Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate: Vancouver Island Symposia Series

Note to Reader:

In 2018, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in collaboration with the Nanaimo & Area Land Trust (NALT) and Regional District of Nanaimo launched the Vancouver Island Symposia Series on Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate. The unifying theme for the Symposia Series is the power of local government collaboration with the stewardship sector.

The Symposia Series is a building blocks process: Nanaimo in 2018; Parksville in 2019; and next, the Comox Valley in 2020. Each event builds on the last and points the way to the next. The symposium format provides a neutral forum for local elected representatives, local government staff, stewardship groups and others to ‘convene for action’. The Comox Valley Conservation Partnership joins NALT and the Partnership for Water Sustainability as co-hosts for Comox Valley 2020.

In April, close to 200 delegates came from far and wide to participate in the Parksville 2019 Symposium, the second in the series. Delegates coalesced around the idea of an actionable vision for improving where we live. A survey of delegates provided both a remarkable quantitative measure and gratifying qualitative feedback on how well Parksville 2019 had achieved program objectives and desired outcomes.

The story of Parksville 2019 is told  in narrative style in Re-Cap and Reflections. It is written for two audiences – first and foremost, for those who attended; and secondarily, for those who have heard about Parksville 2019 and are curious to learn more about the ‘story behind the story’. DOWNLOAD A COPY.


We set out to bring together a diverse and balanced audience. And we succeeded. We informed. We educated. We inspired. The bar is now raised even higher for ‘Comox Valley 2020’, the next in the Vancouver Island series.

“Parksville 2019 demonstrated that a group of 200 biologists, planners, engineers, streamkeepers, politicians, administrators, students and others, all with different backgrounds and responsibilities, can share a common learning experience and agree on strategies for water and land stewardship, and stream restoration,” stated John Finnie, Chair, Parksville 2019 Organizing Committee.

“Truly a magical experience. The stage has been set for more and better things to come. Stay tuned.”

To Learn More:

Visit the homepage for the Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate Symposia, visit https://waterbucket.ca/viw/category/vancouver-island-symposia-series/

Download a copy of Re-Cap and Reflections

The field day at Shelly Creek was a big hit.Neil Goeller,(L) the Province’s Regional Hydrologist, provided hands-on training for flow measurement. This was a prelude to the mini-workshop that he and Sylvia Barroso, Regional Hydrogeologist, conducted on surface and groundwater interaction on Day One of the symposium. Neil Goeller is the provincial lead for a grass-roots provincial program to train streamkeeper volunteers to measure flow in streams.

Online Survey Yields Invaluable Data

The online survey is a treasure trove of information. The number of responses exceeded expectations, by far. And delegates spent on average of almost 14 minutes describing what they learned, etc.

The remarkable size of the sample (40%) gave the organizing committee absolute confidence that the findings are definitive and truly representative of delegates as a whole.

The survey generated an overwhelming number of positive comments. These were gratifying because they provided the organizing committee with a strong measure of reassurance on the nature of how expectations were met. Delegates took time to provide thoughtful and inspiring reflections.

“Thank you so much for the immense amount of work you do to educate our community, and to protect and restore ecosystem services.  The Vancouver Island Symposium on Water Stewardship was inspiring and informative, I left the conference feeling hopeful,” stated Councillor Laura Dupont, City of Port Coquitlam.

What Delegates Told Us

A selection of ‘stand-out’ quotable quotes that capture the moment are listed below.
  • “Everything learned was valuable and complementary, from Dave Derrick to Storm Cunningham and all the presenters in between, there wasn’t one presentation I did not learn something from.”
  • “I am a new streamkeeper and attending the Symposium for the second year really helps to inform me about how to move forward with restoration and remediation and to not lose hope for positive changes from municipal, regional, provincial and federal jurisdictions.”
  • “The symposium reloaded/refreshed my tool belt with science, connections, examples of how tools are used, and how to build or re-purpose tools.”
  • “From learning to look at a waterway differently from Dave Derrick; to learning more about strategy and processes from Storm Cunningham; every presentation and conversation taught or expanded my knowledge in some way.”
  • “The practical techniques that I learned at this conference can be applied to projects in my neighbourhood. I will look at streams differently now that I have a better understanding of how they function and move over time.”

“The engagement session for the RDN’s Drinking Water & Watershed Protection program was a great example of the interactive nature of the event, where participants could share ideas and learn from each other, as well as the speakers,” stated Julie Pisani, Coordinator, Drinking Water & Watershed Protection Program, Regional District of Nanaimo.

“The involvement of the students extended the collaboration across the generations, providing an opportunity for future leaders and planners to be involved in the discussions.”

The third day of Parksville 2019 was especially strong. The involvement of twenty Master’s students from Vancouver Island University as table facilitators in an engagement session (for the Regional District of Nanaimo’s Drinking Water & Watershed Protection program) was impressive, especially when the students entered the room as a group.

Next in the series is ‘Comox Valley 2020’

The Symposia programs are built around success stories – inspirational in nature, creekshed in scale, and precedent-setting in scope and outcome. In short, these precedents can be replicated and/or adapted in other communities.
Collaboration, across sectors and among rightsholders and stakeholders, is essential in order for communities to: mobilize and respond effectively to the present climate emergency; reconnect hydrology and ecology; and demonstrate that restorative land development is attainable.