Vancouver’s Water Narrative: Learning from Copenhagen and Rotterdam

This report investigates how far Vancouver has come in its efforts to update its water management methods, using indicators defining a “Water Sensitive City.”

The City of Vancouver has begun an important transition journey in terms of its water management. The appointment of a Green Infrastructure Team, the research and development of the Rain City Strategy, the approval of a new Utility Service Plan, and the development of Rainwater and Groundwater Management Bulletins exemplify how Vancouver’s water management methods are changing. These initiatives are the result of City staff champions’ visionary and innovative work, as well as the City’s realization of the pressing need to find alternative solutions for handling rainwater in a growing city, and recognition of the adverse effects of climate change.

This report investigates how far Vancouver has come in its efforts to update its water management methods. It uses indicators associated with an Australian approach to defining a “Water Sensitive City” to assess the kind of advancements needed for Vancouver to practice truly holistic management of the urban water cycle. The Water Sensitive City concept advocates for holistic management of the urban water cycle in order to protect and enhance the health of receiving waterways, reduce flood risk, and create public spaces that harvest, clean, and recycle water.

The report draws on a comparative analysis of how the European cities of Copenhagen (Denmark) and Rotterdam (Netherlands) have achieved significant advancements in water management, in order to identify recommendations for how Vancouver could continue its advancement towards becoming a Water Sensitive City.