Author Archives: Partnership for Water Sustainability

  1. 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)

    Comments Off on 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)

    Note to Reader:

    In 2016, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British  Columbia embarked upon a 6-year program of applied research to evolve EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, through a 3-stage building blocks process of testing, refining, and mainstreaming the methodology and metrics for financial valuation of stream systems. The program involved 9 case studies and 13 local governments and yielded 19 “big ideas” or foundational concepts. In the edition of Waterbucket eNews published on June 14, 2022, the Partnership  announced release of the Synthesis Report on the Ecological Accounting Process, a BC Strategy for Community Investment in Stream Systems.

    How much should communities invest in protection of stream systems?

    “If we know how to do a much better job of protecting ecological features and stream systems in our communities and on our landscape, then why aren’t we doing a better job? Why are streams still degrading? Why do we still see practices that exacerbate the situation? Why is understanding lacking? How do we change that?” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Partnership Executive Director.

    “An elephant in the room is the hollowing out of government capacity at all levels and the reliance on outside service providers. The ramifications of this dual concern provide the context for the Partnership’s observation that a lack of understanding of the science behind the Twin Pillars of Stream System Integrity, and especially that a stream is a system, is widespread.”

     

     

    “Following publication of Beyond the Guidebook 2015, the Partnership embarked on a 6-year program of applied research to evolve and operationalize the EAP methodology and metrics through collaboration with willing local governments. The program involved 9 case studies and 13 local governments and yielded 19 ‘big ideas’ or foundational concepts,” continued Kim Stephens.

    “EAP 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. Now, with EAP as a foundation piece, these local governments have a rationale and a metric to do business differently via multiple planning pathways to achieve the goal of ‘natural asset management’.”

     

    “The Drainage Service is the neglected service, and the cost of neglect grows over time. Until now, local governments have lacked a pragmatic methodology and meaningful metrics to incorporate stream systems as line items in Asset Management Strategies. For local governments wishing to move from stopgap fixes to long-term solutions, EAP gives them a road map.”

    “Local governments need real numbers to deliver green infrastructure outcomes. It is that basic. Rhetoric is insufficient. EAP metrics are neither hypothetical nor speculative. They are grounded in the BC Assessment database. EAP is a foundation piece for Asset Management for Sustainable Drainage Service Delivery,” concluded Kim Stephens.

    To Learn More:

    To read the complete story posted on June 14th 2022, download a PDF copy of “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: How Much Should Communities Invest in Protection of Stream Systems?

    DOWNLOAD A COPY OF https://waterbucket.ca/wcp/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2022/06/PWSBC_Living-Water-Smart_EAP-Synthesis_2022.pdf

     

     

  2. 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)

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    Note to Reader:

    Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the Living Water Smart vision. Storylines accommodate a range of reader attention spans. Read the headline and move on, or take the time to delve deeper – it is your choice!  Downloadable versions are available at Living Water Smart in British Columbia: The Series.

    The edition published on June 7, 2022 featured Peter Law and the “story behind the story” of Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, released in June 2002. Without Peter Law, there would have been no Guidebook. Peter saw the need, garnered support within government, and was hands-on in shepherding the Guidebook from inception to completion.

    Restore the ‘natural Water Balance’ to stabilize streams, restore aquatic habitat, and sustain summer streamflow

    In June 2002, the government of British Columbia released Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia. It was soon recognized across North America for its science-based foundation and its innovation. The Guidebook demonstrates how to apply a Watershed / Landscape-based Approach to Community Planning a description coined by the late, great Erik Karlsen (1945-2020).

    In 1997, Washington State science defined and correlated the nature of the land use problem. Their breakthrough was in establishing impervious area thresholds for irreversible impacts on stream ecology. In 2000, the BC breakthrough was development of the Water Balance Methodology. It gave communities a path forward to tackle changes in watershed hydrology at the source – that is, on individual properties.

    The Guidebook premise is that land development and watershed protection can be compatible, BUT ONLY IF communities apply systems thinking and Design With Nature to restore the natural water balance.

    CONTEXT: British Columbia was followed by California in 2008 and Washington State in 2012.

    A Stream is a System

    “Peter Law had a clear and pragmatic vision for developing a Stormwater Guidebook for British Columbia. Guided by a mantra of ‘affordable and effective’, the Guidebook team built on Puget Sound research and validated our ‘made in BC. approach through case study experience,” recalled Kim Stephens, Guidebook project manager and principal author.

    “A stream is a system, but that is not how land and drainage practitioners treat streams. Moreover, high-level policy statements are often not helpful. To achieve the twin goals of stream stability and aquatic habitat protection, we literally had to re-invent urban hydrology. These one-two drivers resulted in the Water Balance Methodology which transcends the ‘voodoo hydrology’ and simple equations that characterize standard engineering practice.

    Putting Guidebook Principles into Practice in Shelly Creek

    Twenty years after release of the Guidebook, how water gets to a stream and how long it takes, is still not widely understood among drainage practitioners and local government decision-makers. “When I look back, the thing that disappoints me is how long it has taken for the practitioners to apply the approach versus playing lip service to what we were requesting at the time,” stated Peter Law in a moment of reflection.

    Leading by example

    For the past decade, and as a volunteer streamkeeper, Peter Law has been putting Guidebook principles into practice in Shelly Creek. This is the last fish-bearing stream in the City of Parksville. Peter is Vice-President of the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society.

    With support from the Partnership for Water Sustainability, MVIHES has undertaken a range of demonstration applications that push the envelope of contemporary practices. As Peter Law often reminds those who are curious, “Shelly Creek is an ongoing test case for the Water Balance Methodology”.

    Closing the Data Gap

    “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,” states Peter Law.

    “Small streams are now going dry and have zero levels of riparian protection, mostly because in the early days of streamside protection they weren’t seen as worthy of levels of protection.”

