Saturday, January 28, 2012

Canada's Gas Tax Fund Provides Boost to BC Communities

Program Supports Long-Term Infrastructure Planning
VICTORIA – Over $3.7 million from Canada's Gas Tax Fund will be provided to 22 communities throughout British Columbia to support long-term infrastructure planning.

"Our Government is proud to deliver permanent annual infrastructure funding for municipalities through Canada's Gas Tax Fund," said the Honourable Denis Lebel, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. "Investing in local infrastructure creates local jobs and economic growth, and the Gas Tax Fund delivers stable, predictable funding that provides communities with flexibility to choose their own infrastructure priorities. By providing greater certainty for long-term planning and local infrastructure renewal, the Gas Tax Fund is helping to strengthen communities across British Columbia and lay the foundation for a bright and prosperous future in Canada."

The projects supported through this funding will address a broad range of strategic priorities, including growth management, community energy planning, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

"Local governments across B.C. have a strong foundation in planning, and this component of the Gas Tax Fund provides the opportunity to advance sustainability as it pertains to environmental, cultural, social and economic dimensions," said Ida Chong, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.

About the Gas Tax Fund
Canada's Gas Tax Fund provides stable, long-term funding to local governments and other organizations to help them build and revitalize public infrastructure. This Infrastructure Canada program primarily supports capital projects such as local roads, public transit, energy systems and waste management infrastructure that lead to cleaner air, cleaner water or reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) administers the Gas Tax Fund in British Columbia in collaboration with Canada and British Columbia. On December 15, 2011, the Government of Canada passed legislation to make the Gas Tax Fund a permanent annual investment of $2 billion.

"There have been significant advancements to sustainable planning practices in recent years," said Heath Slee, President of UBCM. "The Gas Tax Fund is helping communities to take advantage of these improved tools as they design the communities in which we live."

To Learn More: To access a list of recipient communities and funding amounts, click here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

British Columbia Partnership announces that rebuilt “Water Balance Model” is now LIVE!

Integrate Performance Targets at Three Scales to Protect Stream Health
The Water Balance Model for British Columbia is a scenario comparison tool. In December 2011, the Water Balance Model Partnership completed a year-long program to rebuild both the website front-end and the user interface that connects to the QUALHYMO calculation engine.

Launched in 2003, it can help local governments create a future watershed vision by informing their decisions about the impacts, or not, of their ‘water footprint’ on watershed health. The Water Balance Model enables the user to establish performance targets for rainfall capture and runoff control at the site, neighbourhood and watershed scales.  

To learn about the context for the tool, also read the set of six stories about "Integrated Rainwater Management in the 21st Century" that follow immediately below this one: Beyond MAR; Overcoming Fear and Doubt; Team Effort; Create a Vision; What Drives a Successful Model; and Focus on Solutions.

About the New Platform
“Rebuilt on a Linux platform, the Water Balance Model (WBM) is now quicker and cleaner to use. Also, it incorporates new modules that provide expanded capabilities. Early responses from users exceed expectations. Feedback from those involved in land development and infrastructure servicing confirms that the rebuild is timely. It is filling an on-the-ground need,” reports Richard Boase, Co-Chair, WBM Partnership.

“The rebuilt Water Balance Model is tailored to multiple levels of users who have a wide range of technical backgrounds, from hydrology experts to stewardship groups. To provide users with more flexibility, the model now has launch buttons at three scales of investigation: SITE, NEIGHBOURHOOD and WATERSHED.”

“New modules encompass stream erosion, rainwater harvesting and climate change. More modules are coming in 2012, including the Drainage Infrastructure Screening Tool and a tree canopy module. These will open doors to an array of educational opportunities.”

“Embedded in the Water Balance Model is a Stream Health Methodology. It addresses the interaction of runoff (volume and duration) with the physical aspects considered important to the aquatic environment. We can now correlate green infrastructure effectiveness with protection of stream health.”

“The Partnership vision is that local governments will utilize the Water Balance Model to establish watershed-specific targets; and then translate those targets into action at the site scale,” concludes Richard Boase.

