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Water-Centric Planning

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ADJUSTING TO LONGER AND DRIER SUMMERS IN BRITSH COLUMBIA: “Since 2000, summer precipitation has dropped about 20 per cent. This means we need to be far more conscientious about summer water use,” stated Hans Schreier, a professor emeritus of land and water systems at the University of British Columbia (July 2021)


Climate change has aggravated an existing vulnerability related to seasonal supply of water in BC. “Most long-term climate stations within the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia have a 50 to 75-year record. Over this time period, there had been an increasing trend in summer precipitation (May-Aug) until around 2000. Since that time (2000-2020), however, there has been a step change to a lower rate of precipitation of around 20 percent,” explained Hans Schreier.

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MOTHER NATURE IS TICKED OFF: “Fires. Floods. Mudslides. Rivers and reservoirs drying up. Record heat. Rising shorelines. Glacial melting. The Earth is in peril,” stated Michele Norris, Washington Post columnist (July 2021)


“Mother Nature has had it with her brood. If you can’t see that, you haven’t been paying attention. The defining struggle of our time, and our future, will be the tension between Mother Nature and human nature. So, more of us need to think differently about who and what we are dealing with here. That seems to have finally begun. In a season of catastrophic, deadly and too-common extreme weather events, there are signs that even people who were hesitant to embrace the science behind climate change are waking up to the threat,” stated Michele Norris.

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DROUGHTS AFFECT ALL OF US: Climate change has aggravated an existing vulnerability related to seasonal supply of water in BC. Over time, the safety factor has been shrinking (July 2021)


As Metro Vancouver headed into Day 43 of drought, officials asked residents to keep the six-week-long lack of precipitation in mind when they think about watering their lawn or washing their car. “We’re keeping a close eye on things. We need people to be really mindful about how they are using the water that is available. We’re certainly not in a position where we’ve got surplus water and people can do whatever they want,” stated Marilyn Towill, Metro Vancouver General Manager of Water Services.

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GENERATIONAL AMNESIA: “As each new generation inherits the world, vital knowledge is forgotten. Generational amnesia has profound effects on the way that we see the world. And unfortunately, all of us come to suffer from it no matter how young or old we are,” wrote Richard Fisher, BBC Senior Journalist and member of the BBC Future team of writers (June 2021)


“Every generation is handed a world that has been shaped by their predecessors – and then seemingly forgets that fact. New generations have a habit of collectively forgetting how positive social change comes about through the dogged activism of minorities once shunned. But if the most recent generation is forgetful about the positive steps and changes handed to them by their forebears, then so too can they fail to notice how those predecessors have damaged the world too,” stated Richard Fisher.

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GROUNDWATER LICENSING IS A CRISIS IN THE MAKING: “Groundwater licensing is a serious issue. In case one thinks this is a partisan political issue, remember it was before the NDP was elected as government, it was the BC Liberal government that brought in this modernization of the Water Act,” wrote David Zirnhelt, newspaper columnist in small town BC and former provincial cabinet minister (May 2021)


“It has been since the 1990s that local areas experiencing shortages or conflicts over water, could apply to have a licensing area established and ground water rights governed in that area. The reason this enabling legislation was enacted then was that under Canadian law, unless there was a regulatory regime (acts and regulations) for water, there could not be a restriction on the export of water from the province. This meant that a groundwater well could be pumped for export out of B.C. There was a real fear that the demand for safe water would create a rush on the use of water for export,” stated David Zirhhelt.

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GROUNDWATER LICENSING IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “The Water Sustainability Act removed the wild west free-for-all that had prevailed when capturing groundwater under common law was deemed a right,” stated Donna Forsythe, a former civil servant in the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, in an Op-Ed published by the Vancouver Province newspaper and co-authored with Mike Wei and Ben Parfitt (June 2021)


“The old regime effectively ignored the risks of aquifers being depleted and groundwater pumping affecting stream flows. Now, groundwater users play by the same rules as surface users who withdraw water from rivers, streams and lakes and have long been required to have licences. The new law exempts homeowners using well water or groundwater for domestic purposes from applying for licences, but requires all “non-domestic” groundwater users — mining companies, pulp and paper companies, farmers, water bottlers and others — to do so,” stated Donna Forsythe.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “If ‘someone’ does not ‘fix’ the groundwater licensing problem, it will get messy for everyone after March 1, 2022. It seems inevitable that government will be forced to act against unlicenced non-domestic groundwater use – based on fairness to those who did apply,” stated Ted van der Gulik, President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability (July 2021)


“The number of new groundwater users is a minor fraction of the 16,000 historical groundwater users. Thus, new groundwater use is a more manageable segment to tackle before March 1, 2022. If government would follow through with compliance checking for ‘new’ unauthorized water uses, it would certainly send a message and a wake-up call to ALL water users – especially if accompanied by a concerted education and communication effort. What would the succinct message be? It would be that government intends to systematically check compliance, now and beyond March 1, 2022,” suggested Ted van der Gulik.

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‘HISTORIC, DANGEROUS, PROLONGED AND UNPRECEDENTED’ HEAT WAVE SWELLS OVER PACIFIC NORTHWEST AND BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Perhaps the most intense heatwave for our region since the late 19th century – or at least close to it – is beginning to take shape,” reported the United States National Weather Service in the early morning on Saturday, June 26, 2021


As of 2015, we clearly crossed an invisible threshold into a different hydrometeorological regime in Western North America. Changes in the global hydrologic cycle have huge implications for every region of the world. “It’s unprecedented,” said Armel Castellan, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, when he described the “dome of heat” that descended on British Columbia in June 2021. “It’s never happened this early in the season. Temperatures are breaking all-time highs in south coast locations in June.”

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IN MEMORIAM: “Kim Hyatt’s profound understanding of the complexities of ecosystems and the myriad interconnections in our greater environment that sustain all life including humanity was rare, insightful, and valued,” stated Dr. Peter Tschaplinski, a peer in the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, when he reflected on how the late Dr. Kim Hyatt would translate scientific knowledge into understandable, relatable terms (June 2021)


Kim Hyatt made significant contributions to DFO in significant and lasting ways, including his work on the Wild Salmon Policy, advice relating to salmon restoration and recovery under the Columbia River Treaty and climate change impacts to salmon populations. His passion for discovery and excitement for innovation resulted in a number of long-standing relationships with First Nations and external organizations—relationships that Kim built on trust, commitment, and honest communication.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Passion is the glue for collaboration when everyone shares a common set of values and a vision for reconnecting people, land and water,” stated Paul Chapman, Chair, when he reflected on the remarkable team effort during the time of COVID to produce Watershed Moments 2020, the Video Trilogy Series


“Producing three videos in just six months required an incredible commitment by all 15 members of the Watershed Moments Team . As I reflect on all three modules in the series, the thread that attaches them all is the different layers of responsibility that team members represent. Yet most team members only knew a few of the other members when we began our sprint to create the series. Through the shared experience of doing something bold and original, everyone connected and bonded in a way that would not have happened without COVID,” stated Paul Chapman.

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