    “In 2018, MVIHES partnered with the Ministry of Environment to pilot Closing the Data Gap: Water Stewards, the Key to the Future, Streamflow monitoring by MVIHES is ongoing. The Ministry’s objective is to build stewardship sector capacity to do flow measurement. The people who are involved in this grass-roots program are all volunteers.”

    “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. 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.”

    TO LEARN MORE:

    To read the complete story published on June 7th 2022, download a PDF copy of “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Land Development and Watershed Protection Can  Be Compatible”.

    DOWNLOAD A PDF COPY: https://waterbucket.ca/wcp/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2022/06/PWSBC_Living-Water-Smart_Stormwater-Guidebook_2022_low-res.pdf

     

     

  3. 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)

    Comments Off on 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)

    Note to Reader:

    The edition of Waterbucket eNews published on May 31, 2022 featured a conversational interview with Mayor Richard Stewart and City Manager Peter Steblin of the City of Coquitlam. With their clear vision of how to inspire and lead, they form an impressive political / administrative duo. Their sustained commitment has resulted in a “culture of appreciation” that aligns Council and Staff and keeps all eyes on the prize.

    To read the complete story, download a PDF copy of “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: City of Coquitlam is a Beacon of Stability”. Excerpts follow below.

     

    Balance, alignment, and appreciation – three words describe why Coquitlam is a “beacon of stability”

    Beginning in January 2022 with the story about Council-inspired asset management innovation in the District of Oak Bay, the Partnership for Water Sustainability has presented a series of articles that have taken readers behind the scenes in the local government setting. These “story behind the story” articles have featured a continuum of perspectives, always shining the spotlight on champions who are doing the hard work of hope – whether inside or outside government.

    In this edition, the spotlight shifts to the City of Coquitlam because it has emerged as a “beacon of stability” in the Metro Vancouver region. We feature a conversational interview with the Mayor, Richard Stewart, and the City Manager, Peter Steblin. With their clear vision of how to inspire and lead, they form an impressive political / administrative duo. In the interview, it was evident they genuinely like and respect each other.

    Richard Stewart and Peter Steblin share a guiding philosophy that exemplifies doing good work, having fun doing it, and doing with it the goal of making a difference for the greater community good.

    Alignment leads to decisions that the community appreciates

    In this “story behind the Coquitlam story”, Mayor Richard Stewart and City Manager Peter Steblin reflect on their commitment, sustained over more than a decade, to create a “culture of appreciation” in Coquitlam. A guiding principle is that you fix things one piece at a time.

    A philosophy of appreciation guides the actions of elected officials and staff. Moreover, the Coquitlam experience demonstrates what is achievable when elected officials and staff are in alignment and implement good ideas that work for the community. Mayor and Council make it a practice to thank staff for their hard work.

    Mayor Stewart distils the essence of Coquitlam’s success in creating a positive culture:

    “In the end, it comes down to the acceptance by council members that staff are the experts. We should not be looking to substitute our wisdom for theirs. Rather, ask the right questions. Make sure we are comfortable with the recommendations.”

    Peter Steblin describes the process for moving from intended directions to approved recommendations:

    “Part of what we as staff try to do is minimize the surprises. Aligning our efforts means we have workshops or committee meetings that yield ‘intended directions’. I always try to make it clear what we would recommend. But we leave enough room for Council to finetune the intended direction. Usually, we are aligned when we reach the decision point. This is a really good model.”

     

    EDITOR’S PERSPECTIVE

    “The editorial philosophy for Waterbucket eNews is, quite simply, what is the story behind the story? As a matter of editorial policy, we are not interested in publishing ‘news release’ stories. We highlight this distinction because it is key to understanding why the Partnership views the Coquitlam story as an especially important one to share,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Partnership Executive Director.

    “The Partnership mission is to tell the stories about the good things that are happening in the local government setting. Our definition of ‘local government setting’ encompasses the stream stewardship sector because those folks are the ‘boots on the ground’.”

    “The local government setting is populated with unsung and unappreciated heroes, both inside and outside government. Through Waterbucket eNews, the Partnership strives to give them a voice.”

    Right People Plus Hard Work

    “So, why we are featuring Mayor Richard Stewart and City Manager Peter Steblin in this edition? Well, we know the history going back several decades. Suffice to say, Coquitlam was not always a beacon of stability. This background knowledge provides us with an informed perspective on what this leadership duo has accomplished since 2008 to align elected and staff efforts,” continued Kim Stephens.

    “Changing an organizational culture for the better takes hard work and time. By showcasing and celebrating the Coquitlam story, the Partnership hopes that other local governments will be inspired to reach out to Richard and Peter, learn from their Coquitlam experience, and ultimately emulate this success story. The following Peter Steblin quote describes what is at stake:

    “It takes a decade to create a good culture in an organization. But you can destroy it in a year with the wrong political leadership. To keep it going, you must continue to do good things. Instill a culture of continuous improvement and giving back to the community so that the community elects good, well-meaning people. It is a cycle.”

     

    Reflections on creating a “culture of appreciation” within the City of Coquitlam: Extracts from an interview with Mayor Richard Stewart and City Manager Peter Steblin about the “story behind the story”

    Balance. Alignment. Appreciation. Three words that capture so much. In the City of Coquitlam, they are foundation pieces for creating a “culture of collaboration” which is a stepping stone to a “culture of appreciation”. This applies to the relationship between the political and administrative wings. And it applies to the organization as a whole.

    In a conversational interview, Mayor Richard Stewart and City Manager Peter Steblin describe how Staff gives good advice and Council makes the decisions in the City of Coquitlam. The operative phrase is that they have a trust-based relationship founded on balance, alignment and appreciation.

    Extracts from the interview follow. These provide the flavour. We invite the reader to download the complete interview and be amazed. Richard Stewart and Peter Steblin are candid and transparent in sharing their wisdom.

