Download: New Research on BC’s Water Laws

New research on the future of B.C.’s most important resource from POLIS Project on Ecological Governance

With the replacement of its over a century-old Water Act with the new Water Sustainability Act in 2014, British Columbia has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to modernize its freshwater legislation and usher in a new era of water stewardship. TheWater Sustainability Acthas many promising features that can better protect the province’s freshwater resources. Yet full implementation of the new Act hinges on passing critical supporting regulations that will provide the necessary details to make the Act fully functional.

Released today, a new research report from the University of Victoria’s POLIS Project on Ecological Governance outlines what is needed to put the “sustainable” in the Water Sustainability Act. This report provides a timely analysis of the core regulations required for the Water Sustainability Act to reach its full potential as a comprehensive and modern water law. Awash with Opportunity: Ensuring the Sustainability of British Columbia’s New Water Law offers clear recommendations to develop the necessary regulations based on leading international practices in five key areas: groundwater, environmental flows, monitoring and reporting, water objectives, and planning and governance.

“Mounting water concerns in the province underscore the urgent need to reform water management and the supporting legal structures,” says Deborah Curran, Hakai Professor in Environmental Law and Sustainability, and report co-author. British Columbia’s fresh water is under pressure from an array of threats, including climate change, population growth, and escalating and competing demands for water. Watersheds across the province are showing signs of stress, with recent mounting water issues ­– from unprecedented droughts to water quality degradation and conflicts over water use – only increasing the urgency to act.

If British Columbia does not change its approach to freshwater management to respond to these realities, the consequences may be significant, as demonstrated by the recent water crises experienced in California and Washington, and indeed globally.

“A comprehensive water law regime that includes a fully implemented Water Sustainability Act and a full suite of supporting regulations is a necessary condition to ensure that future water challenges do not become debilitating water crises,” says Oliver M. Brandes, Co-Director of POLIS, who authored the report together with Deborah Curran and colleagues at POLIS.

The report offers the Provincial government the specific advice and insights needed to move beyond crisis response toward a fresh partnership approach with shared roles and responsibilities to protect B.C.’s water resources now and into the future.

Download a copy of Awash with Opportunity: Ensuring the Sustainability of British Columbia’s New Water Law.

For more on water governance, check out ACT’s work on the topic here.


Register Now: Webinar on Measuring Adaptation Progress

NRcan_logoNatural Resources Canada is offering this free workshop tomorrow, November 17th, at 2:00 pm EST (11:00 am PST).

“Are we on the right track? Applying indicators to measure progress on adaptation”

This webinar will highlight the results of a project funded through the Measuring Progress Working Group aimed at finding indicators that have been developed to monitor and evaluate action on climate change adaptation in countries which are part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The project, carried out in partnership by ICLEI Canada and the Adaptation to Climate Change Team (ACT) at Simon Fraser University, collected indicators that are meant to be used to measure success or progress of adaptation actions considering their performance in relation to specified expectations, either during implementation or once the action is complete. Indicators that were found to be applicable to Canada were then categorized and entered into a searchable matrix. The initial matrix and a sampling of indicators will be presented in the webinar.

Register here.


Read Now: Vulnerability Assessment of Ontario’s Electrical Transmission Sector

Over the 2013-2015 time period, a study was overseen by the Power System Planning staff of the Ontario Power Authority to look into the potential vulnerability, brought on by climate change, of Ontario’s electrical transmission sector.

The study included:

  • A screening-level climate change and engineering vulnerability assessment of a major electrical transmission station in southern Ontario, including high voltage electrical transmission components within the station and major high-voltage circuits into and out of the station.
  • A first order evaluation of the types of adaptation measures that could be used to help manage severe weather and climate change-related risks across a broader set of transmission system segments.

The report from this project is now online. Read it here.


