation level governments to climb and solve. My hope lies in local government because local people understand their local area. And at the local scale, we are able to self-organize better on specific execution of executable tasks. I have lived in many communities throughout BC and have learned that those towns each have their own culture. So, local knowledge is important, whether it is Indigenous or non-Indigenous,” stated Michael Blackstock.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “The growing cost of neglect, combined with the urgency of the flood liability issue in particular, is the driver for linking municipal infrastructure asset management and stream health as cause-and-effect,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC (January 2023)


“My over-arching message to those who were elected to municipal councils and regional boards in October 2022 is succinct: Get the water part right in a changing climate, and you will be amazed how other parts of the community resiliency puzzle then fall into place,” stated Kim Stephens. “Land use alters the landscape. That is obvious, right. But there is an elephant in the room. It is the unfunded liability due to neglect of the drainage service. The cost of neglect grows over time. The consequence of neglect is an accumulating financial liability to fund creek channel stabilization and stream corridor revegetation in urban and rural settings.”

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “An airplane analogy is one way to describe the relationship between council and staff. Think of one wing as political and the other as administration. If either wing is not functioning properly, the plane will crash,” stated Peter Steblin, Coquitlam City Manager


As each new generation inherits the world, vital knowledge is forgotten. Generational amnesia has profound effects on the way that we see the world. The challenge is to overcome generational amnesia so that communities learn from past experience, apply this knowledge, and achieve better policy and financial outcomes. Peter Steblin provides a perspective on how elected councils and local government staff can function effectively to arrive at affordable and effective solutions to challenges. He says, “Staff gives good advice and council makes the decision. The operative phrase is a respect-based relationship.”

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern always acts as a great sounding board about the concepts underpinning our network approach in general and our Ambassadors Program in particular,” stated Derek Richmond, Partnership for Water Sustainability (November 2022)


“The biggest takeaway from our conversation with Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern concerns the ‘what, how and who’ as the current leadership of the Partnership looks ahead to pass the baton.. Using the Partnership’s Ambassadors Program as the example of WHAT; – this was the breakthrough to articulate our need for succession planning and sustainability of the network. The WHO now becomes obvious because it is the ambassadors themselves. The HOW is now clear too, by looking back at what we were successful with in the past,” stated Derek Richmond.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “For decades we have trained our elected officials how to think and what to do with a plan. But now, with an Asset Management Plan for Sustainable Service Delivery, we want them to do something completely different. No wonder they are confused,” stated Wally Wells of Asset Management BC (November 2022)


“We have managed assets for decades and understand what that is and what we are doing. Suddenly we took two very simple words, reversed them, and went from managing assets to asset management. The result? We confused everyone. Section 7 of the Community Charter defines the roles and responsibilities of local government in terms of ‘care of infrastructure and services’. In other words, Sustainable Service Delivery. This goes to the heart of affordable and sustainable re-investment in municipal infrastructure assets to meet a level-of-service desired by the community,” stated Wally Wells.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Well-maintained municipal infrastructure assets are worthless IF THEY DO NOT provide a service. Also, for any asset management approach to be successful, it must not focus on the infrastructure asset by itself,” stated Glen Brown, founding Chair of Asset Management BC


In British Columbia, local governments must show how they are progressing along the Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery continuum. “Money – it should be about how to get the most value out of every dollar spent on municipal infrastructure. Too often, thinking stops after the capital investment is made. Yet everyone needs to be thinking in terms of life-cycle costs, including future recapitalization of the investment,” stated Glen Brown. Section 7 of the Community Charter defines the roles and responsibilities of local government in terms of “care of infrastructure and services”.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “People who live, work and play on the traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw people are committed to this community, this place and each other,” stated the City of Nanaimo’s Bill Sims, General Manager of Engineering & Public Works


“The Midtown Gateway Project in the City of Nanaimo is transforming a legacy brownfield site impacted by past industrial activity into a revitalized neighbourhood gateway. It features new complete street transportation corridors, a restored and naturalized wetland with public walking trails, and enhanced access to the city’s premier recreation complex. The project started as a how do we fix a traffic problem. The question was, how do we improve this property so that the city can use it for traffic as well as create some good in the world? This is a case of a number of staff coming together and saying how do we do this, and how do we do it right,” stated Bill Sims.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “You need a team to be effective. Land use is a local government responsibility. But we need much stronger provincial regulations and support so that regional districts are able to mandate requirements for better and more effective land use practices,” stated Lori Iannidinardo, Chair (2022) of the Cowichan Valley Regional District


“We all need to be backed up by each level of government responsibility. As a Regional Director, I will take on my responsibility regarding land use. But so must the other levels of government. Senior governments need to use their regulations to help local governments solve local problems. We need a provincial hammer. But there is nobody on the ground to take responsibility and follow through to resolve issues and concerns. All the agencies have cut back staff. The result is a free-for- all.,” stated Lori Iannidinardo.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, defines the stream and regulated setback zone as the Natural Commons Asset. The NCA has a financial value which we determine through an analysis of parcel data using BC Assessment for sample groups,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair (October 2022)


“Start with an understanding of the parcel because that is how communities regulate and plan land use. It is the parcel level where you get the information that you need to change practice to protect natural assets. That is what everyone must get their heads around. Having a defensible number allows us to look at riparian condition and set targets for restoration. The riparian condition is one measure of the state of M&M over time. We usually find the streamside setback zone is in a deficit position because things that ought to have occurred to protect it have not,” stated Tim Pringle.

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