    What It Means to Be in Balance

    “Over my career, I have worked in four cities, and observed many cities across the country. This experience provides me with context for concluding that we have something really good going on in the City of Coquitlam. I have never yet seen a relationship between the administration and Council that is so positive and healthy,” emphasized Peter Steblin.

    “An airplane analogy is one way to describe the relationship. Think of one wing as political and the other as administration. If either wing is not functioning properly, the plane will crash. In Coquitlam, we are in balance. Council runs the show. We give good advice.”

    What It Means to Be in Alignment

    “Getting Council to a consensus is the goal. We are the only council in the Lower Mainland, I believe, that is operating at around 98% approval of staff recommendations,” stated Richard Stewart with pride.

    “When staff makes a firm recommendation, we will debate it. We will try to figure out the nuances. Sometimes we will make minor amendments. But, by and large, it is a matter of staff and council being aligned.”

    What Consensus Looks Like:

    “As Mayor, it is my responsibility to ensure that my Council colleagues will be comfortable with what may be proposed by staff, and that we will be able to get to consensus on an issue…because I do not like 5-4 or 6-3 decisions. Votes are either 8-1 or 9-0.”

    “I want us to work out the public policy details such that staff know they must get all 9 votes, not just 5. That does not mean someone on Council gets to have a veto. Rather, we aim to work things out. This gives everyone a voice at the Council table. Nobody’s input gets dismissed just because we do not need that person’s vote.”

    “We make sure everyone is aligned. Ultimately, Council’s thoughts are reflected in the policies that come back from Staff. Elected officials ought to take great pains to hire the right people. And then take their advice.”

    What a “Culture of Appreciation” Looks Like

    “There are angry communities and there are appreciative communities, and I have worked in both. Coquitlam is an appreciative community and generally elects collaborative individuals to Council because the community is looking for positive things to do,” explained Peter Steblin.

    “The community elects good people to Council. And councillors rely on staff to come up with ideas. Council supports those ideas and is willing to fund them. Staff carries them out. The community notices those ideas being implemented, and they are happy.”

    “It is a cycle! The community become even more appreciative. If you keep that cycle going, there is no end to it. The cycle actually does work!”

    Alignment of Roles and Responsibilities: 

    “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 get it that some (in other communities) do not believe in that division as strongly I do. But I firmly believe that the operational side of city business is nowhere near the purview of city councils,” summarized Richard Stewart.

    “I truly believe that 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.”

    “We have great staff. In private, I always ask Council to thank staff for their work effort.”

    TO LEARN MORE:

    To read the complete story published on May 31st 2022, download a PDF copy of “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: City of Coquitlam is a Beacon of Stability”.

    DOWNLOAD A PDF COPY: https://waterbucket.ca/wcp/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2022/05/PWSBC_Living-Water-Smart_beacon-of-stability_2022.pdf

     

     

     

  4. 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)

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    Note to Reader:

    Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the Living Water Smart vision. Storylines accommodate a range of reader attention spans. Read the headline and move on, or take the time to delve deeper – it is your choice!  Downloadable versions are available at Living Water Smart in British Columbia: The Series.

    The edition published on May 24, 2022 featured Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern, Senior Fellow with the Haas Business School at the University of California Berkeley. Based on her case study research into the modus operandi of organizations in the nonprofit sector, she has identified four counter-intuitive guiding principles for growing effective networks.

    Download a PDF copy of “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Four counter-intuitive guiding principles for effective collaboration.

    Counter-intuitive principles for growing effective networks

    Focus on mission before organization. Effective network leaders build strategies that advance the mission even when it does not result in direct benefits to their organization.

    Build partnerships based on trust, not control. Leaders depend upon shared values and trust rather than top-down controls and accountability systems.

    Promote others rather than yourself. Network leaders exhibit a strong norm of humility above all else, sharing credit and foregoing opportunities for individual advancement and institutional growth and brand building.

    Build constellations rather than lone stars. Leaders who catalyze successful networks acknowledge their weaknesses as readily as their strengths. The goal is to build the larger system that is necessary for delivering on the mission, not to become the “market leader”.

    Growing the network is all about a culture change

    From the outset, the Partnership for Water Sustainability has vowed never to fall into the trap of concentrating our energies on building an organization and thus losing sight of “the mission”. This view of the world reflects the Partnership’s inter-governmental genesis and history of success as a “convening for action” roundtable.

    Stay true to the mission

    The Partnership mission is to grow the Living Water Smart Network, promote consistent application of science-informed understanding to improve land use and infrastructure servicing practices, and help BC communities align efforts around a vision for “settlement, economy and ecology in balance”.

    Members of the Partnership leadership team are often asked, why the singular focus on “the network” in the context of collaborative leadership? We are fortunate to have connected with Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern. Her groundbreaking research into the concept of “networked nonprofits” shines light on why we do what we do. She has provided us with a framework to explain what is intuitive and therefore a leap of faith for the Partnership.

    Story behind the story

    It was a year ago that we first introduced readers of Waterbucket eNews to “Dr. Jane” and her four Counter-Intuitive Principles for Effective Networks when the Partnership published Living Water Smart in British Columbia: The Power of Collaborative Leadership on June 1, 2021. The story featured a conversation between Derek Richmond and Mike Tanner, two Partnership Directors. In the conversation, they reflected on the four principles as measures of success.

    In this edition, we report out on a follow-up conversation with Dr. Jane. It is the “story behind the story”. Dr. Jane explains the origin of her passion, and why her personal mission is to champion and support network leaders like the Partnership for Water Sustainability.

    EDITOR’S PERSPECTIVE

    The late, great Erik Karlsen (1945-2020), a former Director in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and a Past-Chair (2005-2010) of the Agricultural Land Commission, was one of the architects of the network-based model that drives the ‘convening for action’ mission of the Partnership for Water Sustainability. Erik was a ‘change agent’ in every sense of the word, made his mark on so many fronts, and was respected throughout,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Partnership Executive Director.

