YEAR IN REVIEW: Effective and affordable solutions for resilient community design


Note to Reader:

Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the Living Water Smart vision. Storylines accommodate a range of reader attention spans. Read the headline and move on, or take the time to delve deeper – it is your choice!  Downloadable versions are available at Living Water Smart in British Columbia: The Series.

The “year in review” edition published on November 29, 2022 consolidated ten of the most memorable quotable quotes for 2022 under one cover.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Effective and affordable solutions for resilient community design

The end of the calendar year is a time for reflection. This is the last edition of Waterbucket eNews for 2022. We will be back in mid-January. People learn from stories. For this reason, our editorial emphasis is on sharing the “stories behind the stories” of those who lead by example.

Local government elected representatives account for about 25% of our readership. Election day on October 15th has resulted in an influx of new readers. Thus, this “year in review” edition serves two purposes.

For our other long-term readers, it is a memory refresher. For the newly elected who have been on the job for a month and are on an accelerating learning curve, this “year in review” is an introduction to a selection of thought leaders in the local government setting and beyond. Their quotable quotes provide valuable insights into roles, responsibilities, and getting the job done.

Peter Steblin, a respected City Manager, provides perspective on how elected councils and local government staff can function effectively to arrive at affordable and effective solutions to challenges. He says, “Staff gives good advice and council makes the decision. The operative phrase is a respect-based relationship.”


“As each new generation inherits the world, vital knowledge is forgotten. Generational amnesia has profound effects on the way that we see the world. The challenge is to overcome generational amnesia so that communities learn from past experience, apply this knowledge, and achieve better policy and financial outcomes,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Partnership Executive Director.

“The Partnership mission is to build bridges from the past to the present to the future. Look back to see ahead. Know your oral history. Understand the context. Build on the experience and lessons learned by those who went before us. This guiding philosophy is foundational to developing affordable and effective solutions for resilient community design.”

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Effective and affordable solutions for resilient community design

This is the 35th edition of Waterbucket eNews in 2022. Each story is framed by a headline quotable quote. In this year in review edition, we consolidate ten of what we believe are the most memorable quotes under one cover.

Read together, they tell a story and paint a picture of hope for resilient community design. Click on the embedded link within each abstract to read the complete story.

Operationally, the Partnership for Water Sustainability functions as the hub for a network. This reflects our genesis, first as a technical committee and then as a roundtable. The first quote, featuring the wisdom of Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern, sets the context for the nine quotes that follow.

Power of Collaborative Leadership

In her “story behind the story”, Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern explained the origin of her passion, and why her personal mission is to champion and support network leaders like the Partnership for Water Sustainability. Dr. Jane builds bridges to network leaders.

“Growing the network is all about a culture change. Advancing this agenda in the social impact space requires a different mindset, a different way of working, and most importantly, a commitment to something bigger than ourselves and our organizations,” observes Dr. Jane.

Why the City of Coquitlam is a beacon of stability

Balance, alignment, and appreciation – three words describe why Coquitlam is a “beacon of stability”. In the “story behind the story”, we featured a conversational interview with the Mayor, Richard Stewart, and the City Manager, Peter Steblin. With their clear vision of how to inspire and lead, they form an impressive political / administrative duo.

Mayor Stewart distilled the essence of Coquitlam’s success in creating a positive culture:  “In the end, it comes down to the acceptance by council members that staff are the experts. We should not be looking to substitute our wisdom for theirs. Rather, ask the right questions. Make sure we are comfortable with the recommendations.”


What provincial downloading means for local governments

Prior to her retirement as Board Chair, Lori Iannidinardo described the consequences for local government when provincial downloading is coupled with hollowing out of the civil service. Her takeaway message is about the vital importance of shared responsibility in tandem with a regional team approach, and how all the players will work together.

“We have taken on responsibilities downloaded by the provincial government because we have a necessity to get things done. Yet downloading is especially hard on regional districts because of the demands it places on everyone to pick up the slack. There is no provincial presence on the ground to take responsibility and follow through to resolve issues and concerns,” stated Lori Iannidinardo.

Strong, Informed, Enduring Political Leadership is a Foundation Piece for Living Water Smart

The progress of a transformational process such as the Regional District of Nanaimo’s Drinking Water & Watershed Protection program (DWWP) is measured in terms of decades, not years. It is a journey. There is no short cut. In Decade One, build consensus and get the foundation in place. In Decade Two, erect the framework for action. Entering Decade Three, one should be ready for the bold leap forward.