Aga Khan Foundation Internships

aga khanSee below for information on Aga Khan Foundation internships for students:

The Aga Khan Foundation Canada is searching for individuals who can demonstrate a commitment to international development, are driven by the desire to make a meaningful change in the world, and are ready to apply their skills and experience to a challenging overseas internship.
There are three streams:
  • International Development Management (IDM) Fellows benefit from placements in a variety of organizations, working in fields such as health, education, rural development, and civil society strengthening. Placements include positions in research, project management, communications, and monitoring and evaluation.
  • International Microfinance and Microenterprise (IMM) Fellows gain experience with an organization involved in microfinance or market development, to develop skills in the day-to-day operations and evaluation of these programs.
  • Young Professionals in Media (YPM) Fellows work as journalists for Nation Media Group, a leading media outlet in East Africa. With opportunities to report in print, broadcast, and digital media, Fellows gain the skills to work effectively in today’s global media environment.
Application deadline: February 1, 2016
In the last 25 years, over 400 young Canadians have participated in AKFC’sInternational Youth Fellowship Program – an extraordinary opportunity to become a leader in global development. This prestigious Fellowship is a launching pad for diverse careers in the government, non-profit, media and finance sectors. It offers a training program and an eight-month overseas placement to recent university graduates and young professionals under 30.

G20 countries spend $450B a year on fossil fuel subsidies, study says

The processing facility at the Suncor oilsands operations near Fort McMurray, Alta. A new report from Oil Change International finds that G20 countries are spending $452 billion US a year subsidizing their fossil fuel industries. (Todd Korol/Reuters)

The processing facility at the Suncor oilsands operations near Fort McMurray, Alta. A new report from Oil Change International finds that G20 countries are spending $452 billion US a year subsidizing their fossil fuel industries. (Todd Korol/Reuters)

This column is part of a package of special coverage of climate change issues by CBC News leading up to the United Nations climate change conference (COP21) being held in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.

G20 countries are spending $452 billion US a year subsidizing their fossil fuel industries and are undermining the world’s effort to combat climate change in the process, according to a new international report by an environmental advocacy group.

“It’s quite a shocking amount. I think we were surprised the scale of the subsidies is so great,” said study co-author Alex Doukas, who is senior campaigner with Oil Change International.

“We’re subsidizing companies to search for new fossil fuel reserves at time when we know that three-quarters of the proven reserves have to stay in the ground if we hope to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” said Doukas in an interview from Washington.

“So paying companies to find more fossil fuels is folly.”

It’s the first time annual subsidies from all G20 countries have been added up and individually analyzed.

It shows that Canada’s total federal and provincial support for the petroleum industry was close to $2.7 billion US ($3.6 billion Cdn at current exchange rates) in the 2013-14 fiscal year, with federal subsidies accounting for roughly $1.6 billion US of that.

The report says at least another $2.5 billion US of taxpayers’ money also goes to petroleum companies working in other countries through Export Development Canada “and may be significantly higher.”

Continue reading here.



World’s climate about to enter ‘uncharted territory’ as it passes 1C of warming


The world has passed the halfway mark to the 2C target, the agreed safe limit to avoid catastrophic global warming, say scientists. Photograph: Thibault Camus/Pool/Reuters

The world has passed the halfway mark to the 2C target, the agreed safe limit to avoid catastrophic global warming, say scientists. Photograph: Thibault Camus/Pool/Reuters

Climate change is set to pass the milestone of 1C of warming since pre-industrial times by the end of 2015, representing “uncharted territory” according to scientists at the UK’s Met Office.

2015 is also set to be the hottest on record, as the temperatures are so far beating past records “by a country mile”, they said. The World Meteorological Organization further announced on Monday that 2016 would be the first year in which the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is over 400ppm on average, due to the continued burning of fossil fuels.

The trio of landmarks comes just three weeks ahead of a crunch UN summit in Paris where world leaders including Barack Obama, Xi Jinping and David Cameron meet in Paris in a bid to reach a new deal on cutting emissions.

The Met Office’s data from January to September 2015 already shows global average temperatures have risen by 1C for the first time compared to pre-industrial times. The rise is due to the “unequivocal” influence of increasing carbon emissions combined with the El Niño climate phenomenoncurrently under way. The Met Office expects the full-year temperature for 2015 to remain above 1C. It was below 0.9C in 2014, marking a sharp rise in climate terms.

“This is the first time we’re set to reach the 1C marker and it’s clear that it is human influence driving our modern climate into uncharted territory,” said Stephen Belcher, director of the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, said. “We have passed the halfway mark to the 2C target.”

The announcement of symbolic milestones in the run up to the Paris summit will increase pressure on negotiators to deliver a strong deal to avert the catastrophic global warming expected beyond 2C of warming.

