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Primer on Integrated Rainwater and Groundwater Management for Lands on Vancouver Island and Beyond

Released in 2008, Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan is a call to action to prepare communities for change and do business differently. Actions and targets in Living Water Smart establish expectations as to how land will be developed and water will be used. Now, the Primer on Integrated Rainwater and Groundwater Management for Lands on Vancouver Island and Beyond provides local governments with guidance for implementation of Living Water Smart principles on the ground.


Linking Rainfall, the Landscape, Groundwater and Streamflow

Released in April 2012, the Primer introduces building blocks that can inform ‘water-centric’ policy development by BC municipalities. Embedding a science-based understanding in an Official Community Plan (OCP), for example, can make a difference on the ground. Thus, the Primer objectives are three-fold:

  • provide insight into the regulatory and educational context for moving from awareness to action in order to protect watershed and stream health in BC;
  • explain how introduction of the Rainfall Spectrum concept a decade ago led us to look at rainfall differently in BC;
  • foreshadow how pioneer research in the Englishman River watershed in the City of Parksville on Vancouver Island can similarly lead us to look at groundwater differently.

The City of Parksville OCP is a demonstration application for the Primer. The learning captured in this Primer is being shared with other local governments on Vancouver Island. Knowledge-sharing is being facilitated through the Inter-Regional Education Initiative.

Mimic the Water Balance

The purpose of the Primer is to provide the reader with a science-based understanding of factors that impact on watershed and stream health, either for better or worse. Building blocks in a science-based understanding are:

  • Rainfall (precipitation);
  • the ability of the landscape to absorb rainfall;
  • movement of water through the ground; and
  • the resulting flow in streams.

These elements are part of a system that we call the Water Balance. Land development short-circuits this system when the land surface is hardened and below-ground flow paths to streams are eliminated. By describing the linkages and connecting dots, the ultimate goal of the Primer is to foster responsible decisions about use and development of land.

Doing Business Differently in BC

Creating desirable communities and protecting stream health are mutually reinforcing outcomes:

  • Living Water Smart is the provincial VISION for sustainable land and water stewardship;
  • TOP-DOWN & BOTTOM-UP collaboration between local governments and the stewardship sector is a critical success factor for “getting the local watershed vision right”;
  • an over-arching WATERSHED GOAL is to manage the natural environment and built environment as integrated components of a healthy watershed;
  • the watershed goal can be achieved by making ‘green choices’ and DESIGNING WITH NATURE to protect the water balance;
  • inter-regional KNOWLEDGE-SHARING, collaboration, alignment and consistency will allow everyone to go farther, more efficiently and effectively, with implementation; and
  • achieving the desired outcome is contingent on regulators, planners, developers, designers and others embracing SHARED RESPONSIBILITY and aligning their efforts.

If local governments and others are to be effective over time in creating liveable and desirable communities that also protect stream health, it follows that land development practices must strive to mimic the Water Balance.

To Learn More:

To download a copy, click on Primer on Integrated Raiinwater & Groundwater Management for Lands on Vancouver Island and Beyond. To read a set of related articles, click on these links:

    1. Linking Rainfall, the Landscape, Groundwater and Streamflow: Three BC Engineers Connect Dots to Stream Health
    2. Look at Groundwater Differently: Vancouver Island Demonstration Project Establishes Water Balance Precedent   
    3. Preparing for Climate’s Change: Securing BC’s Future  

For a section-by-section synopsis of the Primer storyline, click on Table 1. The first five sections of this Primer establish the context for a science-based, integrated and holistic approach to rainwater and groundwater management. This context allows local governments to establish expectations: This is what we want to collectively and incrementally achieve over time, and this is how we will work together to get there. To close the loop, the sixth and last section provides guidance so that champions in the local government setting will be informed and can then lead the move from awareness to action.

Companion Documents

The Primer is the third in a series of guidance documents released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability since November 2011. Core concepts presented in these companion documents provide an educational foundation for rainwater management in a watershed context:

Funded by the federal-provincial Regional Adaptation Collaboratives Program, the third Primer was a joint effort of Living Rivers (a trust established by the Province in 2006) and the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.