KEEP IT SIMPLE, PRACTICAL AND IMPLEMENTABLE: “If the process is strategic and well thought out, as well as practical and implementable from the start, then it is just a matter of sticking to it until you deliver it across the line,” stated Melony Burton, Manager of Infrastructure Planning with the City of Port Coquitlam in the Metro Vancouver region


Note to Reader:

Published by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, 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 published on February 6, 2024 features the story behind the story of Melony Burton, Manager of Infrastructure Planning with the City of Port Coquitlam in the Metro Vancouver region. Melony Burton’s actions in driving positive change are guided by her no-nonsense approach to keeping it simple, practical and implementable.

Keep it simple, practical and implementable

Melony Burton is results-based and has a history of accomplishment, starting with the City of Victoria, growing with the City of Coquitlam, and now with the neighbouring City of Port Coquitlam.

After joining Coquitlam in 2007, she led the city’s watershed planning program under the direction of Dana Soong. Over a decade, Melony Burton developed nine Integrated Watershed Management Plans (IWMPs). This is a remarkable total. In 2017, she joined Port Coquitlam.

Drive positive change

Melony Burton’s responsibilities at Port Coquitlam encompass the entire infrastructure portfolio, but drainage planning remains close to her heart. Viewed in a regional context, Melony Burton is a natural successor to Surrey’s Carrie Baron as an urban drainage thought leader and agent of change.

Melony Burton’s actions in driving positive change are guided by her no-nonsense approach to keeping it simple, practical and implementable.

“I have leveraged my career into a position that allows me to have more influence and positive change.  This came, in part, from channeling the frustration at being limited in the role I was in. When you are comfortable, you are not motivated to make a change,” explains Melony Burton.


Last November, Waterbucket eNews profiled Carrie Baron with a feature story titled Shifting the ecological baseline requires boldness. There were few women in engineering when Carrie Baron graduated in the mid-1980s. Leadership and innovation defined her professional career as Drainage Manager at the City of Surrey from 1997 through 2021.



“Melony Burton and my paths first crossed In November 2011 when Carrie Baron and I co-organized and the City of Surrey hosted the Course on the ISMP Course Correction. Afterwards, Carrie encouraged me to profile the great work Melony was then doing with the City of Coquitlam. We published that story a decade ago, in January 2014,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Partnership Executive Director.

“The context is that regulatory action by the Minister of Environment in 2011 prompted the course correction in the way engineering-centric watershed plans, known by the acronym ISMP for Integrated Stormwater Management Plan, were being developed in Metro Vancouver.”

Inter-regional collaboration

“Conversations during that 2-day course seeded an idea that flowered as the curriculum for the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative. Launched in 2012, the IREI continues to this day.”

“Carrie Baron and Melony Burton represented the Metro Vancouver region when the Partnership in collaboration with multiple local governments delivered the Inter-Regional Collaboration Series on a Watershed Health Legacy in 2014.”

“The series concept was that five regions view the Watershed Health Issue through complementary lens that together form a complete picture. Collaboration enables everyone to better deliver on regulatory requirements.”

Green Infrastructure Journey 

“The story behind the story that follows weaves quotable quotes by Melony Burton into a succinct storyline. This preview about her experience in leading and managing change is extracted from an interview included in:



“The Partnership will release this legacy resource in 2024. There is so much oral history to be documented. It is a story that begins in 1997 with passage of the Fish Protection Act. However, the genesis is actually the 1970s. Thus, the story is truly intergenerational in nature,” concluded Kim Stephens.



STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Keep it simple, practical and implementable – extracts from a conversation with Melony Burton

Delivering eight asset management plans in three years speaks to the track record and credibility of Melony Burton as an agent of change.

“This was at the same time as rolling out a new Master Transportation Plan and updated Development Cost Charge Bylaw with few staff, or no staff support,” Melony Burton explains with pride.



Take action, start small, stay practical

“In my work, I continue to apply the ten principles that I developed at Coquitlam when we delivered nine Integrated Watershed Management Plans in just 10 years. Three of the 10 are universally applicable to any area of infrastructure planning: take action, start small, stay practical.

“Staying true to these has helped me deliver so much. Develop a really good strategy coming out of the gate and stay super focused. Do not go down rabbit holes. You can always circle back later.”

“Rather than just diving in, start with getting the lessons learned from what others have tried first. What is working for them. What is not. Then start your strategy.”



Story of the Development Cost Charge Bylaw

“When I looked at the history of the DCC Bylaw updates in Port Coquitlam, for example, staff had tried to take it forward several times. They would almost get to the finish line, then trip and fall.”

“Each time, it seems that they started fresh instead of looking at why the previous attempts had failed. The first thing I did was look at WHY THEY FAILED. They tripped over being too complicated or getting sidetracked.”

“Keeping it simple and basic is what got the DCC Bylaw over the line. In five years, we can update it and make it more complex if we need to. Now we at least have an updated bylaw adopted.”

Build on experience: don’t re-invent the wheel

“While I was with Coquitlam, I chaired the Metro Vancouver Stormwater Interagency Liaison Group. That was a phenomenal experience. Being in that role also offered an opportunity to chair the technical working group that developed the monitoring and adaptive management framework for the Metro Vancouver region.”

“The regulatory requirement for developing an Adaptive Management Framework was spelled out in the Minister of Environment’s letter of approval for Metro Vancouver’s visionary Integrated Liquid Waste and Resource Management Plan.”

Do more of what works

“The purpose of the Adaptive Management Framework is to measure watershed health. How well are your ISMPs working? We kept it simple, practical and implementable for a reason. You are not going to measure everything every five years because it is unaffordable when you have multiple watersheds or limited resources.”

“If you were to go back every five years and check, could you see your watershed health improving? How many of your recommendations have you implemented? ARE THEY WORKING? If they are, do more of those. If they are not working, reallocate your resources to doing more of the things that are working!”



Stay true to the fundamentals

“I have heard some people questioning the simplicity of the framework without taking the time to UNDERSTAND WHY IT WAS IMPLEMENTED THE WAY IT WAS IN THE FIRST PLACE. There again is this desire to change things or make things unnecessarily complex.”

“And that is why I constantly stress keeping things simple, practical and implementable. You have the option to build in complexity over time. But that would depend on whether you have the resources to do that; and whether you are already covering the fundamentals. But often adding complexity comes at the cost of the fundamentals.”


Realistic and Achievable

“Be realistic in setting timelines. That is what I really picked up on with the 100-Year Plan for implementing the Bowker Creek Blueprint in the Capital Region. Otherwise, it is a recipe for failure.”

“When you have too many goals and objectives, you end up with a plan that cannot be implemented, and a timeline that is unachievable. You need to narrow your focus and give yourself time to get it done,” concludes Melony Burton.



Living Water Smart in British Columbia Series

To download a copy of the foregoing resource as a PDF document for your records and/or sharing, click on Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Keep it simple, practical and implementable. The downloadable version includes a Bonus Feature – the complete conversation with Melony Burton.



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.