New model proposed for BC water management

- Laura Brandes

The provincial government has committed to a new Water Sustainability Act by early 2014, and researchers at UVic’s POLIS Project on Ecological Governance say that BC has the potential to become a standout example for sustainable freshwater management and protection.

Over the past few years, the provincial government has led significant discussions about water management and policy reforms. The new policy report from POLIS, A Blueprint for Watershed Governance in British Columbia, takes the discussion a step further by addressing the complex details of who makes the decisions, and how decision-makers can be held to account for the benefit of BC’s fresh water.

“This could be a real opportunity for positive change—particularly when it comes to engaging local communities in critical watershed decisions. It has the potential to ensure basic ecological health, such as minimum flows in rivers to keep fish alive and thriving,” says the report’s co-author Oliver M. Brandes, co-director of POLIS.

The report proposes that water-management decision-making be aligned with the ecological boundaries of watersheds—instead of political lines on a map—as the best way to achieve positive, long-term ecological, social and economic outcomes in BC.

“The transformation in governance proposed in our blueprint will likely take a decade, at a minimum, but with these changes BC could have the potential to become a national, and even global, leader in freshwater protection and sustainability,” says Brandes.

The POLIS report draws on leading examples of watershed governance from across Canada and around the globe, and applies them to the BC context.

“The blueprint sets out a strategic 10-year program and proposes nine winning conditions to ensure success,” says co-author Dr. Jon O’Riordan, POLIS advisor and former deputy minister of BC’s Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management. “Recognizing the unique institutional, legal, cultural, and geographic challenges of BC, we provide a clear timeline for successfully moving towards watershed governance to improve ecological resilience across the province.”

A copy of the report is available at poliswaterproject.org/blueprint.

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Keywords: bc, water, management, blueprint


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