    “It was Erik Karlsen who first observed that we were building a ‘management architecture for collaboration’ and that our approach was entirely intuitive. Ergo, he said, an essential element of the mission is to explore the research in sociology and psychology to find precedents that would help us explain what we do intuitively. This is our context for reaching out to Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern.”

    “Guided by Erik Karlsen’s wisdom, Mike Tanner discovered the work of ‘Dr. Jane’. As an academic and researcher, she is a true gem and is an inspiration to the Partnership. Jane Wei-Skillern is passionate about her research, so much so that she has taken a leave of absence from teaching to focus her time and efforts on the ‘practitioner space’, as she describes it.”

    “Dr. Jane builds bridges to network leaders. She champions and supports what they do because she believes in the value of what they do. When you have a conversation with Jane, her enthusiasm and commitment leave an indelible impression. This will be evident to the reader once you scroll down and read testimonials from several British Columbians.”

    Collaborative leadership is commitment to something bigger

    “Collaborative leadership uses the power of influence rather than positional authority to engage and align individuals and organizations within a network and deliver results across organizational boundaries,” continued Kim Stephens.

    “The network is the ultimate source of strength of the Partnership. The network also holds the key to intergenerational collaboration. It is how we build bridges of understanding and pass the baton from the past to the present and future.”

    “If the Partnership for Water Sustainability is to be successful in facilitating changes in practice over the long-term, then the hard work must be done by our partners. This means the work of the Partnership must be aligned with and support their organizational aspirations and objectives.”

     

    Excerpts from a conversation with Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern: The “story behind the story” of four Counter-Intuitive Principles

    To open the conversation with Dr. Jane, Derek Richmond stated that, “We needed to find some research that says what we are doing has been done before. We found you, Jane!”

    Mike Tanner built on Derek’s statement with this observation, “After reading your paper and reflecting on my lifetime of experience with professional associations and non-profits, it strikes me that so many organizations have been around a long time but are doing it wrong.”

    “With our mission-centric focus, we believe the Partnership is doing it right,” added Derek Richmond. “But now our challenge is to sustain the momentum through a succession process within the network. We are looking to you, Jane, for inspiration that will guide us through the next phase in the Partnership’s evolution.”

    The impact of the network’s collective work is dramatically greater than the sum of the individual parts

    Derek and Mike’s comments prompted this response from Dr. Jane: “I am always eager to find others who are working in this way and support them in any way that I can. Every so often I check to find out what is going on in the network space and saw the Partnership’s great work and how you are getting great impacts through the Living Water Smart Network.”

    “When I reached out to the Partnership, I thought I am thrilled to see that they are using my work. And maybe I can support them in their efforts because I love to see people doing this – because I know it works. The frustration for me is that there aren’t more people doing it.”

    Knock down barriers

    “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.”

    To learn more about Adriane Pollard, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: The Role of the Municipal Champion as the Interpreter.

    Build a network to get to your mission impact

    “Because I studied sociology and psychology as a doctoral student, I had some background in network theory. Then, when I was looking for a research topic as a junior faculty member at the Harvard Business School in the early 2000s, there was much interest in how we grow non-profits.”

    “How do we engage in social entrepreneurship; how do we grow new innovations to scale? That was the focus, and all the faculty were excited about these questions. A common approach was to take what we understood about the private  sector, tweak it a little, and apply it to the non-profit sector.”

    The business mindset is very limited when the focus is on macro-level issues and impacts

    “The engine for change in the social space is different. This awareness 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.”

    “After a few years, the pattern became apparent. The case study organizations were very different. But when I met and talked with the network leaders, I saw that their approaches were largely the same. Networking is highly visionary and ambitious.”

    To learn more about Joe McGowan, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: A Network Allows People to Move Out of Workplace Silos.

    The networked approach is advancing a culture change in the “social impact space”

    “The leaders who work in this way are really competent in what they do. They have great people skills, they are good organisational managers, and they are good at seeing the big picture and identifying where they need to engage others and build the network to solve the problem.”

    “My research became an obsession, a focus, and a passion. Yet most of my colleagues did not think this was interesting or relevant – because it was very different from what they were doing. I did not get a whole lot of support, but I just kept doing it.”

    “To follow my passion, I have taken a leave from teaching and focused on the practitioner space. I have seen tremendous interest from practitioners like the Partnership who appreciate having a framework to articulate what they are doing. Many of the people who lead in this way have done it intuitively.”

    A commitment to the mission

    “So, really, I have embarked on a culture change in the social impact space. Not on my own. That is why I am always trying to network with others who are of like mind, to try to move this forward – because I truly believe this is the way we as human beings will change the world. We must let go of traditional models of working.”

    “Advancing this agenda requires a different mindset, a different way of working, and most importantly, a commitment to something bigger than ourselves and our organizations,” concludes Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern.

    To learn more about Michael Blackstock, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Oral history extends the period of record and our understanding of what the data mean.

     

    Did you enjoy this article? Would you like a PDF document version? Click on the image below to download your copy.

    DOWNLOAD A PDF COPY: https://waterbucket.ca/wcp/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2022/05/PWSBC_Living-Water-Smart_grow-the-network_2022.pdf

     

  5. 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

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    Note to Reader:

    Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the vision for Living Water Smart in British Columbia to build greener communities and adapt to a changing climate; and embrace “design with nature” approaches to reconnect people, land, fish, and water in altered landscapes. 

    On May 17, 2022, Waterbucket eNews celebrated “Asset Management Awareness Day in British Columbia” by featuring Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework, released in December 2014. This is a case study illustration of how to achieve desired outcomes provincially by influencing behaviour at the local government scale over time.

    ‘Sustainable Service Delivery’ explained

    Glen Brown coined the term Sustainable Service Delivery in 2010 when he was an Executive Director with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. Formal branding came with release of Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework in December 2014, and rollout in 2015. The emphasis on service is a game-changer for local government infrastructure asset management.