To access the WBM website and learn about the model capabilities, click on

To read a background article posted on the WaterBucket website, click on  

To download an explanatory document about the Stream Health Methodology, click on  

E-Blast #2012-03
January 25, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rainwater Management in the 21st Century: "We have moved beyond MAR in British Columbia," says Kim Stephens

The Goal is to Protect Stream Health
“In 2002, the Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia introduced a science-based methodology for setting performance targets for managing RUNOFF VOLUME and RUNOFF RATE, states Peter Law (formerly with the Ministry of Environment), Chair of the 2002 Guidebook Steering Committee. 

“We linked the use of performance targets to the Integrated Strategy for Managing the Rainfall Spectrum; and we defined the rainfall spectrum in terms of three tiers, with each tier corresponding to a component of the Integrated Strategy, namely: rainfall capture at the site scale, runoff control at the neighbourhood scale and flood mitigation at the watershed scale.”

“We referenced the three tiers to a value that we defined as the Mean Annual Rainfall (MAR),” continues Ted van der Gulik (Ministry of Agriculture), Chair of the Water Balance Model Partnership and a member of the 2002 Guidebook Steering Committee. “We introduced the MAR concept in order to facilitate a paradigm-shift in the way rainfall is viewed.” 

“As our understanding of what is achievable through ‘RAINwater management’ has grown, we have moved beyond the MAR concept. It was in addressing the relationship between ‘rainfall capture’ and ‘runoff rate control’ that the Beyond the Guidebook initiative picked up where the Guidebook left off in 2002," explains Kim Stephens, Guidebook Project Manager and now Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

Moving Beyond MAR
"By 2007, we had become concerned about the way MAR was either being misinterpreted or misunderstood by various regulators and drainage practitioners in British Columbia. Because they were applying it as a prescriptive solution, they had lost sight of the goal - which is to protect stream health. And in so doing, they were not thinking about the nature of the relationship between rainwater runoff and flow in streams, and the implications for stream erosion and sedimentation. These are processes that impact on stream health," explains Kim Stephens.
"Our original rationale for introducing MAR in 2002 was to provide consistency with the Land Development Guidelines. When they were released in 1992, the regulatory focus was on managing storms with a 2-year period. Statistically speaking, this is approximately equivalent to the MAR. Because the concept of the Rainfall Spectrum was new territory for drainage engineers, the MAR established a point of departure that was familiar to them so that they would readily make the transition to a new way of thinking - and that is, how to manage all 180 'rainfall-days' in a year, not just one or two extreme storm events."
"Introduction of the MAR focused attention upon the site level while assuming there would be benefits to the watershed and streams. In 2007, the Beyond the Guidebook initiative addressed the need to take a closer look at the relationship between the rainfall spectrum and the flows actually entering streams from the watershed."  
"Over the past decade, ongoing development and evolution of the Water Balance Model has enabled us to move beyond the simplistic MAR concept and address the interaction of runoff - both volume and duration - with the physical aspects considered important to the aquatic environment," concludes Kim Stephens.

TO LEARN MORE about why and how the Water Balance Model is a tool to correlate runoff volume management with stream erosion and water quality outcomes. click on Application of the "DFO Urban Stormwater Guidelines" has evolved over the past decade to protect stream health to read a story posted on the Water Bucket website.

Rainwater Management in the 21st Century: Overcoming Fear and Doubt

UniverCity atop Burnaby Mountain
At a rainwater conference hosted by the University of British Columbia in June 2007, this question was posed to a panel of practitioners: Obstacles to innovations; how to introduce changes into stormwater management? 

Kim Stephens drew on his Metro Vancouver experience to tell a story that provided the flavour of what it was like to be in the hot seat when introducing a new way of thinking and doing in 2000. He was project manager and principal author of Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, released by the Province in June 2002.

“During the 2000-2001 period we had to overcome fear and doubt in order to move ahead with projects such as the East Clayton Sustainable Community in Surrey, and UniverCity on Burnaby Mountain. It was David Reid who coined the overcoming fear and doubt mantra; it stuck and became an integral part of the UniverCity story," Kim Stephens told the UBC audience.

