Report from the Chair of the
Vancouver Island Coordinating Team
In October 2008, the Cowichan Valley Water Balance Model Forum was part of the implementation program for Beyond the Guidebook: The New Business As Usual. This initiative has added depth to Living Water Smart, British Columbia's Water Plan, the provincial government’s vision and plan to keep British Columbia's water healthy and secure for the future.
Jay Bradley, Chair of the Vancouver Island Coordinating Team (VICT), a sub-group of the inter-governmental Water Balance Model Partnership, represented the Province and provided the Living Water Smart context for the Forum purpose and desired outcome. "The success of the Forum was demonstrated by a number of results," reported Jay Bradley. He summarized these as follows:
A Full House!
We went from a list of 20 planned to over 50 actual attendees!!
The participation of prominent local developers and consultants (Michelle Mahavlich of Three Point Properties; Oleh Dubek of 1st Team Consulting Ltd; Dave Conway of Creative Engineering) who reported out on their experience of using the Water Balance Model to assess their development proposals (Bamberton; Artisan Village; Lane's Landing)
Everyone stayed until the end (punctually ended at 3:00); the question and answer period was notably abuzz with interest and interaction, focused on what water-centric planning is all about and what the Water Balance Model can do (as well as what the challenges are).
The session brought developers, consultants and local government together to learn and share, greet and meet. I noticed a lot of card-swapping and hand-shaking going on.
The Bigger Picture!
Practitioners came away with an understanding that the Province's Living Water Smart plan provides further context for 'Doing Business Differently,' to create liveable communities and protect stream health.
The idea of setting easily-understood science-based runoff targets and seeing the results through the Water Balance Model went a long way to shifting mindsets away from the pipe-and-convey mode of thinking, to the concept that managing rainfall "where it falls" is not only in keeping with a design with nature approach, but also creates 'green value.
'Facts over Fear!
Because the Water Balance Model is a science-based tool it can be used early in the development planning process to provide informed decision-making. It won't tell us what choices to make, but it will help guide choices by revealing options and their impacts.
From the outset the tone was set for "give and take." The forum was carried out on the principle of two-way communication, sharing and education.
"In the larger context, the forum was indicative of how far along our community of Vancouver Island practitioners has come," concluded Jay Bradley in his report. "We are fostering a growing understanding of the fact that what goes on at a site, in terms of how rainwater is treated, is linked not only to stream and watershed health, but also to our social well-being and aesthetics of our communities. Unlike the pipe-and-convey approach, the use of source control features is an investment in green value that brings returns for the developer and end-users of a site."