    At that time, and thanks to the early work of the then newly formed Asset Management BC, chaired by Glen Brown, local governments were just starting to wrap their minds around the ‘20/80 Rule’ and the implications of the 80% as an unfunded liability.

    It is all about the service

    “My inspiration came from Guy Felio, one of the original gurus of asset management nationally. Guy said, ‘It’s all about the service’, because infrastructure/ assets are worthless IF they do not provide a service,” explains Glen Brown.

    “That is what resonated with me. Also, Guy Felio said, for any asset management approach to be successful, it must not focus on the infrastructure asset by itself. That way-of-thinking applies to nature and the environment as well.”

    Why the BC Framework is a game-changer

    “The BC Framework establishes expectations; it does not prescribe solutions. It is a game-changer because it redefines the context for deciding how infrastructure is planned, financed, implemented, and maintained. It raises questions about how communities would service urbanizing and redeveloping areas in future,” states Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

    “Most importantly, the BC Framework emphasizes the paramount nature of the services that constructed infrastructure provides. The BC Framework also shines the spotlight on what the life-cycle costs are over time to maintain, renew or replace assets such as pipes, pumps, roads and buildings.”

    Vision for fully integrated and sustainable service delivery in BC

    “The BC Framework also points the way to a holistic and integrated approach to asset management.  Nature, and the ecosystem services that it provides, are viewed as a fundamental and integral part of a community’s infrastructure system. This is not to suggest that all ecosystem services provide a municipal function,” continues Kim Stephens.

    “The ultimate vision for fully integrated Sustainable Service Delivery is that communities would protect, preserve, restore, and manage ‘natural assets’ in the same way that they manage their engineered assets.”

    To Learn More:

    To read the complete story published on May 17th 2022, download a PDF copy of “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Integration of Stream Systems into Sustainable Drainage Service Delivery”.

     DOWNLOAD A PDF COPY: https://waterbucket.ca/wcp/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2022/05/PWSBC_Living-Water-Smart_BC-Framework_2022.pdf

     

     

     

  6. 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)

    Comments Off on 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)

    Note to Reader:

    Salmon are so elemental to Indigenous peoples who live along North America’s northwestern coast that for generations several nations have called themselves the “Salmon People.” But when settlers came, their forms of agricultural and urban development devastated the mighty fish. The cumulative impact of these injuries led to flash floods, unstable banks, heavy pollution and waning life. The hallowed salmon all but disappeared.

    To Revive a River, Restore Its Liver

    “In 2004 biologist Katherine Lynch was sitting through yet another meeting on how to solve these problems—this one held by her employer, Seattle Public Utilities—when she had an epiphany. Maybe restoration projects were failing because they were overlooking a little-known feature damaged by urbanization: the stream’s ‘gut’,” wrote Erica Gies, author of Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge (University of Chicago Press, 2022), in an article for Scientific American.

    All too often, it is forgotten that 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. This is the key takeaway message. The article focus is on a layer of wet sediment, small stones and tiny creatures just below the streambed called the hyporheic zone.

    To Learn More:

    To read the complete article by Erica Gies as published in Scientific American magazine, download a PDF copy of To Revive a River, Restore Its Liver.

     

    “With all the talk about integrating natural assets into asset management, the players forget that nature is a system. They focus too much on specific aspects of the system, rather than its interrelated functions,” stated Tim Pringle

    In Beyond the Guidebook 2015: Moving Towards Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia introduced EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, as a concept for integration of stream systems within an Asset Management Plan. The edition of Waterbucket eNews published on October 19, 2021 provided an update on what has been accomplished through the EAP program. The importance and relevance of EAP is that it provides local governments with a methodology and metrics for integration of natural assets into local government asset management programs.

    Download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process is Game-Changing!

    Financial Case for the Stream

    John Henneberry (1952-2021) was a source of inspiration for Tim Pringle during the early years of the EAP program. His pioneering work in the United Kingdom provided validation of the wisdom inherent in the whole-system philosophy that guides the EAP program.

    John Henneberry’s interests lay at the interface between planning and property, and focused on the use of economic instruments in planning and the reproduction of the urban built environment. He wrote and researched widely on these topics. He is remembered by his colleagues and contemporaries as a gifted scholar, teacher and university leader.

    “Over the last decade, an industry has developed that values different aspects of nature in different ways,” wrote John Henneberry in 2018. “Nature appears more fragmented because we have to slice it into categories and dice those categories into bits before we can value bits of those bits. The sum of these parts is far short of the whole and does not capture the interconnectedness and holism of nature. In addition, our view of nature is biased to those aspects of it that can be measured and particularly to those that can be valued.”

    Use and Conservation of Land Are Equal Values

    “Use and conservation of land are equal values – this is the starting point for EAP. Therefore, one should not be subrogated to the other. But that is traditionally what we have done. Use of land has been the dominant consideration. Until very recently, ecological services have not even been part of the asset management mind-set. At best, ecological services have been considered as an add-on,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair.

    “The EAP program has been a multi-year journey to evolve the EAP methodology. Each EAP case study is unique in that partner communities framed creekshed-specific questions to be addressed by their EAP application. Each has yielded key lessons and resulted in fresh observations and insights. We describe these as ‘big ideas’. Each case study has supported the depth of analysis for subsequent EAP applications.”

    “The EAP process is collaborative. We modify our theoretical and intellectual approach through conversations with the players. Our goal is to express EAP in language that works for them. That is why Riparian Deficit resonates. We still have work to do with EAP in terms of getting our ideas into language that is easy for a wide audience to use. But we are getting close.”

    To Learn More:

    Take the time to read, absorb and reflect on A Busy Reader’s Guide below.

    Ecological Services are Core Local Government Services

    “Streams and other water assets are Natural Commons Assets,” continued Tim Pringle. “Everyone has expectations, enjoys and uses them, and so on. There is an implied contract to maintain and manage them so that they will be there in the future. But from an asset management point of view, we do not have the metrics and so we do not measure ecological services. While we know their impacts, we just don’t know the order-of-magnitude of harm or problems that those impacts have. EAP at least gives us an order-of-magnitude measure.”