“By early 2001, we were literally hanging on by our fingernails. At the time, it was Patrick Condon of UBC who said: 'If we fail, it will be a generation before anyone will even have the opportunity to try again; so we must not fail'. Well, we did not fail. And because we succeeded with East Clayton and UniverCity, those hard-fought successes have ultimately made it possible to change land development practices to capture rain where it falls," concluded Kim Stephens.

TO LEARN MORE: In 2000, translating high expectations into practical design guidelines meant revisiting accepted drainage engineering practice. To read the complete story from which the above was extracted, click on Overcoming Fear and Doubt to Implement Changes in Infrastructure Standards, posted on Water Bucket in 2007. This provides historical context for development of the Water Balance Model by a BC-based inter-governmental partnership.

Water Balance Model powered by QUALHYMO: A Team Effort

Evolution of the Water Balance Model
Developed by an Inter-Governmental Partnership as an extension of Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, the “Water Balance Model powered by QUALHYMO” is the shared legacy of a team of senior practitioners. The tool is the outcome of a building block process that has depended on the commitment of a number of organizations, and especially the efforts of the champions within those organizations, to produce a series of deliverables that successively advanced the practice of rainwater management within British Columbia.

A decade ago, the genesis for WBM development was UniverCity, the sustainable community built adjacent to Simon Fraser University atop Burnaby Mountain in Metro Vancouver. The value of the water balance approach was then recognized and championed by a Metro Vancouver technical committee.

In 2007, the Water Balance Model web interface was integrated with the QUALHYMO calculation engine. This provided the capability to address the interaction of runoff (volume and duration) with the physical aspects considered important to the aquatic environment.

TO LEARN MORE:  To read the complete story posted on the Water Balance Model website, click on  Water Balance Model powered by QUALHYMO: A Team Effort.

Rainwater Management in the 21st Century: Water Balance Model can help create a vision of the future watershed

The Water Balance Model is Unique
Developed as an extension of the Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, the Water Balance Model (WBM) bridges planning and engineering; links development sites to the stream and watershed; and enables science-based performance targets to be established. It is a scenario comparison and decision support tool. The ‘WBM powered by QUALHYMO’ differs from other drainage modelling tools in three fundamental ways: 
  • it is web-based;
  • development is driven by the community of users; and 
  • it can help create a vision of the future watershed.
“All three are powerful in their own rights. There is no other comparable web-based tool,” states Dr. Charles Rowney, WBM Scientific Authority and creator of the QUALHYMO calculation engine.
The WBM demonstrates how to achieve a lighter ‘water footprint’. This helps planners and designers wrap their minds around how to implement ‘design with nature’ solutions on-the-ground. The stream health methodology embedded in the WBM enables a watershed target to be established. It also enables the user to assess how to meet the watershed target at the site scale.
"A key message is that the WBM is a unique ‘scenario comparison tool’. Because there is no restriction on the scenarios, this allows users to create an understanding of the past and present and compare it to many possible futures. This capability allows communities to assess how watersheds can be altered, for good or bad. Then they can create a vision of where they would like to go, and how the watersheds can meet their vision," adds Jim Dumont,  WBM Engineering Applications Authority.

TO LEARN MORE:  The WBM is the shared legacy of a team of senior practitioners. The tool is the outcome of a building block process. For more information on the history of this unique tool, click on  Water Balance Model powered by QUALHYMO: A Team Effort.

Rainwater Management in the 21st Century: "What Drives a Successful Model?" is explained by Dr. Charles Rowney

Click here to view full-size image
What Are the Major Issues? 
At the 2011 Water Balance Model Partners Forum hosted by Metro Vancouver, Dr. Charles Rowney reviewed the implications of computing technology decisions. In the 1980s, he developed the QUALHYMO calculation engine for the Ontario Ministry of Environment. Respected internationally, Dr. Rowney is the Scientific Authority for the Water Balance Model (WBM).

