WATCH THE VIDEO / WATER AND A CHANGING CLIMATE: “Because the earth is a closed-loop system, new water is not being created. What is changing in British Columbia is the seasonal distribution. Longer, drier summers are followed by warmer, wetter winters. Extreme droughts followed by extreme floods show just how unbalanced the seasonal water cycle is now. This is our new reality,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability (July 2021)


Water and a Changing Climate: Drought Affects Us All

“The Partnership for Water Sustainability has its roots in government – provincial, federal, and most importantly, local government. Over three decades, the Partnership has evolved – from a technical committee in the 1990s,to a water roundtable in the first decade of the 2000s, to a legal entity in 2010,” stated Kim Stephens. Partnership Executive Director, in his opening remarks at Bowen Island Municipality’s Climate Conversations in July 2021.

The theme for the virtual workshop session was Climate Conversation: Water Conservation Innovation. Kim’s presentation was titled Water and a Changing Climate: Drought Affects Us All.


Role of the Partnership for Water Sustainability

“Incorporation of the Partnership for Water Sustainability as a non-profit society allows us to carry on the Living Water Smart mission. We are growing a network, not building an organization. In terms of my professional career as a water resource engineer and planner, I have been in the right place at the right time, and with the right people.”

“In a nutshell, my responsibilities revolve around delivering the Water Sustainability Action Plan through partnerships and collaboration, through a local government network. This background provides me with context and perspective regarding how the local water balance is changing due to global changes in the water cycle, and what BC communities must do to adapt.”

Growing a Network Through Collaborative Leadership

“Collaborative leadership uses the power of influence rather than positional authority to engage and align individuals and organizations within a network, and deliver results across organizational boundaries. Success depends on creating an environment of trust, mutual respect, and shared aspiration in which all the players can contribute to achieving collective goals.”

To Learn More:

Download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British  Columbia: Power of Collaborative Leadership, released in June 2021.

A Career Perspective

“A long career provides perspective. In my five decades as water resource planner and engineer, there are three years that really stand out in British Columbia when the topic is water conservation,”

“After what in respect was a benign half-century, 1987 was British Columbia’s first wake up call. The drought was unprecedented in living memory. Few people are aware that the Metro Vancouver region came within two weeks of the water storage dams being completely empty. There was no Plan B. All anyone could do was hope the rains would come in November. And they did. The downpour on November 2, 1987  broke the drought.”

“The 1987 drought was a defining moment in that it started changing the conversation about water conservation in BC from folks asking why should we even c0nsider using less water, to a consensus emerging that we do need match water demand to water supply. But it took until 1992, after we experienced our third drought, before people stopped asking the why question.”

Truly Teachable Years

“But it was 2003 that truly was what we call ‘the teachable year.’ The Okanagan Valley was on fire, about 27,000 people were evacuated from the City of Kelowna, and several hundred homes were lost. This really got the attention of British Columbians that the climate was indeed changing. It was the 2003 teachable year that created the opportunity for the Partnership to develop and implement the Water Sustainability Plan for British Columbia through partnerships and collaboration. My Action Plan responsibilities continue to this day.”

“In 2015, the West Coast of North America crossed an invisible threshold into a different hydro-meteorological regime. And it has happened faster than anyone expected. Our new reality is longer, drier summers. A generation ago, water supply managers could reasonably anticipate that three months of water storage would be sufficient to maintain supply during a drought summer. Today, however, a 6-month drought is a very real likelihood. It is necessary to plan accordingly. Communities need double the storage volume.”

Watch the YouTube Video!

To view the presentation by Kim Stephens, watch the 28-minute segment that begins at the 6-minute and concludes at the 34-minute mark. And if you wish to learn about drought-tolerant plants, continue watching to learn from the experience of Kathy Leishman of the Bowen Island Garden Club who says:

“Our garden has developed into two areas, with each having a different focus. The seaside area was planned to be drought tolerant and deer resistant, and has certainly been the most interesting area. Lots of testing and learning going on, even after 23 years! The north side of the house is fenced, and more conventional in planting.”

To Learn More:

To view the PowerPoint presentation by Kim Stephens, download a copy of  Water and a Changing Climate: Drought Affects Us All.

The Summer 2021 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter includes an article co-authored by Kim Stephens to open minds about foundational concepts upon which to build climate adaptation strategies that result in whole-system water management outcomes.

To read the complete article, download a copy of Restore the Balance in Water Balance – Climate Change is Another Variable When Planning for Sustainable Service Delivery, Dealing With Uncertainty, and Managing Risk

In addition, download a copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Dealing with Uncertainty and Managing Risk.