Impact of a Changing Climate: “We will look back at 2015 as THE teachable year,” stated Kim Stephens in media interviews about the long-term impact of drought conditions in Southwest British Columbia
Note to Reader:
Responding to dry conditions in July 2015, the Government of B.C. issued a Level 4 drought rating for Vancouver Island. Concurrently, the Metro Vancouver region progressively moved to Stage 3 water restrictions – for the first time since 2003 – banning all lawn sprinkling with treated drinking water and bringing in a number of other water conservation measures.
Following successive Stage 2 and Stage 3 announcements in Metro Vancouver, CBC Radio and Global TV interviewed Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC, about short-term and long-term considerations for water conservation. Scroll down to click on links to the two interviews.
The New Normal in British Columbia: Longer, Drier, Hotter Summers
“The ‘new normal’ in British Columbia is drought and flooding. The summer dry season has extended on both ends and communities can no longer count on a predictable snowpack and reliable rain to maintain a healthy water balance in their watersheds. This is putting water supply systems and ecosystems under extreme stress,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.
“Restoring the absorbency of the urban landscape would stretch the seasonal population-support capacities of water storage reservoirs – by reducing demand for landscape irrigation water – and sustain environmental flows during droughts. It would also reduce stream erosion in wet weather.”
Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative:
Kim Stephens is the team leader for the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative (IREI). Launched in 2012, the IREI provides local governments on the east coast of Vancouver Island and in Metro Vancouver with a mechanism to share outcomes and cross-pollinate experience. The five Regional Districts participating in the IREI are Capital, Cowichan Valley, Nanaimo Region, Comox Valley and Metro Vancouver.
By 2017, an over-arching IREI program goal is that local governments in the five regions would truly understand how natural systems support municipal services and would be able to fully integrate this understanding and associated methodologies into programs, planning and funding. To learn more, click on the link below:
Teachable Years: 1987, 2003 and 2015
“The 1987 drought ended a benign period of about 50 years. But it was 2003 that was THE teachable year because we had everything – drought, forest fires, flood, wind and pine beetle. But the average person forgets pretty quickly,” notes Kim Stephens. “After 2003, and when I was making presentations, I observed that by 2005 people had forgotten what happened in 2003.”
“The 2003 teachable year set in motion a process that culminated with passage of the Water Sustainability Act in May 2014. Now some of the regulations that will enhance water management in BC are being developed. But the need for change goes beyond just regulations. It is really about how we understand the relationship between land and water.”
“Too often people think of land and water as being independent – almost like silos. But what you do on the land or how you treat the land has direct implications and consequences for water use. A change in understanding is what we are beginning to see now.”
Design with Nature to Achieve Cumulative Benefits
“Part of the change that has been evolving over the past decade is how we view our watersheds, and how we are learning to do things differently and appreciate the significance of designing with nature.”
“The reality is that in terms of the changing climate we do have warmer, wetter winters and longer, drier summers. This is the New Normal. That pattern has been taking shape for a decade now. 2015 is our next big teachable year. We have a window of opportunity. If we seize the moment, we will change how we do business over the next few years, and the cumulative benefits will ripple through time,” concludes Kim Stephens.
Historical Context for Water Conservation in BC
In 1992, Kim Stephens co-authored a magazine article that integrated two landmark water resource studies into a single reference. Both were the subject of presentations at the 1992 American Water Works Association Conference. They addressed water conservation issues in the British Columbia context.
To download the magazine article, click on this link: FLASHBACK TO 1992: Article on “Water, Water Everywhere….Does British Columbia Really Need a Water Conservation Strategy?”
In 1997-1998, Kim Stephens was a member of the Provincial Working Group appointed by the Ministry of Environment to develop A Water Conservation Strategy for British Columbia, released in 1998. This was the genesis for the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, released in February 2004.
Longer, Drier, Hotter Summer Triggers Stage 2 Water Restrictions in Metro Vancouver
On July 3, 2015 Metro Vancouver moved to Stage 2 water restrictions because water levels in storage reservoirs were at levels historically experienced in August. Stage 2 meant that lawn watering was reduced from three times a week to once a week. Following the announcement, CBC Radio guest host Gloria Macarenko interviewed Kim Stephens. To listen to the interview, click on the image below. To read the complete story posted elsewhere on waterbucket.ca, click on: 2015 DROUGHT: Longer, Drier, Hotter Summer Triggers Stage 2 Water Restrictions in Metro Vancouver
Metro Vancouver moves to Stage 3 water restrictions after high use plus drought depletes reservoir storage
On July 20, 2015 Metro Vancouver moved to Stage 3 water restrictions. Following the announcement, BC-1 news anchor Aaron McArthur interviewed Kim Stephens. To watch the interview, click on the image below. To read the complete story posted elsewhere on waterbucket.ca, click on: The climate in BC is changing: Metro Vancouver moves to Stage 3 water restrictions because high use plus drought depletes reservoir storage.