Summary from Drought on the West Coast: A New Reality – April 2016

The EMA’s April Session was about Water Scarcity in BC.  We discussed the drought that occurred throughout BC in the summer of 2015 and the future of water in the “Wet Coast” including the new Water Sustainability Act, watershed planning, climate change and law reform.

Our current speakers included:

Kim Stephens is Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC. His talk is titled, “What Happens on the Land Matters: Restore the Water Balance in Urban Areas!“.  An engineer-planner, he has more than four decades of experience. This covers the continuum of water resource and infrastructure engineering issues. Kim has played a leadership role in a series of initiatives in British Columbia related to water conservation and sustainability, watershed health, rainwater management and green infrastructure. In 2003, he was asked by the provincial government to develop the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, released in 2004. Ever since, Kim has been responsible for Action Plan program delivery and evolution. Talk Summary: Kim discussed the long term goals needed to adapt to the impact of climate change impact on  assets such as watersheds.  Currently there are four regions in the Georgian Basin whom are working together to identify and develop tools for management of our water supply. She noted the importance of building greener communities, one example was rain gardens and how they are key to helping restore water balance and how work is being done towards possible requirements to incorporate rain gardens in development.  Finally she noted that we must learn to live water smart.

Oliver Brandes serves as Co-Director of the Centre for Global Studies’ POLIS Project on Ecological Governance at the University of Victoria and leads the Water Sustainability Project where his work focuses on water sustainability, sound resource management, public policy development and ecologically based legal and institutional reform.  He is a formal advisor to a variety of local, provincial and national governments providing strategic water law and policy advice and is currently a technical advisor to the BC Ministry of Environment supporting the ongoing development of the Water Sustainability Act and was a member of the Water Advisory Committee to the Council of the Federation. Oliver’s talk, “Fresh Thinking on BC’s Water Future“, examined details behind the recent work behind watershed governance initiatives in BC and the new Water Sustainability Act.  Talk Summary: Water is governed differently in different regions and by different levels of government, with indigenous water laws becoming more relevant.  The Water Sustainability Act came into force February 2016 and includes groundwater, better definitions, legal protection of flow, and water objectives; it deals primarily with water allocation and licensing.

Steve Conrad has more than 20 years experience as a resource and environmental management professional. He often combines his practical experience as an engineer with his social science knowledge to develop integrated water management strategies and informing environment policy. He is a with the school of Resource and Environmental Management (REM) at SFU where he serves as chair of the REM Water Research Working group, chairs the BCWWA’s committee on risk and resilience, is on the Board of Directors for the American Water Works Association.  Steve  presented on  “Groundwater: friend? enemy? or unfortunate distraction to preparing for droughts in B.C.?” Talk Summary: Climate change is changing water by warming the air and water; changing timing, amount and location of rain/snowfall; increasing storm intensity; and increasing sea level.  Currently, snowpack is of average amount, but it is rapidly melting, resulting in less water restoring ground water caches.  Annual population increase will put pressure on water availability.