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Water-Centric Planning

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RESTORATION OF ARIZONA’S SANTA CRUZ WATERSHED: “We should rejoice alongside the Tohono O’Odham Nation and work with it to restore flow to our rivers and quicken our pace towards a more resilient future,” wrote Lisa Shipek, Executive Director of the Tuscon-based Watershed Management Group non-profit organization


“Our rivers are being reborn after a century of decline. This is a defining moment for all the communities that live in our Santa Cruz Watershed. It’s not just the Santa Cruz that is being reborn. I have good news to share from other parts of our watershed. The nonprofit I direct, Watershed Management Group, has been monitoring creek flows across the Tucson basin since 2017,” stated Lisa Shipek. “Having flow in the Santa Cruz River downtown provides a daily visual of what a desert river looks like, which will help open the hearts and minds of the greater community to what is possible.”

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THE FUTURE IS HERE, NOW: ‘Elders in Action’ trigger rethink of sewage treatment strategy for the replacement Lions Gate facility serving Metro Vancouver’s North Shore sub-region (Asset Management BC Newsletter, Fall 2019)


The decision to build a treatment plant has life-cycle implications that are multi-generational in terms of environmental outcomes – for example, the existing Lions Gate facility has been in service for 58 years. Drawing on their unique combination of expertise, these elders focussed political attention on the need to be visionary and dare to be bold in going beyond what is currently minimum standard of practice. “By making presentations to community groups and business leaders, we have experienced how public and political sentiments can be shifted,” stated Glen Parker.

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Planting 1 Billion Hectares of Forest Could Help Check Global Warming: “Action is urgent, and governments must now factor this into their national strategies to tackle climate change,” stated Dr. Jean-Francois Bastin, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (July 2019)


The Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich investigates nature-based solutions to climate change. In their latest study the researchers showed for the first time where in the world new trees could grow and how much carbon they would store. Dr. Jean-Francois Bastin, also suggests that there is further potential to regrow trees in croplands and urban areas, highlighting the scope for agroforestry and city trees to play a significant role in tackling climate change.

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CARING FOR TOMORROW: Why haven’t we stopped climate change? We’re not wired to empathize with our descendants, says Dr. Jamil Zaki, director of the Stanford University Social Neuroscience Laboratory


“Empathy evolved as one of humans’ vital survival skills. It is only through our foray into the modern world that we have lost touch with our evolutionary empathy. Deeply empathic people tend to be environmentally responsible, but our caring instincts are short-sighted and dissolve across space and time, making it harder for us to deal with things that haven’t happened yet. Touching the past can connect us to the future, especially when we look back fondly,” wrote Jamil Zaki.

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‘WATER RISK ATLAS’ IS AN INITIAL SCREENING TOOL: “We’re currently facing a global water crisis. We’re likely to see more ‘Day Zeros’ in the future,” said Betsy Otto, Global Water Director, World Resources Institute (August 2019)


The world runs on water. Yet the world’s water systems face formidable threats. More than a billion people currently live in water-scarce regions, and as many as 3.5 billion could experience water scarcity by 2025. The Water Risk Atlas is a scale of “water stress” — how close a country comes to draining its annual water stores in a typical year. In areas of high or extremely high water stress, said Betsy Otto, “if you then hit a drought … you’re really in trouble, because you’re already using most of what you have.”

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EARTH’S FRESHWATER FUTURE: “When you think about changing the distribution of precipitation, then you start to think that if you’re getting more heavy precipitation, that might mean more flooding,” said NASA’s Christa Peters-Lidard


“If we’re going to see more heavy rainfall events and we’re going to see them especially in areas that are not designed for those floods, that means that we need to think about how to adapt our infrastructure and rethink the way we’ve designed some of our bridges and drainage systems,” said Christa Peters-Lidard, Deputy Director for Hydrology, Biospheres, and Geophysics at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland. But while some areas are projected to get wetter, others will become much drier. Warming temperatures and changing precipitation patterns can lead to droughts.

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CLIMATE CHANGE AND HUMAN IMPACT: “There are three different types of flooding that can happen – rain, river and coastal,” says Dr. Tobias Börger, environmental economist, University of Stirling


“Engineered solutions are quite expensive to maintain which means unless there is constant investment they won’t be as effective as they should be in stopping floods,” stated Dr. Tobias Torborg. “However, there are also more natural, non-concrete options called blue and green infrastructure which focus on building vegetative river banks and wetlands – a system of plants and water – and more green areas to reduce flood risk and potential flood impact – because it means rainwater can enter the ground more easily.”

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ADAPTING TO A CHANGING CLIMATE: “Green infrastructure is an essential component of managing risks to people and property from extreme weather events,” stated Jan Cassin, Water Initiative Director, Forest Trends Foundation (July 2019)


“Globally, more sustainable land management through ‘natural climate solutions’ can deliver up to 37 percent of the mitigation needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s 2-degree target. Looking beyond their boundaries to achieve climate commitments can therefore simultaneously help cities achieve greater water security and forge more positive connections with their neighbors in rural communities,” wrote Jan Cassin. “Cities and their utilities should embrace natural asset management. “

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REPORT ON PROTECTION OF DRINKING WATER: British Columbians are not adequately being informed of the ongoing risks associated with the province’s drinking water, according to Carol Bellringer, B.C.’s auditor general (July 2019)


Report tells a classic story of how a government initiative, launched with the best of intentions, lost momentum over the years as the sense of urgency faded and other priorities took over. “We undertook this audit because of the considerable importance of safe drinking water and because the risks to drinking water are increasing. Thankfully, B.C. has not had a known outbreak of water-borne illness since 2004, but just a single event that contaminates a drinking water system can cause serious health impacts for numerous people,” Carol Bellringer said.

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LOOMING IMPACT OF HISTORIC EUROPE HEAT WAVE: “As a ‘blocking ridge’ sets up over Greenland, it could promote a widespread and significant melt event like the one in 2012. During that summer, nearly all of the ice sheet experienced melting,” stated Ruth Mottram, a researcher with the Danish Meteorological Institute


“Assuming this comes off (and it seems likely) we would expect a very large melt event over the ice sheet,” Mottram said. “This was a very similar situation to 2012 where melt reached all the way up to Summit station. The Arctic sea ice is already at record low for the time of year so clearly we may be looking at a situation where both Arctic sea ice and Greenland ice sheet have record losses even over and above 2012 — though we won’t know for sure until after the event.”

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