Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC

The Partnership publishes weekly e-Newsletters. These feature champions who are leading changes in practice. Stories are replicated on our Blog for ease of access.

Latest Posts

A SPECIAL FEATURE ON THE EMERGING CRISIS AROUND GROUNDWATER LEGISLATION IMPLEMENTATION IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: An issue with far-reaching implications for thousands of farmers, businesses and industries that rely on groundwater (April 2021)

Effective March 2022, the transition period for groundwater licensing ends. The implication is that ‘historical uses’ without a licence would be considered ‘new uses’. As a result, those historical users who do apply for a licence would be subject to the new rules and conditions applicable to ‘new uses’. “Leadership at the highest level and a clear strategy to motivate historical groundwater users to apply, including signalling that government will deal with unauthorized water use, would be the game-changer that groundwater licensing desperately needs right now,” stated Mike Wei.

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SHORT-TERM GRATIFICATION VS INTER-GENERATIONAL LEGACY: “It really is important for us to be focused on the future. We have mapped out the next 10 years with Action Plan 2.0, but our vision really needs to remain focused on a much longer time horizon. 10 years is not enough. 100 years is what we need to be looking at.” – Randy Alexander, General Manager for Regional and Community Utilities, as quoted in the story of the Regional District of Nanaimo’s Drinking Water and Watershed Protection program, published by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in March 2021

“We do not have the luxury of time to wait for a younger generation to go through their learning curve to figure out what goes into operationalizing the foundation pieces for achieving a water-resilient future. Technical knowledge alone is not enough! Making things happen in the real world requires an appreciation for and understanding of human behaviour, combined with a knowledge of how decisions are made. It takes a career to figure this out,” stated Kim Stephens.

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NEW REPORT – NANAIMO REGION’S JOURNEY TO A WATER-RESILIENT FUTURE: “We are proud of our accomplishments over the last 10 years, and our vision remains focused on the future. The Drinking Water & Watershed Protection program helps us make informed decisions today, and create the framework for sustainable decision making for the long term,” stated Tyler Brown, Board Chair, Regional District of Nanaimo

“The objective and mission of the DWWP program has always been about connecting land and water management. But the RDN couldn’t just leap straight there. We first had to build partnerships, trust, datasets and knowledge. We had to test ideas, learn, earn credibility, and deepen relationships across jurisdictions. The RDN demonstrates commitment to watershed initiatives and water sustainability by delivering the DWWP Action Plan with a long-term reliable funding source through parcel tax,” stated Julie Pisani, DWWP Program Coordinator.

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APPLICATION OF BC’S FRAMEWORK FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY: “There are many considerations in a local government’s budget every year. The questions asked should revolve around service and risk. Are you asking the right questions?” – Wally Wells, Executive Director, Asset Management BC

“Asset Management BC has a program initiative underway to operationalize asset management. We have selected a cohort of seven local governments and First Nations communities in different regions. These are demonstration applications and cover a range of situations along the Asset Management Continuum. The understanding gained from this process will inform evolution and application of the BC Framework. We have asked each participating government to identify a barrier to sustainable service delivery. We are working our way through a process with each one to overcome that specific barrier,” stated Wally Wells.

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FLOODS AFFECT SOME OF US. DROUGHTS AFFECT ALL OF US: Have you considered why climate change is a variable, not a driver? “The real issues are uncertainty and risk, more specifically how we deal with the first and manage the latter,” stated Robert Hicks, Metro Vancouver Senior Engineer, at the Achieving Water Balance Workshop which was the launch event for the Convening for Action in British Columbia initiative (April 2005)

The idea for the deceptively simple Water OUT = Water In equation originated with Robert Hicks. He believed it would be an effective visual means to explain complexity to a continuum of audiences, ranging from technical to elected. “How do you solve the OUT = IN equation when both sides are variable? After all, it is mathematically not possible to solve for two or more unknowns when one has a single equation. The inherent variability creates uncertainty which in turn creates risk,” stated Robert Hicks.

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ADAPTING TO THE NEW REALITY OF LONGER, DRIER SUMMERS: Unlike other regions and countries, the water supply challenge in British Columbia’s mountainous environment is that seasonal water storage potential is limited – such that there is little margin for operational error even though our droughts are measured in months rather than years!

“Consider our recent experience. For five straight years, from 2015 through 2019, British Columbia repeatedly dodged a bullet due to the new reality of longer, drier summers. 2020 was different. It was a wet year. This is why we must not be lulled as we emerge from winter and look ahead to summer. Once upon a time, a 5-month drought was considered possible but unlikely. And then it happened. A 6-month drought was considered improbable in the rain forest. And then it too happened – in 2015. In the big picture of water demand, our water supply lakes and reservoirs are mere puddles,” stated Kim Stephens.

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WHY THE FUSED GRID STREET PATTERN? – “In the early 2000s, entirely new priorities, along with old ones, were being staked at every corner of the planning universe. A tangled web of interacting variables emerged from these demands; a truly formidable, complex puzzle,” stated Fanis Grammenos, author of Remaking the City Grid, and an urban sustainability thinker

“The real urgent task was to convince a Municipality or a developer that this combination of known components worked well and that it produced desirable outcomes. Developers listened to the evidence with one ear while holding the other close to their clients – Sold! But they hesitated, being anxious that the City would not approve such plans; Cities, big and small, had just issued policy reports declaring: ‘cul-de-sacs are no longer allowed in this city because they are disconnected’,” stated Fanis Grammenos.

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LIVING LAKES CANADA – COLLABORATING TO PROTECT WATER IN A CHANGING CLIMATE: “If we don’t build this water balance approach to support subsequent water budgets, we’re not going to be prepared for what potentially could be an exponential drop in water supply,” states Kat Hartwig, Founder & Executive Director, Living Lakes Canada

Climate change impacts and the need for increased water monitoring to fill important data gaps have been well documented in several studies over the past decades. “One of the things we were interested in was looking at how we could fill those data gaps and how we could support local government and Indigenous water monitoring priorities because there are such limited resources for collecting and sharing data. So we set out to build an open source data hub. Now we’ve got the platform built, we’re training groups to upload their data, and we’re receiving feedback from groups and provincial and local governments to ensure we’re supporting their needs,” stated Kat Hartwig.

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BEING IN BALANCE IS THE FOUNDATION FOR SUCCESSFUL COLLABORATION WITHIN LOCAL GOVERNMENT: “Staff gives good advice and Council makes the decision – the operative phrase is a respect-based relationship,” stated Peter Steblin, Chief Administrative Officer with the City of Coquitlam

“One needs good administrative expertise to advise and serve the political arm. At the same time, the political arm has to trust the administrative arm. The two arms must work together. Council buy-in follows when Council fundamentally respects the work that Staff does. In Coquitlam, respect has grown over time. It would not be possible without a really wise, good servant’s heart within the Council table,” stated Peter Steblin. “An airplane analogy is one way to describe the relationship. If either wing is not functioning properly, the plane will crash.”

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WATERSHED MOMENTS, THE VIDEO TRILOGY: “Passion is the glue for collaboration when everyone shares a common set of values and a vision for reconnecting people, land and water,” states Paul Chapman, Chair, Vancouver Island Symposia Series on Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate

“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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