    “Ecological services are not intuitively understood by the public, elected representatives, and asset managers. To stimulate awareness and advance uptake of a ‘whole-system approach’ to asset management, it helps to define ecological services in terms of drainage, recreation, habitat, and enjoyment of property uses. This is plain language that everyone understands.”

    “Once communities make the mental transition to view ecological services as core local government services, and then look at their budgets differently, the change in mind-set should lead to this question: how can we do things better?”

    To Learn More:

    To read the complete story published on October 19, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process is Game-Changing!

     

     

  7. 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)

    Comments Off on 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)

    NOTE TO READER:

    In the 7-part series published by Postmedia, and title, Fire & Flood: Facing Two Extremes, reporters Gordon Hoekstra and Glenda Luymes reveal that B.C. has fallen dangerously short of what’s required to protect our cities and towns from extreme weather events like we saw in 2021.And we fall further behind every year.

    First Nations fight for a seat in planning fire and flood defences

    Part 4 is titled First Nations fight for a seat in planning fire and flood defences. In Part 4, B.C. First Nations raise the alarm about their lands which are often located near water or forests with minimal protection.

    “In the past two decades, slightly more than 50 B.C. First Nations, a quarter of those in the province, have completed work such as forest thinning to reduce wildfire risk on 49 square kilometres, an area 12 times the size of Stanley Park, according to statistics compiled by Postmedia from the province, the Crown agency Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. and independent reports,” wrote Gordon Hoekstra and  Glenda Luymes.

    “That’s less than one per cent of the 11,000 square kilometres identified by government as requiring wildfire risk reduction in and around B.C. communities, including First Nations.”

    TO LEARN MORE:

    To read the complete story in Part 4 of the series, download a PDF copy of B.C. First Nations fight for a seat in planning fire and flood defences.

     

  8. 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

    Comments Off on 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

    NOTE TO READER:

    Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the vision for Living Water Smart in British Columbia to build greener communities and adapt to a changing climate; and embrace “design with nature” approaches to reconnect people, land, fish, and water in altered landscapes. 

    The edition published on May 10, 2022 addressed the question, what does “managing natural assets” actually mean in a municipal asset management context? Local governments need real numbers to deliver outcomes. EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, meets this test by providing a number that can be incorporated in an annual Asset Management Budget for stream system maintenance.

    Natural Asset Management: Cutting Through the Rhetoric

    Management of “natural assets” within a local government’s Asset Management Strategy is an idea whose time has come. This statement sounds good but what does “managing natural assets” actually mean in the local government setting?

    Rhetoric without meaningful context or content is not helpful. How concepts are explained is crucial. Use plain language. What is easily understood and can be measured gets implemented.

    Visualize a Monday night meeting of a municipal Council and reflect on how Councils make decisions. The mindset and focus of Councillors are on what happens at the parcel scale. Also, how do you get buy-in from a Council for the add-on cost of “natural asset management” when local governments are already grappling with the financial challenges associated with the “infrastructure deficit” for watermains, sanitary sewers and roads?

    To help a continuum of audiences come to grips with the questions as posed, the visual included below distils five cascading concepts. These underpin EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process.

    EAP expresses stream system maintenance and management (M&M) as a measurable metric, the Riparian Deficit, which is the environmental equivalent of the Infrastructure Deficit. The riparian deficit is a measure of “loss of riparian integrity” due to land use intrusion into the regulated streamside setback zone.

    EAP puts the environmental perspective on an equal footing with the engineering and accounting perspectives and thus bridges a gap.

    Asset Management Context for EAP

    In 2015, EAP was an idea. The methodology and metrics recognize the importance of the stream in the landscape. It has been a 6-year journey to test, refine and mainstream the EAP methodology and metrics through a building blocks program of applied research.

    Water Balance Accounting, pillar number one, addresses changes on the land draining to the stream. Ecological Accounting, pillar number two, addresses changes within a stream corridor. Integration of the two is the goal.

    Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework provides local governments with an incentive to go down this path. The provincial expectation is that local governments would integrate “natural assets” into asset management processes. EAP shows them how to do it for stream systems and water assets such as wetlands.

    To Learn More:

    To read the complete story published on May 10th 2022, download a PDF copy of “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Natural asset management… cutting through the rhetoric”.

    DOWNLOAD A PDF COPY: https://waterbucket.ca/wcp/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2022/05/PWSBC_Living-Water-Smart_Ecological-Accounting-Process_2022.pdf

     

  9. 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)

    Comments Off on 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)

    NOTE TO READER:

    In the 7-part series published by Postmedia, and title, Fire & Flood: Facing Two Extremes, reporters Gordon Hoekstra and Glenda Luymes reveal that B.C. has fallen dangerously short of what’s required to protect our cities and towns from extreme weather events like we saw in 2021.And we fall further behind every year.

    Spend now or future wildfires will be far worse in B.C.

    Part3 is titled Spend now or B.C. fire damage could get far worse. Part 3 explores why critical measures to protect communities from wildfires have not been taken. The province had made municipalities responsible for work to reduce wildfire risks. They can’t afford it.

    “One of the problems B.C. must confront is that wildfire — part of the natural ecosystem, particularly in B.C.’s dry southern Interior forests — was removed in the past century as fires were seen as something that needed to be put out. First Nations were also prevented from using fire to protect their lands from more intense fire starting in the late 19th century. It has created large areas of mature, thick forests full of fuel for wildfires, say scientists,” wrote Gordon Hoekstra and  Glenda Luymes.

    TO LEARN MORE:

    To read the complete story in Part 3 of the series, download a PDF copy of Spend now or B.C. fire damage could get far worse.