The graphic shown above " a distillation and synthesis of conversations with several hundred people from all around the world who are experienced modellers. Within this group are individuals who I consider to be the premier people in their field. When we discussed the question - what are the major issues? - seven themes emerged," stated Dr. Rowney. In order of priority, they are:

1.   Meeting Data Needs
2.   Inadequate Problem Formulation
3.   Time / Money
4.   State of Practice
5.   Understanding
6.   Questionable Need
7.   Forecast Condition

"What is interesting about this synthesis of an engine as compared with the framework that is the WBM is that these seven impediments are tackled head-on." 

Meeting Data Needs: "The number one point of pain is meeting data needs. We have all heard the stories about a model such as HSPF with 30 or 40 parameters to adjust, and the best curve-fitting engine in the world, but we can't find the data. We can't make it work."

"If we take what we as a community know is required, the data needs to get to the end-point within the WBM are just minimal. They are no less than is needed; but they are no more than is needed. When you think about what is happening with this Water Balance tool in terms of consistency, and in terms of what you might call a consensus standard and agreed approach, it is formulating the problem in a way that is technically defendable...and that is workable."

"What we doing with the WBM is exciting. It is a direct attack on what it takes to get the answers. We are evolving the state of practice.  BC is the only place I know of where there is a link between the applied practice and climate change, and what are we going to do to make this a routine part of our analysis," summarized Dr. Rowney.

TO LEARN MORE:  The foregoing is extracted from a guidance document released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2011. To download a copy, click on Primer on Urban Watershed Modelling to Inform Local Government Decision Processes.

Rainwater Management in the 21st Century: "Focus Drainage Modelling on Solutions", says Dr. Charles Rowney

Click here to view full-size image
From Theory to Interpretation
The graphic shown above is a synthesis that comprises eleven steps that cascade down from a theory to interpretation of results. Dr. Charles Rowney, Engineering Applications Authority for the "Water Balance Model powered by QUALHYMO", has coined this mind-map as the Uncertainty Cascade:
  1. Theory
  2. Conceptual Model
  3. Mathematical Model
  4. Solution Algorithm
  5. Code
  6. Adjusted Algorithm
  7. Executable
  8. Site Representation
  9. Calibration
  10. Case Representation
  11. Interpretation
“There is a preoccupation with theory, but the heavy lifting takes place in the last four steps. We need to keep our focus on SOLUTIONS on the ground," emphasizes Dr. Rowney.

From Theory to Interpretation: "We start with a theory, we develop a conceptual model of that theory and how things work. Next, we come up with a mathematical model that describes that concept, and we create a solution algorithm. We write some computer code, we adjust that because the code never really does what we want it to, and we come up with an executable.”

"Then we start to represent the site and start putting all our data together. We calibrate and adjust our model with the data. Then we start to think about how we will look at our future case. And finally we start to interpret our results."

"Much of the discussion and arguments are about the theory and model. You will hear these kinds of statements: I have a model that does this or does that; I can do a pipe this big or that big; I can do this kind of thing, I can do that kind of thing. Yet the heavy lifting is at the other end."

"The real problems and solutions come together when you look at the site and the data you have to represent what you have. How do you compare the future condition that is very undefined with a calibrated tool that is very well defined? There is much that we do that has a place and purpose, BUT sometimes what we do is questionable."

Focus on Solutions: "We have learned that we really need to look at things from the point of view of the solution. As we have been working on the WBM, we have been orienting it to THE SOLUTION. We are keeping it as simple as possible, but no simpler. The tool has to be consistent, inexpensive, and workable with limited data. It has to fit the local context, and it has to evolve as we learn.

"What is it that we really want to solve? Where are we driving this?  We have ample horsepower to pick just about any theory we want and put it inside the WBM. But what we really need to focus on is: what are the solutions that are really necessary. Once we have figured out the solution that we need, we need to come up with tools that do that and no more and no less.”

"An outcome that we are pushing for is the ability to interpret results, and the ability to represent the cases that we are actually trying to solve.”

