FOREST FIRES AND MASS EVACUATIONS: In 2023, history repeated itself in the Kelowna region


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 edition published on September 19 2023 welcomed readers back for another season of Waterbucket eNews! Between September 2022 and June 2023, we published 32 feature stories over a 9-month period. 

ONE-MINUTE TAKEAWAY for the extremely busy reader

Everyone learns through stories. Through sharing stories of innovation and leadership, the Partnership strives to inspire our readers. Our focus is on issues of concern for watershed, water and food security in the local setting. How will we reconnect people, fish, land, and water in altered landscapes?

Stories behind the stories

This season, the Partnership will again feature “convening for action” champions in the local government and stewardship sectors. We share the stories of those who build on knowledge, experience and wisdom to advance Green Infrastructure solutions that achieve Water Sustainability outcomes.

We shine our Waterbucket eNews spotlight on the “story behind each story” because that is what readers are interested in. Through telling stories about champions and trailblazers, we underline that context and history do matter.

The voices of experience remind us that progress is measured in terms of decades, not months or years. Realistic perspectives plus sustained commitment over achievable time horizons would help communities manage expectations and make progress in successfully tackling issues and risks.


EDITOR’S PERSPECTIVE: How well are we doing? Now what? 

“Mother Nature has an amazing sense of timing. On the 20th anniversary of the evacuation of 27,000 people from Kelowna due to forest fires, history repeated itself in August in the Kelowna region, in particular West Kelowna,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Partnership Executive Director.


Context and history do matter

“We have had two decades to prepare for the obvious and the inevitable. 2003 was the first of a series of ‘teachable years’, with the full onslaught of a changing climate hitting hard as of 2015.”


The Partnership path from 2003 through 2023

“The Partnership for Water Sustainability in its present form was birthed in 2003. We seized the moment and moved into a vacuum. Timing is everything. At the beginning of 2003, the members of an intergovernmental committee comprised of three levels of government were in place. By April 2003, we were organized and we were primed for action.”

“In September 2003, mere weeks after the Kelowna fires resulted in evacuation of some 27,000 residents, Lynn Kriwoken of the Ministry of Environment asked me to spearhead development and implementation of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, released in February 2004. Then came BC’s first Drought Response Plan in June 2004.”

To learn more, click on Provincial Drought Forum


“At our first inter-regional focus group session, held in Kelowna in November 2003, the vision and game plan for the website had crystalized. The Partnership embraced the model for storytelling that Joanne deVries pioneered with her FreshOutlook  magazine in the 1990s.”

“The rest is history, as they say. We embarked on a journey with a commitment to document our history on even as we created it through collaboration and partnerships. And why is this context important for our readers to know?”

Members of the team in April 2005 when the Minister of Environment announced that was now LIVE. From left to right: Ron Smith, Lynn Kriwoken, Joanne deVries, Ray Fung and Mike Tanner.


“Well….because people learn from stories! Through storytelling, we pass on an understanding of THE WHY and THE WHAT. Two decades later, you are reading Waterbucket eNews !”

“For more than two decades, the Partnership has been developing tools and resources and mentoring talent, while all the time growing the Living Water Smart Network. The Partnership is all about the intergenerational mission and passing the baton to those who are receptive to embracing it,” concluded Kim Stephens.


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.