     

    Bob Sandford holds the EPCOR Chair in Water and Climate Security at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health. In this capacity Bob was the co-author of the UN Water in the World We Want report on post-2015 global sustainable development goals relating to water.

     

    LEARNING FROM THE BURNING: “We keep talking about adaptation in service of resilience; but more than that we need to adapt now for what is to come,” stated Bob Sandford, Canada’s Winston Churchill of Water,  in 2019

    Bob Sandford is committed to translating scientific research outcomes into language decision-makers can use to craft timely and meaningful public policy and to bringing international examples to bear on local water issues.

    To this end, Bob is also senior advisor on water issues for the Interaction Council, a global public policy forum composed of more than thirty former Heads of State.

    Bob is also the author, co-author or editor of more than thirty books.

    Summer 2018 – Hot and Deadly

    The hot and deadly summer of 2018 began in Canada with the rapid melt of near record snow packs in the mountain West. Then came the heat waves. Next came the wildfires and the endless smoke that spread across five provinces and two territories for weeks on end.

    This happened right across Europe and Asia: fires, drought and then floods everywhere. The impossible seemed to be happening all at once around the world.

    The turning point in our observations was the sunrise over much of western Canada on the morning of Friday, August 17th, 2018. That day was surprisingly smoky in an apocalyptic way that made it eerily reminiscent of some of the sci-fi doomsday thrillers of the 1980’s and 199o’s.  And it just kept coming.

    What Science Tells Us

    “The foundation of my work is science. It seems to me that the commandments of science can be reduced to two: tell the truth and stand up for all humanity and for the planet,” says Bob Sandford.

    “Good science is not just the sharing of knowledge about the world, it is a candle we light when we want to see and be warmed by the truth.

    “There has probably never been a time in history when making what science is telling us understandable to a vastly diverse and often preoccupied public has been more important.

    “At the UN we believe that we are at a bottleneck in the evolutionary history of our species where failing to understand and act appropriately on what we know could have devastating impacts on future generations and potentially catastrophic effects on Earth system function for the rest of time.”

    “Many prominent scientists are saying that 2018 may be a turning point in human history.”

    “The point here is that there is evidence all around us to suggest that if we don’t address the root problem our society, and every economic sector within it, should expect direct and indirect impacts to keep pace with accelerating global hydro-climatic change.”

    Learning from the Burning: Sustainability in the Wake of the Summer of 2018

    “My work in Canada is principally focused on dispelling the myth of limitless water abundance in this country, bringing international example to bear on Canadian water issues and making scientific research outcomes real to the public and finding ways to link science to the evolution of public and private sector policy,” stated Bob Sandford.

    “The premise that keeps me going in this work is that I would rather be afraid now so that we do what is needed to ensure that our grandchildren don’t have to be afraid in the future.”

    The Loss of Hydrologic Stationarity 

    “Land-use and cover change are only the beginning of the effects human activities are having on the global hydrologic cycle. Our entire Earthly reality is defined by all the ways in which water reacts with nearly every element in the physical world,” explained Bob Sandford.

    “Change a few parameters that pertain to water and the world you see out your window becomes different. Some parameters, however, have more influence than others over the nature and function of any given hydro-climatic circumstance.“The changing of a single defining parameter – temperature for example – changes all of the other biogeochemical parameters. If our global temperature changes, an entire new geometry is created around that change. What this causes is the loss of what we call hydrologic stationarity.”

    Adapt Now For What Is to Come

    “The common experience of disaster could be what brings us together. This could be the turning point,” continued Bob Sandford. “Now that we have been put on notice, what should we do?”

    “Climate warming is now a permanently lit match held over not just the forests but the entire geography of the Northern Hemisphere, if not the whole globe. The match is lit, and the only way to extinguish it is to restore balance to Earth system function. This, however, is also something that is within our power to do.

    Shrink Our Destructive Footprint While Growing Our Restorative Footprint

    “By degrading landscapes and riparian systems over time, nations and entire regions lose the effective buffering effect provided by intact natural processes leaving them exposed to the full force of increasing hydro-climatic variability.

    “But it also suggests that the reverse is also true – we can reduce the threat of climate disruption by restoring natural system function. From this we see that this is not the end of the world. It is just the beginning of another.

    “We keep talking about adaptation in service of resilience; but resilience implies protecting what we have now. We need to be pre-silient; we need to protect what we have certainly, but more than that we need to adapt now for what is to come.

    “We can become both resilient and pre-silient under the aegis of a ‘Restoration Imperative’. Such an imperative goes beyond environment….to restore common purpose and a vision for the future of humanity and the planet.

    Call to Action

    “But most urgently such an imperative must become an immediately effective vehicle for not just the protection but for the rapid restoration of critical natural system function so that we can restore balance in the world and step back from the climate crisis.

    “This is our generation`s moment. More than at any other era in human history this is a time for heroic, committed leadership and relentless citizenship in service of a future in which we not only survive but flourish,” concluded Bob Sandford.

    “The components are familiar, so all places have some. But none have all. A process with missing components is not a process. You can add to it, but do not subtract,” advises Storm Cunningham.

     

  10. 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)

    Comments Off on 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)

    NOTE TO READER:

    In the 7-part series published by Postmedia, and title, Fire & Flood: Facing Two Extremes, reporters Gordon Hoekstra and Glenda Luymes reveal that B.C. has fallen dangerously short of what’s required to protect our cities and towns from extreme weather events like we saw in 2021.And we fall further behind every year.

    Not keeping up is catching up with B.C.

    Part 2 is titled Not keeping up is catching up with B.C. Part 2 reveals that the risk of catastrophic floods continues to rise as prevention efforts lag. It shows how provincial efforts have fallen far short of what is needed to properly prepare for and reduce risks from an expected increase in the frequency and intensity of floods and wildfires in the face of climate change.