Continue reading here.


Entire Liberal cabinet will be responsible for climate change agenda


Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion. Source: The Globe and Mail.

Exciting news from The Globe and Mail:

All Liberal cabinet ministers have been charged with ensuring the success of the new government’s commitments on climate change, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion said in an interview Wednesday as he prepares to engage the country’s diplomatic corps in the international fight against global warming.

A veteran climate warrior, Mr. Dion will play a pivotal role in the Liberal government’s climate agenda, both as minister for global affairs and as chair of the cabinet committee on environment, climate change and energy. He is expected to join Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna at the Paris climate summit at the end of the month, though he would not confirm his attendance on Wednesday.

Mr. Trudeau signalled a heightened commitment when he appointed his cabinet last week by adding the words “climate change” to the name of the Environment Ministry, a move that raised some concerns in Calgary’s battered oil industry. But Mr. Dion said that the effort will be much broader, suggesting all major economic decisions will face a climate-change test.

“The old system was to give the file of the environment to the minister of environment and say to her or him, ‘Deal with it, be the hero of the environmental groups but don’t bother us because we have jobs to create and an economy to grow,’” he said. “That will not work. … [Ms. McKenna] will succeed only if all of us [in cabinet] have a green orientation and sensitivity.”

Continue reading the story here. 

For more on how BC can transition to a green economy, check out ACT’s work on the topic here.


ACT ED in Tyee Article on Crescent Beach Adaptation

Groundwater flooding at Crescent Beach. Source: The Tyee.

Groundwater flooding at Crescent Beach. Source: The Tyee.

ACT’s Executive Director Deb Harford is quoted in a new article in The Tyee about climate change effects in the community of Crescent Beach, BC.

The article focuses on what the predicted effects of climate change will be for communities like Crescent Beach in BC’s Lower Mainland area.

“The impacts of sea level rise are uneven and will vary by geographical area. Where it will hit hardest in B.C., according to a 2013 summary of research, are the coastal floodplains of the Fraser River Delta. There, winter storm surges consisting of big waves and high winds, and seasonal freakishly-high “king tides,” will increasingly work in concert with sea level rise to threaten coastal communities like Crescent Beach.”

The article also discusses various adaptation options for these communities. As Deb Harford points out, here in BC we haven’t quite started to feel the urgency yet about needing to take action on adaptation:

“Deborah Harford, executive director of Simon Fraser University’s Adaptation to Climate Change Team, notes that Copenhagen became a leader in urban flood control after catastrophe spurred action. Harford says such events are dubbed “decision-making rains” for their power to shift attitudes about change. It might take the same here. “I don’t think we’ve had enough impact here to really feel an urgency on it yet.” 

Read more from the article here. 


Now Available for Download: “Beyond the Guidebook 2015- Towards a Watershed Health Legacy in the Georgia Basin”

guidebook1The third report in a series on stormwater planning in BC is now available for download.

Beyond the Guidebook 2015 is the third in a series that builds on Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia. Local government case study experience provides guidance for a collaborative approach that would achieve cascading objectives for:
  • Watershed Health
  • Resilient Rainwater Management
  • Sustainable Service Delivery

BC local governments are sharing and learning from each other. Water balance tools and case study experience are in place. Local governments can move beyond traditional infrastructure asset management thinking to account for watershed systems as infrastructure assets. Beyond the Guidebook 2015 is a deliverable flowing from the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative.

Click here to download this resource. 

The scope of the Guidebook is as follows:



Jeff Rubin: Why the oil sands no longer make economic sense

jeffLost in the political fallout from President Barack Obama’s decision to once and for all reject Keystone XL is the fact that there is no longer an economic context for the pipeline. For that matter, the same can be said for any of the other proposed pipelines that would service the planned massive expansion of production from Alberta’s oil sands.

Whether it’s Shell’s decision to scrap its 80,000 barrel a day Carmon Creek project or earlier industry decisions to abandon the Pierre River and Joslyn North mines, the very projects that were going to supply all these new pipelines are being cancelled left and right. At today’s oil prices they no longer make any commercial sense. Western Canadian Select, the price benchmark for the bulk of oil sands production, is trading at $30 (U.S.) a barrel. That gives the oil sands the dubious distinction of being the lowest-priced oil in the world with one of the highest cost structures.