Bridge between Scales of Need: "There are two levels of thinking. At one level is the broad scale of planning where we look at how and where we might wish to go tomorrow - for example, how should we view the watershed and what might we do to protect receiving waters. And at the other level is the need to eventually put something on or in the ground."

"We need to bridge those two kinds of needs. With the WBM, we have a tool on a platform that is designed to do just that. As we go forward with model development, we need to know more and more about that polarity. At one end, it is about where are we going to take this tool. At the other end, lot by lot by lot, it is about how we put things in the ground to ensure they work."

"What we have learned is that we really need to take a look at this from the point of view of the solution. As we have been working on the WBM, we only go as complicated as is necessary. We strive to make the tool as simple as possible, but no simpler. It has to be consistent, cheap and workable with limited data. It has to fit the local context; and it has to evolve because we are not at the end point today. The WBM will continue to grow and adapt over time," concluded Dr. Rowney. 

TO LEARN MORE:  The foregoing is extracted from a guidance document released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2011. To download a copy, click on Primer on Urban Watershed Modelling to Inform Local Government Decision Processes

Dr. Charles Rowney at the 2011 Water Balance Model Partners Forum

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fraser Basin Council publishes "A Guide to Water and Watershed Planning for BC Communities"

Rethinking Our Water Ways 
In October 2011, the Fraser Basin Council released Rethinking Our Water Ways – A Guide to Water and Watershed Planning for BC Communities in the Face of Climate Change and Other Challenges; and is rolling out the Guide at workshops around the province. Workshop venues include Salmon Arm, 100 Mile House, Prince George, Chilliwack and New Westminster (January 18)

“Do you or your organization have responsibilities in the planning and management of watersheds or water resources in British Columbia? Would you like to know more about current water-related challenges and opportunities?”, states Steve Litke, Senior Program Manager.

Rethinking Our Water Ways has been developed to help planners, decision makers and communities strengthen their capacity to look after healthy watersheds and water resources.”

“The guide offers a primer on 10 different types of water and watershed planning processes that are available in BC to manage water supply and demand; protect drinking water quality; and better integrate water, land and watersheds. The guide provides an overview of the water-related impacts of a changing climate in BC and it offers suggestions on how these impacts can be addressed through planning. The guide also shares experiences, lessons learned and information resources from water leaders, champions and practitioners from across British Columbia.” 

TO LEARN MORE: To download a copy and/or access the web version, click on Rethinking Our Water Ways. For more information, phone Steve Litke at 604-488-5358; or email him at

An integrated approach to watershed planning considers the interactions between the biophysical, constructed and human landscapes within a watershed. An integrated approach recognizes the interdependencies in both natural and human systems. Integrated watershed planning provides a means for coordinating decisions among government and private agencies in order to resolve land use and resource managment conflicts and issues. More recently, the terms "water-centric planning", "design with nature", and the "soft path" approach have been used in BC to discuss and promote the concepts embedded in integrated watershed management.

In a chapter titled Learning from Experience, the Guide provides a synthesis of several relevant issues or themes to consider in relation to water and watershed planning. A featured case study that illustrates leadership at a regional scale is CAVI-Convening for Action on Vancouver Island.

The Guide describes CAVI as “an exciting initiative that ….. uses the informal process of collaboration to build capacity and a network of like-minded individuals across Vancouver Island so these individuals can harness the tools of local government to bring about positive change in local watersheds.”

“At the heart of the initiative is the concept of water-centric planning. Through education and awareness-building initiatives, CAVI demonstrates how water-centric approaches and specific tools can be integrated into existing planning processes.”

“Since its launch in September 2006, CAVI has witnessed considerable success in getting its message out.”

“On Vancouver Island, local governments are demonstrating what can be accomplished through partnerships and collaboration. Success in moving from awareness to action is ultimately keyed to a regional team approach that is founded on the notion of shared responsibility,” the Guide quotes John Finnie, CAVI Past-Chair and General Manager for Regional and Community Utilities with the Regional District of Nanaimo.