“We need everybody at the table. And regional districts are very well positioned to be the facilitator at the watershed scale. While it is good to see the Province refocusing its efforts on watersheds and watershed health, the Province must also bring adequate resourcing,” states City of Nanaimo Councillor Ben Geselbracht.

Role of the Municipal Champion as the Interpreter

The Bowker Creek Blueprint is a 100-year action plan to peel back the pavement, daylight an historical creek, and restore nature within the Victoria urban region on Vancouver Island. “With the turnover in municipal staff, I have become the municipal champion for Bowker Creek,” stated Adriane Pollard in her story published in March.

“I remind colleagues of the municipal policies and that the Blueprint is a Council-endorsed document, The good thing about this role is that the more that I do it, the more other people in the organization get the picture and say ’this is the document that we are going to use for this and that purpose’.”



Oak Bay’s Sustainable Funding Plan for Infrastructure Replacement

The District of Oak Bay is leading by example with its inter-departmental approach to embedding a life-cycle lens, along with a sustainable service delivery culture, into a local government finance vision. Oak Bay has aging municipal infrastructure that is visibly wearing out. This has implications for levels of service and community willingness to finance a long-term program of infrastructure renewal.

“Anybody who is going to hear or read about the Oak Bay story, the thing that they really must understand is the role of Council. They wanted to know what the situation was. And so that clearly demonstrates a strong commitment to an asset management culture in Oak Bay which is growing day by day.,” states Christopher Paine.

How much should communities invest in protection of stream systems?

Management of “natural assets” within a local government’s Asset Management Strategy is an idea whose time has come. This statement sounds good but what does “managing natural assets” actually mean in the local government setting? Rhetoric without meaningful context or content is not helpful. How concepts are explained is crucial.

Released in June 2022, the Synthesis Report for the Ecological Accounting Process, A B.C. Strategy for Community Investment in Stream Systems is a distillation of over 1000 pages of case study documentation into a storyline that is conversational and written for a continuum of audiences that includes land use practitioners, asset managers, stream stewards, and local government decision-makers.



A network allows people to move out of workplace silos

People who make a difference in the workplace continually adapt to changing conditions in order to improve things and create new opportunities that build foundations for better communities. That was the unifying theme for a feature article contributed by Joe McGowan, retired Public Works Director.

“If you wish to expand your capabilities, you need to build a network that creates a ‘Community of Practice’ where each member of the ‘community’ can help the other.  Building networks takes effort. Working together on tasks, whether administrative or physical, builds credibility. Credibility builds trust, and trust encourages the sharing of knowledge and experience,” states Joe McGowan.

What might a Water Sustainability Act 2.0 look like?

The Water Sustainability Act (WSA) is once-in-a-generation, transformational legislation. Donna Forsyth commented that, “Our submission focused on government’s actions that we believe need to be discussed and addressed in conjunction with the Watershed Security Strategy in order to unlock the full potential (of the WSA) for sustainable water management in BC. Since climate change is all about water – too much or too little – these changes should fit into climate related initiatives as well.”

“Drawing on our experience and our knowledge of the ‘story behind the WSA story’, we have identified five challenges and gaps in our submission that we believe should be front-and-centre in the next round of government priorities. Addressing them would ensure the success of the important work being proposed in the Watershed Security Strategy.”


Reconciling the disconnect between short-term and long-term thinking

Philosopher and author Dr. William MacAskill of Oxford University is a proponent of what’s known as longtermism – the view that the deep future is something we have to address now. In societies undergoing rapid change, we feel more disconnected from the distant future because we struggle to conceive what it will be like.

We are often unsure about what we ought to do. This can be because we lack both empirical and normative knowledge, such as the relative moral importance of the interests of present people versus the interests of future people. The question of how one ought to act is comparatively neglected. My research attempts to address this gap,” explains Dr. MacAskill.

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About the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC

Technical knowledge alone is not enough to resolve water challenges facing BC. Making things happen in the real world requires an appreciation and understanding of human behaviour, combined with a knowledge of how decisions are made. It takes a career to figure this out.

The Partnership has a primary goal, to build bridges of understanding and pass the baton from the past to the present and future. To achieve the goal, the Partnership is growing a network in the local government setting. This network embraces collaborative leadership and inter-generational collaboration.