The key reason that Mr. Obama rejected the pipeline is that the U.S. market no longer needs Alberta’s oil sands. Thanks to the shale revolution which has doubled U.S. oil production over the past decade, the security of Canadian oil supply no longer has the same cachet as it once did in the U.S. market. In fact, the explosive growth in U.S. domestic production from fracking shale formations in the Bakken, Eagle Ford and the Permian Basin has spurred the American oil industry to actively lobby the Obama administration to remove the export ban that was imposed after the OPEC oil shocks.

But it’s not just the U.S. that doesn’t need the oil sands’ bitumen. Even if Alberta’s landlocked fuel could get to tidewater, it’s no more needed in foreign markets than it is in the U.S. market. Even world oil prices like Brent no longer justify any expansion of the resource. Worse yet, they signal the need for contraction.

Continue reading here.


Register Now- Water scarcity: a new reality on BC’s “Wet Coast?”

See below for information from the BC Water and Wastewater Association:

You’re Invited: 
Water scarcity: A new reality on BC’s “Wet Coast”?

Networking event co-hosted by the BC Water and Wastewater Association and The POLS Project on Ecological Governance

10:00AM-12:15PM on December 3rd, Coast Bastion Inn, Nanaimo, BC

With water scarcity top of mind for many BC communities, join us at this informative networking event that looks at drought management in BC today, what changes are on the horizon with the Water Sustainability Act, and two island community perspectives – North Cowichan and North Salt Spring Island.

Join us for a morning of informative presentations:

  • Law reform and managing drought: Lessons from BC, California and elsewhere;
  • North Salt Spring Waterworks District: The governance aspects of water scarcity; and
  • Municipality of North Cowichan: The challenges of basin level water management planning.

Guest Speakers

Law reform and managing drought: Lessons from BC, California and elsewhere

Oliver M. Brandes, BA(H), DIP.RNS, M.ECON., JD

Co-Director & WSP Lead, POLIS Project on Ecological Governance and Senior Research Associate, Centre for Global Studies

Kirk Stinchcombe, MES, MBA, PMP
Sustainability Specialist, Econics & Strategic Advisor, POLIS Water Sustainability Project

North Salt Spring Waterworks District: The governance aspects of water scarcity
Ron Stepaniuk
District Manager

Meghan McKee, Dipl. Tech., B.Sc. – EM
Environmental Manager

Municipality of North Cowichan: the challenges of basin level water
management planning

Robert Bell
Assistant Manager of Operations (Utilities)

For more information and to register, visit BCWWA’s webpage for the event here.


Project Spotlight Video on ACT

The Real Estate Foundation of BC, one of ACT’s core funders, has produced a Spotlight video featuring ACT’s work. Watch it now!

The video features ACT Executive Director Deborah Harford, ACT  Senior Water Adviser and co-author of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals for water Bob Sandford, and ACT Senior Policy Adviser and former BC Deputy Minister Jon O’Riordan.

We are honoured to work with the Foundation, which works tirelessly to support sustainable land and water use planning in BC.

If the above video does not load, you can also watch the video on YouTube.


Renewable Energy Is About Equality, Not Just Environment


Vancouver, Canada. Source: The Guardian; Josef Hanus/Alamy

Transitioning to renewable energy doesn’t just have benefits for our environment and for mitigating the worst effects of climate change. It will also lead to a world that is more equal and just for all people.

From The Guardian:

“Changing our energy system is about more than replacing fossil resources with sun and wind. In fact, the economic model for renewables is completely different: 100% renewable energy can lead us to a more equal distribution of wealth.

“The differences start in the way our energy system is structured. The fossil fuel-based energy system is characterised by complex, centralised infrastructures where the fuel is transported to the power plant, and energy production and distribution is controlled by very few entities. The supply chain is vertical, and the benefits are shared only among a few stakeholders.

“Most renewable energies offer opportunities for more decentralised energy production and consumption. They have a horizontal supply chain and require innovation in infrastructure and energy markets. New stakeholders – including citizens, farmers and small businesses – are entering the system. They claim ownership rights and have direct impacts on the implementation.”