E-Blast #2012-02
January 18, 2012

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ian McHarg: Champion for Design with Nature

Green, Heal and Restore the Earth
Renowned landscape architect and educator Ian L. McHarg was best known for introducing environmental concerns in landscape architecture. He was also instrumental in founding the original "Earth Week" in 1970. Ian McHarg died in 2001.

McHarg's book Design With Nature is widely considered one of the most important and influential works of its kind. It has sold more than 155,000 copies and remains one of the most widely used textbooks on landscape architecture and architecture in the United States. His premise is simple: "that the shaping of land for human use ought to be based on an understanding of natural process." The ecological planning method developed by him to apply this theory was seized upon and used throughout the world. 

McHarg insisted we look at the many aspects of the entire system we are designing when building streets, structures, and cities. That instead of having the hubris to fight against natural forces, to rather design in harmony with them. And he showed how to do this, with modern tools, analytic overlays, GIS mapping, and a fact-based approach. 

"For me, the great dream would be, if by the remaining years of this century...the nation and the world concluded there should be a global and national ecological inventory...all of us address ourself to greening, healing and restoring the earth," stated Ian McHarg in his acceptance speech when he received the President's Award at  the 1997 Esri User Conference.

TO LEARN MORE, WATCH THE VIDEO: During his acceptance speech, Ian McHarg reminisced with typical humor about his seminal discoveries of overlays and chronology, the challenges of environmental planning, and the role that GIS can play. To watch him speak, click on Video of Ian McHarg at the Esri User Conference in 1997.

Designing with Nature in British Columbia

Hierarchy of 'Green' Vocabulary
"British Columbia communities enjoy many natural amenities that are in the resources bank and producing returns. Lakes, streams, sea coast, forests, topography, flora and fauna are assets," wrote Tim Pringle in an article titled President's Perspective: 'Design with Nature' Starts With Water Sustainability. Tim Pringle is President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia. 
"These assets enable communities to draw on nature for infrastructure services needed for the built environment.  By designing with nature, as it were, communities lessen and sometimes avoid the expense of engineering and building various kinds of infrastructure." 

To develop a common understanding plus help advance a new way-of-thinking about land development, the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia developed the following hierarchy of ‘green' vocabulary:
  • Green Value means land use strategies will accommodate settlement needs in practical ways while protecting the ecological resources upon which communities depend.
  • Design with Nature is one approach to achieve Green Value, and is supportive of community goals that relate to building social capacity.
  • Green Infrastructure is the on-the-ground application of Design with Nature standards and practices.
  • Water Sustainability is achieved through Green Infrastructure practices that reflect a full and proper understanding of the relationship between land and water.

This cascading vocabulary was unveiled at the Creating Our Future Workshop that was held in conjunction with the Gaining Ground Summit in Victoria in June 2007. 

TO LEARN MORE: To read the complete story posted on the Water Bucket website, click on Designing with Nature in British Columbia. For more information about what is happening in British Columbia in the local government setting, also click on "Design with Nature" philosophy guides Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia

Tim Pringle explains what "Settlement Change in Balance with Ecology" means

How does a community weigh the benefits and liabilities of change driven by demand for land?
"Settlement and ecology are equal values and they must be as much in balance as possible for wellbeing of human and natural systems. Settlement is human actitivity of any kind upon the land. It is habitation. Ecology is natural systems. It is water, climate, flora and fauna...and their relationships," states Tim Pringle, President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

"While we are very good at measuring settlement, mainly in financial terms, we have not been that effective in quantifying the ecological impacts. This disconnect in measuring what matters has historically resulted in an unbalanced approach when making development and infrastructure decisions."

“The principle of balancing settlement change and ecology helps clarify the relationships that exist among the players (practitioners), politicians, regional and local planners, First Nations communities, agriculturalists, resorts, water districts, businesses and residential property owners.”

"Through outreach and education, the Convening for Action vision is to influence land and water practitioners to learn about and use practices that better balance the necessary relationships of settlement activity and ecological assets in local and regional landscapes,”  concludes Tim Pringle.

TO LEARN MORE: To read an article by Tim Pringle that elaborates on the above statements, click on How does a community weigh the benefits and liabilities of change driven by demand for land use?