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Shifting Baseline Syndrome

    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Water brings people together. It is a natural starting point for any conversation about common interests, and by extension, our shared future. Stories unite us,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability


    “In these challenging and unsettling times, it is imperative that we offer hope. Every edition of Waterbucket eNews is built around a conversational interview. We celebrate the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the Living Water Smart vision We start with a compelling quotable quote and delve into the story behind the story because that is what is interesting. And relevant. We all learn through stories. During the past 3-month period, the Partnership has published 11 feature stories. This edition constitutes our season in review. We resume publication in mid-January. There are so many stories still to share,” stated Kim Stephens.

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    A VISION WITH A TASK IS THE HOPE OF THE WORLD: “Early in her career, Jody Watson realized the importance and value of local government-community relationships built upon mutual trust, respect and common purpose,” stated Eric Bonham


    “In her role as Supervisor of Environmental Initiatives, Jody Watson has emphasized collaboration and teamwork at every opportunity. The initiatives are timely, and as a result, creative community partnerships are being forged to address changing circumstances. Jody is an inspiration, an able communicator and mentor who ‘walks her talk’, a champion for innovation, noting the importance of ecological principles within the development process. Jody is both a visionary and a pragmatist, for the vision and task are equally important,” stated Eric Bonham.

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    ENHANCING BIODIVERSITY THROUGH GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE SOLUTIONS IN SURREY: “Watercourses really do drive a lot of what we do in Surrey. It always goes back to the natural resource that we inherited,” stated Rémi Dubé


    “Despite the population density that we have had to accommodate, and the ongoing growth due to the demand for housing, we have to set land aside for community liveability. The Biodiversity Conservation Strategy (2019) is pretty much a reflection of that need. Surrey’s Development Cost Charges Bylaw for the Strategy did not happen overnight. The framework for the strategy came out of the Fergus Creek watershed plan and the vision for green solutions many years before in 2006,” stated Rémi Dubé.

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    SHIFTING THE ECOLOGICAL BASELINE REQUIRES BOLDNESS: “You work with the politics of the day, and you have to be savvy. You must read your politicians. What are their pressures? Try to make what you need to do fit their pressures,” advises Carrie Baron, former Drainage Manager with the City of Surrey


    Three words define Carrie Baron’s engineering career: leadership, innovation and science. Carrie Baron has consistently been on the leading edge in advancing green infrastructure and protecting stream health. “The lucky part was that the people who set the groundwork at the lower levels all advanced to senior levels where their duties were bigger than drainage. But they all had that base knowledge. And so, you did not have to convince them the same way as you would with someone who did not have a base knowledge. It became more of a fluid discussion,” stated Carrie Baron.

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    GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE GENESIS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “By the mid-1990s, the need for a new approach to drainage was clear. The East Clayton Sustainability Community initiated the green infrastructure movement in BC,” stated Paul Ham, former General Manager of Engineering, City of Surrey


    “When I joined the City of Surrey in 1974, the municipality was looking at a way to deal with its stormwater drainage. The driver for action was the need to protect the agricultural lowlands from flooding caused by uplands urban development. First came the Natural Drainage Policy in 1975. This led to the requirement that every development build a detention pond. The next evolution was the move to community ponds,” stated Paul Ham.

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    OVERWHELMED COMMUNITIES ARE LOSING SIGHT OF THE GOAL: “A message of hope is paramount in these times of droughts, forest fires, floods AND housing affordability as system resiliency is being stressed,” says Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia


    “Sustainable service delivery should have been the engine for integration across disciplines, departments, and sectors. But that is not how it turned out. ASSET MANAGEMENT overshadows or dominates SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY in everyday thinking. The two ideas have in practice become disconnected. It is no surprise that the asset management community has lost its way. We are observing this across sectors. Communities and local governments are being overwhelmed by the issues of the day, losing sight of the goal, and getting lost in the details,” stated Kim Stephens.

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    OUR LAND ETHIC HAS CONSEQUENCES FOR WATER: “I see lake stewards playing a supportive role as a partner in provincial climate change strategies,” says Eric Bonham, a director of the BC Lake Stewardship Society


    “There are so many things happening around a lake that we are not aware might influence the health of that lake. It is time for us all to take responsibility and look at water differently. We must be pragmatic and inclusive. Lakes cannot be considered in isolation, but rather within an integrated whole watershed system context, for the health of the lake is vulnerable and dependent upon land use activities in the surrounding watershed,” stated Eric Bonham.

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    Why aquatic scientists look at systems in an integrative way


    “When you think about land animals, they tend to be prisoners of topography and vegetation. But in the sea, it is really not the case. There is almost no barrier to fish moving around. They fly in the sea. Aquatic Scientists are thus confronted with this 3-D world and the physics and chemistry of that 3-D aquatic environment as a necessary component of how they understand the organisms that live in that environment,” stated Dr. Dave Preikshot.

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