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Living Water Smart in BC

LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “In the oral history of the Sunshine Coast, I believe the 2021 Watershed Dialogue will be viewed as an important moment, an inflection point, for the regional team approach,” stated Mayor Bill Beamish, Town of Gibsons


“We can all agree that water is important, that water needs to be protected, and we need to do that sooner rather than later. And it was not just the elected leaders of the three local governments doing the talking. The stewardship sector, Squamish First Nations and provincial government were represented too. Now, as an outcome of the Dialogue, the Sunshine Coast Regional District is looking at creating an aquifer protection area in concert with the Town of Gibsons. This will benefit the Town and other communities reliant on groundwater,” stated Mayor Bill Beamish.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Nature and natural assets are now part of the mix for local government asset management. This represents a huge shift in thinking because we have always treated nature as an externality in our economic system,” stated David Allen, Asset Management BC (October 2022)


“The old way of thinking comes to mind when we look at what the Public Sector Accounting Board has in mind when it talks about including natural assets in PSAB 3150.. My suggestion is practical and straightforward. Just do what the Town of Gibsons did in 2014. They included an accountant’s note in the Financial Statement that refers to natural assets. That is all you need. An auditor’s note is an appropriate form of recognition and can be accompanied by reference to a separate report specific to natural assets,” stated David Allen

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Society tends to neglect the future in favor of the present. Positive change is the result of long, hard work by thinkers and activists. We can be pivotal in steering the future onto a better trajectory.” – Dr. William MacAskill, philosopher, author and professor with the Global Priorities Institute, University of Oxford in the United Kingdom (September 2022)


William MacAskill is a proponent of what’s known as longtermism – the view that the deep future is something we have to address now. Although most cultures, particularly in the west, provide a great many commemorations of distant ancestors – statues, portraits, buildings – we are much less willing to consider our far-off descendants. “In societies undergoing rapid change, we feel more disconnected from the distant future because we struggle to conceive what it will be like,” stated William MacAskill.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “We transform the world, but we don’t remember it. We adjust our baseline to the new level, and we don’t recall what was there.To fix this problem, we must learn how to stay in touch with the past while continuing to move forward,” stated Daniel Pauly, legendary UBC fisheries scientist


Every generation is handed a world that has been shaped by their predecessors – and then seemingly forgets that fact. In a short-but-influential paper published in 1995, legendary UBC fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly argued that this blind spot meant scientists were failing to account fully for the slow creep of disappearing species. Daniel Pauly coined this effect as the Shifting Baseline Syndrome. Since then, this has been observed far more widely than the fisheries community – it takes place in any realm of society where a baseline creeps imperceptibly over generations.

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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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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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