Illumination: Insights and perspectives for building effective watershed governance in B.C.




Brandes, Oliver M.
Morris, Tim
Archer, Jennifer
Brandes, Laura
Moore, Michele-Lee
O'Riordan, Jon
Overduin, Natasha

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POLIS Project on Ecological Governance


Recent reports and events exploring the concept of watershed governance have laid a foundation for reform in British Columbia. However, considerable knowledge gaps still exist in turning concept into practice. Through an extensive investigation involving interviews, surveys, and a First Nations roundtable, this study illuminates the practical needs and capacities required to implement watershed governance in B.C. Key findings and critical insights include that the current system of water management and governance is not working, and that collaborative watershed governance is critical for better decision-making.


In British Columbia, addressing freshwater challenges is a critical economic, social and ecological priority. The historic drought of 2015 depleted reservoirs, dried up streams, and resulted in severe water use restrictions in many regions of the province. Along with more frequent and costly floods, these types of extreme events are becoming more extreme and more common. At the same time, competition for access to our most precious resource is rapidly increasing, driving conflict and public concern. As B.C. awakens to its new water reality, the link between sustainable management and how decisions are made—governance—is gaining public attention. Growing recognition exists that current decision-making processes are not working, and that ensuring clean, flowing fresh water today and for the future requires a bold shift towards new forms of governance at the watershed scale.


Sustainable water management, Watershed Governance, Water Sustainability Act, Watershed Planning, Collaborative Approach


Brandes, O.M., & Morris, T. with Archer, J.L., Brandes, L., Moore, M.L., O’Riordan, J., Overduin, N. (2016, June). Illumination: Insights and Perspectives for Building Effective Watershed Governance in B.C. Victoria, Canada: POLIS Project on Ecological Governance, University of Victoria.