    “Since the NDP took office in 2017, the province has provided $123 million for 342 flood risk reduction projects, including floodplain mapping, risk assessments, mitigation plans and actual mitigation work through a variety of programs, including federal-provincial cost-sharing partnerships. But with more than $7.74 billion needed to protect B.C. communities, it’s a drop in the bucket,” wrote Gordon Hoekstra and  Glenda Luymes.

    TO LEARN MORE:

    To read the complete story in Part 2 of the series, download a PDF copy of Not keeping up is catching up with B.C.

    Adjusting to a Changing Water Cycle in British Columbia: Longer, drier summers & warmer, wetter winters

    On the weekend of November 13-14, 2021 the southwest corner of British Columbia was pounded by an epic atmospheric river. Landslides and rampaging rivers severed all highway connections between the Lower Mainland and the Interior of the province.

    Barely 48 hours later (on November 17, 2021), the Partnership for Water Sustainability’s Kim Stephens delivered the keynote address at an operator educational event organized by the BC Water & Waste Association (BCWWA). Held in New Westminster, the BCWWA event was distinguished by the fact that it was not a Zoom webinar.

    On the contrary, it was the first in-person event for water education in the age of COVID. Thus, it was an ironic twist that Mother Nature prevented speakers and attendees from the Interior from attending. The rippling impact of the natural disaster was further accentuated when some 20 municipal staff from the cities of Abbotsford and Chilliwack were called to duty. It was all hands on deck in those communities after widespread flooding in Sumas Prairie shutdown the Trans Canada Highway.

    In summary, the historic storm and flooding was top of mind for all when Kim Stephens, Partnership Executive Director, stepped on stage to provide his career perspective on current events, and put the situation in context.

    To Learn More:

    Download a copy of the keynote presentation titled Adjusting to Longer and Drier Summers in British Columbia: Drought Affects Us All.

    A Career Perspective on Droughts and Floods in British Columbia

    “Dating back to the Halloween 1981 Flood, my engineering career has been defined by an alternating cycle of floods and droughts. This four decade history provides me with perspective that in turn allows me to put current events in context,” stated Kim Stephens.

    “In water resource engineering, we often talk about the Hydro-illogical CycleThat means – once a decade you have a flood; once a decade you have a drought. You write a report. You put it on the shelf. A decade later, you have a flood, you have a drought, you update the reports. And so the cycle continues. As the hist0ric storm of November 2021 shows, however, no longer can we postpone action that recognizes the nature and reality of a changing water cycle.”

    “Droughts affect all of us, whereas floods affect some of us. That is a fundamental distinction. For this reason, drought history is a good way to tell the story of how our climate is changing. In British Columbia, the mega-drought of 1987 was our first wake-up call. It followed a relatively benign period of some four decades. In rapid succession, we had three droughts in five years. This began to change the conversation in British Columbia.”

    “Starting in 2003, we have had one teachable year after another in British Columbia. The pattern has been extremes followed by extremes: droughts, forest fires, wind storms, and floods. Each time the extremes seem to be more extreme. 2015 is a defining year. With hindsight, we can clearly see that is the year when we crossed an invisible threshold into a different hydro-meteorological regime in western North America. We are now in Year Seven of this new reality. Yet only in 2021 is in finally sinking in with the population at large that something has fundamentally changed.”

    “As of 2021, we can truly say that the era of weather extremes is upon. And it has happened faster than anyone had projected or expected. Think of the terms that are now part of the everyday vocabulary in weather forecasts on the evening news: heat dome, atmospheric river, cyclone bomb.”

    Extremes are More Extreme

    “We have always had weather extremes in British Columbia. In my experience, dry months would follow wet months. In other words, the duration of wet and dry periods was comparatively short. On an annual basis, things had a way of balancing out. Now, however, winters are warmer and wetter. And summers are longer and drier. This new reality has huge consequences for water security, sustainability, and resiliency.”

    “A generation ago, for example, water supply managers could reasonably anticipate that three months of water storage would be sufficient to maintain supply during a dry summer. Today, however, a 6-month drought is a very real likelihood, and on a repeating basis. In the meantime, populations have also grown in the major centres. From a water supply perspective, think about the implications of a doubling in the need for water storage to make it through a drought.”

    “When the water resource is large and water demand is small, variability is not that noticeable. But when the demand (Water OUT) is large relative to the available resource, a variation on the supply side (Water IN) magnifies the perception of impact. In many cases, BC communities have long been operating on narrow margins.”

    “When you think about it, the planet Earth is a closed loop system. Mother Nature does not create new water.  The state may change – rain, snow, ice, vapour – but the water cycle is the water cycle. This means that extreme duration dry periods will of course will be followed by extreme duration wet periods. And that has been the pattern since 2015, with 2021 being the most extreme year of all as we have lurched from heat dome to epic atmospheric rivers.”

     

    To Learn More:

    Learn From and Build Upon Experience

    “A key message is that climate change is not a driver; rather, it is another variable. Climate change is only one factor to consider when we talk about the nature and consequences of extreme weather. The real issues are uncertainty and risk, more specifically how we deal with the first and manage the latter.”

    “At the same time, we must recognize that we have so transformed the landscape that there are compounding unintended consequences. These are due to our widespread interference with natural processes. In November 2021, there were numerous factors in play and these combined to magnify the impacts of extreme weather.”

    “In particular, the  epic atmospheric river covered such a large area extending into the Interior that it resulted in a previously unimaginable scenario – a major storm coincident with high water levels in the Fraser River late in the year. In the lower Fraser Valley, this meant that inland drainage could not outflow by gravity through the dyke system and into the Fraser River. Normally the Fraser peaks in the late spring and early summer months due to snowmelt, not rainfall.”

    “Another key message is that everything is connected. This requires an understanding of how the system works as a whole, rather than focusing on components in isolation of the whole. Thus, a constant challenge for planning is not to prevent past events, but instead is to use past experiences and apply systems thinking to inform and create flexible strategies for the present and the future,” concluded Kim Stephens.

    To Learn More: