IMPROVING WHERE WE LIVE: “Closing the Data Gap: Water Stewards, the Key to the Future” / Learn more at the Parksville 2019 Symposium (Announcement #7, February 2019)

Note to Reader:

The rhythms of water are changing in British Columbia  summers are longer and drier, winters are warmer and wetter. This has game-changing implications for water management. Adapting to this ‘new normal’ requires transformation in how we view the water cycle and the seasonal water balance.

The ‘new normal’, with its impact in altering the seasonal water balance, is also a catalyst for action. An example of making a difference (to adapt to a changing climate) is provincial government collaboration with the stewardship sector on Vancouver Island.

The purpose of this ’top-down & bottom-up’ collaboration is to undertake streamflow data collection in small streams. In the face of substantive redistribution of the seasonal water balance – that is, more volume in winter, less in summer – the enhanced understanding of hydrology gained from this hands-on program would then inform land and water management decisions in the local government setting.

The lead for this grass-roots program is Neil Goeller, Regional Hydrologist, Water Protection, West Coast Region (Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development). He is training streamkeeper volunteers to measure flow in streams, especially under drought conditions. At the Parksville 2019 Symposium, he will elaborate on this program when he and Sylvia Barroso (Regional Hydrogeologist) conduct a mini-workshop on surface and groundwater interaction.

Streamflow measurement to better understand creekshed hydrology (how water reaches a stream, and how long it takes) is a critical need and aligns with the educational goals of the 2nd Annual Vancouver Island Symposium on Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate (“Parksville 2019 Symposium”).

Join delegates from the east coast of Vancouver Island and beyond, and attend a ‘watershed moment’ in the City of Parksville on April 2-3-4 for a field day followed by the 2-day symposium. You will learn how communities can apply science-based understanding to increase their restorative footprint and at the same time decrease their destructive footprint. The Parksville 2019 takeaway message is that restorative land development results in sustainable stream stabilization.

Peter Law, President of the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES), measuring the flow in Shelly Creek in the Parksville area of Vancouver Island.

“Stewardship groups have local knowledge about local water resources; and are the most invested and most connected to the land base,” states Neil Goeller, Regional Hydrologist, Province of British Columbia

This announcement is the seventh in a series. Designed to paint a picture of the field day and 2-day symposium, the series delves into the details of the cascading program to inform, educate and establish expectations for each of the modules.





What Happens on the Land Matters to Streams

“Stewardship groups are collaborating with provincial government staff to undertake streamflow data collection in the creeksheds where we live. We are being trained to measure how creeks respond to rain and drought. This is important work because it would fill a knowledge gap at the local level,” states Peter Law, President of the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES).

“The federal and provincial governments have programs to collect flow data at a regional scale, but not at the local level. Yet it is in the small tributary streams where the impacts of changes in the seasonal water balance are being felt most.

“Community development hardens the landscape and eliminates the soil sponge. This reduces the capacity of the land to absorb and hold water when it rains. This results in more runoff volume. In turn, the increase in flow erodes and destabilizes streams. In a drought, a smaller volume of water stored in the sponge means the land dries out more quickly. This results in little or no flow in streams.”

Grass-Roots Program for Streamflow Measurement in Local Creeksheds

The province’s new Water Data Portal for BC stores all our collected data and makes it available for public use. The surface water network is growing alongside the well-established groundwater well network,” states Neil Goeller.

“Stewardship groups have local knowledge about local water resources; and are the most invested and most connected to the land base. Involving them in streamflow measurement would fill a gap at the micro-scale where flow data are sparse to non-existent.

“Their participation in streamflow data collection is a way to educate them about creekshed hydrology, in particular correct data collection techniques and their importance for refining the water balance and understanding what the numbers mean.”

Building Stewardship Sector Capacity on Vancouver Island: 

“MVIHES and the Friends of French Creek on the east coast of Vancouver Island are the first two stewardship groups to participate in the grass-roots flow monitoring program. Both are very enthusiastic. Their participation has established precedents for top-down and bottom-up collaboration,” continues Neil Goeller.

“These groups have talented and intelligent members, and the task that we are looking to them to undertake is relatively simple. My experience is that people like to do the things that they like to do. And streamkeepers are keen to help. These are keys to program success.”

The Process Takes Time:

“It requires a long-term commitment to build stewardship sector capacity to do flow measurement. It is also a word-of-mouth process to expand participation in the initiative. That is the value of the Parksville 2019 Symposium – it will raise awareness,” explains Neil Goeller.

“If stewardship groups are motivated to get involved as a result of what they learn at Parksville 2019, we would then welcome them into the program. As word spreads, I would meet with groups on-site to train them in the use of flowmeters. I see this as a self-selecting process to grow the collaboration.

“The people who are getting involved in this grass-roots program are volunteers. They want to do the field work because they are passionate about streams. And most importantly, they are willing to make the time to fill a need. From a provincial government perspective, we have to keep in mind that it is a long-term and incremental process to interface with these groups and build lasting relationships.”

The Goal is Better Decision-Making:

“I tend to have a deficit of staff time (my own), but reasonable access to resources (equipment). Hence, my hope is to leverage interested parties to collect the data they are interested in, or that may have value to them now and in the future, to allow better resource decision-making,” concludes Neil Goeller.