To continue reading this story -which includes three examples of regions which are transitioning boldly to renewable energy- click here.

ACT has done work on the linkages between climate change and social policy. Find our report on this topic at this link.


Exxon Mobil Investigated for Possible Climate Change Lies by New York Attorney General

An Exxon Mobil refinery in Los Angeles, Calif. The New York attorney general is investigating the oil and gas company. Credit T. Fallon/Bloomberg, via Getty Images

An Exxon Mobil refinery in Los Angeles, Calif. The New York attorney general is investigating the oil and gas company. Credit T. Fallon/Bloomberg, via Getty Images

The New York attorney general has begun an investigation of Exxon Mobil to determine whether the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change or to investors about how such risks might hurt the oil business.

According to people with knowledge of the investigation, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a subpoena Wednesday evening to Exxon Mobil, demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents.

The investigation focuses on whether statements the company made to investors about climate risks as recently as this year were consistent with the company’s own long-running scientific research.

The people said the inquiry would include a period of at least a decade during which Exxon Mobil funded outside groups that sought to undermine climate science, even as its in-house scientists were outlining the potential consequences — and uncertainties — to company executives.

Continue reading here.



Kids Sue Over Climate Change And A Judge In Wash. State Is Listening

Kids filled the benches of King County Superior Court before Judge Hollis R. Hill to hear oral arguments about climate change, on November 3rd, 2015. BELLAMY PAILTHORP KPLU

Kids filled the benches of King County Superior Court before Judge Hollis R. Hill to hear oral arguments about climate change, on November 3rd, 2015.

Kids packed a courtroom in Seattle on Tuesday to hear oral arguments in a case about their future. Eight young teenagers are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state Department of Ecology. They want to force action on climate change.

“It just feels like there’s not enough people who care about, like, animals and other things that can’t talk for themselves – babies who haven’t been born yet, people from the future, basically,” said 13-year-old Lara Fain.

She’s one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which says the State Department of Ecology isn’t doing enough to limit the carbon pollution that causes global warming. 15-year-old Aji Piper agrees.

“It is my future,” he said. “You know, there’s these things that you just – you lose them and then it’s really hard to get them back.”

Their arguments are part of the lawsuit filed in Washington, one of dozens of suits filed and actions taken in every state and against the federal government, by a non-profit called Our Children’s Trust.

Continue reading here.



Canadian Water Resources Association 2015 Conference

Check out the information below about the CWRA-BC Branch’s 2015 Conference, which takes place November 18th and 19th in Richmond: 

Keynote Speaker 


Emanuel Machado, CAO Town of Gibsons

The Gibsons Experience – Nature is our most valuable infrastructure

“Our rationale is that the natural services provided by these systems, in the form of rainwater management, flood control and water purification, have tangible value to the community as, or more, effective as engineered infrastructure”

Emanuel’s passion and commitment to creating sustainable communities is evident in his work in the Town of Gibsons, by combining the Official Community Plan, Strategic Plan and Sustainability Plan to create a hybrid document that balances economic development, the natural environment, and social well-being. It is this integration and balance that has been the key element of his work.

More recently, Emanuel has been developing a program for the Town of Gibsons, called Eco-Assets, which recognizes the role of nature as a fundamental component of the municipal infrastructure system, leading to a greater understanding of the value of ecosystems services and improved financial and operational management plans of the community’s natural assets.

Come learn why the Town of Gibsons is becoming one of Canada’s first municipalities to explore managing the natural capital in their community.

Register Now:

Registration information can be found here: http://cwrabc.ca/conference/registration

The Canadian Water Resources Association BC Branch conference is being held 

 November 18th and 19th in Richmond BC on the theme of 

“Floods, Droughts and Everything in Between”


Students and Young Professionals

 We are still accepting abstracts for our PechaKucha session!

 Presentations will consists of simply showing 20 slides for 20s each, which is an informal and fun way to share your work/research project with the water resources community!

Submit a brief summary (i.e. 100 – 200 words) of your research work or project here:http://cwrabc.ca/conference/syp-events-and-info

Perk: For students having trouble finding the funds/time to attend the whole conference, we are offering a discount conference registration rate to present in the PechaKucha Session. For $75 you can attend the afternoon of your presentation & take part in networking events.

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