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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

WHY WATERSHEDS ARE AT A HEIGHTENED RISK: Pressures from growth, along with new provincial housing legislation, “will likely lead to further tree canopy cover losses and impervious surface increases,” wrote the report authors – Source: 2020 Regional Tree Canopy Cover and Impervious Surface in Metro Vancouver, March 2024


Robert Hicks is skilled at providing historical context and perspective for “the big picture” of today. “When you remove tree cover and pave over pervious surfaces so that they are hard, you effectively double the volume of runoff water to be managed and it drains faster. There are also two other consequences. No longer can you sustain minimum flow requirements in streams. And no longer can you recharge groundwater. This is the orphaned resource. It has just been so easy to overlook groundwater historically,” stated Robert Hicks.

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CLEARCUT LOGGING AND CONSEQUENTIAL FLOOD RISK AND LIABILITY: “I think there has never been a moment in the history of the legislature where such a deep discussion about the science and professional practice of hydrology took place!” stated Younes Alila, professional engineer and professor in the UBC Faculty of Forestry


Younes Alila is in the news because he is raising the alarm. His message boils down to RISK AND LIABILITY. The actual consequences of clearcut logging, he warns, are magnified in this era of weather extremes. “Like many others, MLA Mike Morris stumbled upon some of my papers. Not long ago, we were both interviewed by the same journalist for an article. We got to know each other through that article. And then we started talking. Mike Morris asked me questions about hydrology and hydrological responses,” stated Younes Alila.

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STORY BEHIND THE STORY OF THE GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE PARTNERSHIP IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Storytelling, which is really a way to describe our world views, is transformative and therefore is a powerful tool for bringing about behavioural change,” stated Ray Fung, former Director of Engineering in local government in the Metro Vancouver region


In the 2000s, the Green Infrastructure Partnership played a prominent role in leading changes in local government attitudes in the Metro Vancouver region. This influence cascaded from elected representative at Municipal Council and Regional Board tables to practitioners in the trenches. “Bringing together and inspiring people, especially those in the trenches, to keep fighting the good fight,” stated Ray Fung. “That is basically what we did in the 2000s and continue to do! How do you judge that time with the advantage of hindsight? It is always a confluence of different things.”

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REGIONAL GROWTH STRATEGIES FOR HEALTHY COMMUNITIES: “Each time we face an environmental challenge, we are once again looking at how we do business. A changing context causes us to ask important questions about how we might do things better,” stated Dale Wall, former Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs


“The provincial government had taken on an interest in climate action after the 2003 Kelowna fires. And we were looking in a new way at infrastructure innovation and the consequences of how we went about developing regions and urban spaces. It became clear that if one did not have a way of building confidence amongst practitioners, the rate of innovation would be slow. And we needed quite a lot of innovation in order to achieve some of the things that we hoped to achieve through regional growth strategies,” stated Dale Wall.

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GEORGIA BASIN INITIATIVE LEGACY RIPPLES THROUGH TIME: “If we have lost anything in the last 30 years, it is a strong provincial commitment to supporting community and regional planning,” stated Joan Sawicki, land and resource management champion, and former provincial cabinet minister


“As Parliamentary Secretary, I had a visionary document and strong personal support from Minister Marzari at the top,” stated Joan Sawicki. “And I had Erik Karlsen’s on-the-ground connections with Basin communities and their issues. All I had to do was run with it. And that’s what we did! Most of my work was just going out to communities. Talking and listening to everybody. The Georgia Basin Initiative was successful because we had the right people at the right time doing the right thing. How rare is that in government?”

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BALANCING ACT – H20 AND HEALTHY STREAMS: “When I look back at our history, I think wow, how did we do so much applied research. We had a need and Hans Schreier had grad students who were interested in doing the research. Win-win,” stated Richard Boase, career environmental champion within local government in British Columbia


“At a critical moment, members of the Partnership for Water Sustainability team would have an idea around a research theme that supported our hypotheses. And as often happened, I was the arm that had the energy and willingness to take on the research, apply new science in North Vancouver, and get the work done,” stated Richard Boase. The Partnership brought funding to the table, UBC’s Hans Schreier provided grad students and brought in other professors, and North Vancouver provided the case studies.

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TURNING THE TIDE FOR STREAM SURVIVAL: “Led by Tim Pringle, the Partnership for Water Sustainability created the methodology for EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process. Now we are in a 3-year transition strategy to embed EAP at Vancouver Island University,” states Anna Lawrence, Project Coordinator, Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute at Vancouver Island University


“There are so many different parts to EAP. And with each part you can go down a distinct pathway that helps local governments. And that is what Sam Gerrand has done in such a holistic way with his master’s thesis which moves EAP from a stream-by-stream approach to a regional scale. As we become more familiar with EAP and its applications, it is becoming increasingly apparent that it requires tailored communication to a variety of audiences to emphasize that this is one tool to increase and maintain the health of our stream systems,” stated Anna Lawrence.

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DELTA’S RAIN GARDEN PROGRAM FOR STREETSCAPE REVITALIZATION: “Road designers have a major influence on the future condition of a watershed,” states Hugh Fraser, former Deputy Director of Engineering, City of Delta


“Delta urban areas are built out. This reality means there are limited opportunities for slowing, spreading and sinking rainwater. The municipality is effectively limited to retrofitting of rain gardens within road corridors in order to provide rainwater infiltration that protects stream health. Delta has some 500 kilometres of roadways. In 2005, the municipality embarked upon a long-term initiative to incrementally improve the urban landscape though streetscape revitalization. The corporate vision is to enhance community liveability by beautifying streets, one block at a time,” stated Hugh Fraser.

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POLICY FRAMEWORKS TO SHAPE URBAN DESIGN: “Erik Karlsen was the secret sauce who convened the fantastic streamside regulation discussions that created collegiality between municipalities,” recalls Susan Haid, adjunct assistant professor at the University of BC


Susan Haid has played a leadership role in trailblazing an ecosystem-based approach to community planning in British Columbia, first with the City of Burnaby and then with Metro Vancouver. This approach also took root in her subsequent experience in the District of North Vancouver and the City of Vancouver. “In many ways, what I am teaching comes back to the same kind of framework around ecosystem-based planning which Erik Karlsen and others were advancing in the 1990s, and which is synonymous with watershed-based planning,” stated Susan Haid.

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PATH FORWARD FOR GROUNDWATER IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “The fact that BC has such small aquifers suggests that they likely get more local than provincial attention,” states Mike Wei, former Deputy Comptroller of Water Rights


“Given all that I have seen in BC over my 40-year career – recession in the 1980s, political instability in the 1990s, current crises in housing and food affordability, drug overdoses, health care system for an aging population, gang violence, etc., it will be difficult for water to receive sufficient and sustained attention from the BC government alone. Canada’s investment and collaboration, done in a spirit of enabling provincial and territorial capacity to manage water would allow us to keep moving forward,” stated Mike Wei in his testimony to a House of Commons Committee.

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