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Living Water Smart: A Plan for Water Sustainability in British Columbia

VANCOUVER – Over More than 40 actions and targets in a new government-wide plan will help all sectors, communities and British Columbians keep our water healthy and secure, now and in the future, Environment Minister Barry Penner announced on June 3, 2008.

“Water defines British Columbia and it is essential to our quality of life,” said Penner. “Living Water Smart: British Columbia”s Water Plan lays out the vision and the steps needed to protect our rivers, lakes, streams and watersheds. This plan will make B.C. a leader in water stewardship, fits with our overarching strategy to protect the environment and positions us for continued success in the 21st century.”

Living Water Smart is a blueprint for cultural, environmental, industrial, community and agricultural change that will help safeguard the province”s water resources into the future. Drawing on a variety of policy measures, including planning, regulatory change, education, and incentives like economic instruments and rewards, the plan commits to new actions and builds on existing efforts to protect and keep B.C.”s water healthy and secure. Click on the image above to download a copy of the Living Water Smart book.

Key actions include setting ambitious water efficiency and conservation targets, establishing flow requirements in legislation for ecosystems and species, establishing a maximum 40-year term for water licenses in areas of scarcity, regulating large groundwater withdrawals, and looking to safeguard and learn from First Nations” traditional and cultural water uses.

The announcement took place at Musqueam Creek, where a wild salmon habitat restoration project is being led by the community-based, non-profit Musqueam Ecosystem Conservation Society (MECS). “As more British Columbians make water stewardship and conservation a part of their daily lives, we”ll be better able to preserve the diverse habitats and species of unique ecosystems like Musqueam Creek,” said Nicholas Scapillati, executive director of MECS.

To view a video clip of the Minister making the announcement, click here. In the photo opposite, Willard Sparrow, head streamkeeper for the Musqueam Ecosystem Conservation Society, demonstrated a water quality test on the banks of Musqueam Creek.

B.C.’s economy and industry continue to grow, and its population is expected to increase by another 1.4 million people in the next 25 years. In some areas, like the Okanagan and Gulf Islands, seasonal water shortages are already challenging community water systems, and the fish and aquatic ecosystems that depend on these systems for survival. Climate change and its related effects, like mountain pine beetle and changing water cycles, are also adding to the pressures on fresh waters. As a finite resource, the current rate of water use is not sustainable when population and industry growth – along with climate change – are considered.

“We”re interested in planning for long-term, balanced growth that will leave a legacy for the future – a strategy we see reflected in the Living Water Smart plan,” said Maureen Enser, executive director of the Urban Development Institute. To view a video clip of her statement, click here.

“Living Water Smart provides leadership that will help improve the way we build and protect communities, use our water resources and sustain our quality of life,” added Scott Veitch, president of the British Columbia Real Estate Association.

Living Water Smart and Water Sustainability Action Plan

“With release of Living Water Smart, the over-arching provincial policy framework is now in place for the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia,” observed Kim Stephens, Program Coordinator for the Action Plan. “Living Water Smart provides the high level direction as to what we must collectively do to realize a vision for settlement in balance with ecology. The Action Plan is about how we will achieve the desired on-the-ground outcomes. We are accomplishing that by developing tools and providing practitioners with the experience to develop land and manage water differently.”

One of the tools developed under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan is the Water Balance Model for British Columbia. The Water Balance Model is referenced in Living Water Smart.

“The Government’s position is that by 2020, BC will be 33 percent more water efficient; also, 50 percent of new municipal water needs will be acquired through conservation by 2020,” said Ted van der Gulik, Chair of the Inter-Governmental Partnership that developed the Water Balance Model. “One way in which these goals can be achieved is through a soil depth policy that maintains (or restores) a ‘soil sponge’ on individual properties. Use of the Water Balance Model has been key to drawing attention to this simple solution.”

“Soil depth is an integrated solution in that it reduces the need for garden and lawn watering in the dry summer season, while at the same time limiting drainage runoff in the wet weather season.” added Ed von Euw, Senior Engineer with Metro Vancouver, and a key member of the leadership team that brought the Water Balance Model to fruition.

“The Water Balance Model is a tool that helps managers and practitioners make informed land development decisions,” concluded Ray Fung, Chair of the Green Infrastructure Partnership.