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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: “Now, with the Ecological Accounting Process as a foundation piece, local governments have a rationale and a metric to do business differently via multiple planning pathways to achieve the goal of natural asset management,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability (June 2022)


“EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, evolved as one ‘big idea’ led to the next one. We could not have made the leap directly from the first to the last. It required a building blocks process. This is the beneficial outcome of a systematic approach to applied research that tests and refines the methodology and metrics to get them right, and is founded on the principle of collaboration that benefits everyone. With the perspective of hindsight, each local government took a leap of faith that EAP would fit into their strategic directions,” stated Kim Stephens.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Over the long-term, I believe local stewardship groups have an essential role to play in refining the water balance numbers and our understanding of what they mean,” stated Peter Law, Chair of the former Guidebook Steering Committee, on the 20th anniversary of Guidebook publication (June 2022)


“Stewardship groups have local knowledge about local water resources, and are the most invested and most connected to the land base. It is in the small tributary streams where the impacts of changes in the seasonal water balance are being felt most. Small streams are now going dry and have zero levels of riparian protection . Now that I am the one standing in the creek to take the flow measurements, I appreciate just how much variability there is around hydrology. So, I can see why it take 10 years to have confidence in computer model results,” stated Peter Law.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Elected officials ought to take great pains to hire the right people. And then take their advice. I really want elected officials to understand that if you do not have the right people working for you, then get the right people. If you do have the right people, let them do their work,” stated Mayor Richard Stewart, City of Coquitlam (May 2022)


“My approach starts with a belief that the administration is there for its role, and the elected officials are there for a different role entirely. I firmly believe that the operational side of city business is nowhere near the purview of city councils. The goal is to get us in alignment so that staff are guiding us with their expertise, and that the policy decisions that we make are consistent with the staff recommendations and advice. I work with Council to make sure everyone understands that. And by and large, we have now reached that shared understanding,” stated Richard Stewart.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “In the early 2000s, when I was on the faculty at the Harvard Business School, I began my research into the concept of a networked approach that is more focused on network-building and trust-based relationships, and less about building an organization to get to your mission impact,” stated Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern, Haas Business School, University of California Berkeley (May 2022)


“I find that many people who are network leaders are often swimming upstream, struggling, and fighting an uphill battle. That is such a waste of time and energy. They are the unsung heroes, who should be free to catalyze and build the network to get the work done without so many senseless barriers getting in of the way. Much of the work that I am doing is with an eye toward how we remove those barriers that are keeping people from building thriving networks. It was exciting to hear about the work of the British Columbia Partnership for Water Sustainability exemplifies network leadership as I have conceptualized it,” stated Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Avoid the Pain, Be Deliberate, Fund the Plan: Waiting for municipal infrastructure to fail means that you are forced into one path. And this is probably the most expensive path. Do not wait until things go wrong,” stated Dan Horan, Director of Engineering & Public Works, District of Oak Bay


“One of the biggest challenges is to create awareness and understanding of why communities need to take sustainable service delivery seriously. A key message is that the level of service to the community can be so much better when asset management is done properly. Another key message is that you do not have to tackle every challenge at once. Dealing with life-cycle realities is such a challenging area of engineering and utility asset management to think about. Many other fields of engineering have already been through multiple life cycles of the asset. They have already felt the pain of not doing it right,” stated Dan Horan.

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TO REVIVE A RIVER, RESTORE ITS LIVER: “A stream is a system. It includes not just the water coursing between the banks but the earth, life and water around and under it,” wrote Erica Gies (Scientific American, April 2022)


“Across North America and the world, cities have bulldozed their waterways into submission. Seattle was as guilty as any until 1999, when the U.S. Department of the Interior listed Chinook salmon as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. That legally obligated the city to help the salmon when undertaking any new capital project that would affect the fish,” wrote Erica Gies. But restoration projects were failing because they were overlooking a little-known feature damaged by urbanization: the stream’s “gut.”

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FIRE & FLOOD – FACING TWO EXTREMES IN BRITISH COLUMBIA (Part 4): “B.C. First Nations are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which could bring more intense and frequent flooding and wildfires, with many reserves and treaty lands located close to water or forest, yet minimally protected,” wrote Gordon Hoekstra and Glenda Luymes (May 2022)


“First Nations jurisdiction must be recognized in all areas, including emergency management,” the B.C. Assembly of First Nations regional chief, Terry Teegee, said after the November 2021 floods. “We are the most at risk during these catastrophic climate events, which are sadly no longer isolated incidents but ongoing repercussions of climate change.” A 2015 study by the Fraser Basin Council found 61 reserves and other parcels of treaty lands in the Lower Mainland could be inundated in either a major Fraser River flood or a coastal storm surge flood.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Cut through the rhetoric and recognize the importance of the stream in the landscape,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair of the Ecological Accounting Process initiative


“The land supports assets that provide services. And decisions are made at the parcel scale. Thus, we are tied to the past through historical subdivision of land. This means we must understand the biology of land use. The human analogy is DNA. Only EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, deals with the parcel. Decisions by elected Councils and Boards are made at the parcel scale. Thus, getting it right about financial valuation of ecological services starts at the parcel scale and recognizing that every parcel is interconnected within a system. EAP bridges a gap. The methodology and metrics recognize the importance of the stream in the landscape,” stated Tim Pringle.

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FIRE & FLOOD – FACING TWO EXTREMES IN BRITISH COLUMBIA (Part 3): “There are more than 350 communities, First Nations and regional districts in B.C. trying to figure out if they have a wildfire problem, each trying to figure out what the solution might be, each trying to come up with a prevention plan, each fighting for the same small pot of money,” wrote Gordon Hoekstra and Glenda Luymes (May 2022)


The increased wildfire risk and potential for more frequent, larger fires is exacerbated by warming temperatures. It’s why a paradigm shift is needed, one where forests are managed for resilience on a much larger scale and not just mainly for their commercial timber value, says Lori Daniels, a University of B.C. forestry professor with expertise in wildfire. It also means targeting priority areas rather than relying on ad hoc grants that do not target priorities. “We’ve set ourselves up for a total lose-lose situation,” she said.

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FIRE & FLOOD – FACING TWO EXTREMES IN BRITISH COLUMBIA (Part 2):”Local governments, responsible for much of the mitigation work after the province reduced its role in 2003, face huge costs they cannot pay, putting people, homes, businesses and infrastructure at increasing risk,” wrote Gordon Hoekstra and Glenda Luymes (May 2022)


“Provincial efforts have fallen far short of what is needed to properly prepare for and reduce risks from an expected increase in both the frequency and intensity of floods and wildfires in the face of climate change. Our four-month investigation found a majority of B.C. communities do not have a comprehensive, costed, flood-mitigation plan. For those that have a costed plan, the total bill tops $7.74 billion,” wrote Glenda Luymes. “As a result of climate change, experts believe what is now considered a 500-year flood, meaning a river level that in the past occurred once in 500 years, could become more frequent.”

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