New Handbook for Water Champions

Practical guide for communities taking action and making decisions for B.C. watersheds

Published On: April 29th, 2019

Across British Columbia, climate impacts are being felt, first and foremost, in the water. So, it’s incredibly important that we have the right local skills, relationships, and processes to make decisions and resolve conflicts about how to use and manage water.

Released today, the Handbook for Water Champions: Strengthening Decision-Making and Collaboration for Healthy Watersheds is a practical guide intended for local groups, collaborative organizations, and Indigenous and Crown governments seeking to better understand watershed governance.

What’s Inside?

Readers can find answers to watershed governance questions, such as:

  • Why is local involvement in decision-making a solution to many challenges?
  • How can we get started?
  • Who needs to be involved?
  • What does it look like to build respectful collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous neighbours?
  • What aspects of watershed governance can provincial and local government staff and politicians help deliver?

“Watershed governance is about ensuring local voices and concerns shape decision-making. It’s about ensuring Indigenous jurisdiction is exercised, in coordination with other jurisdictions,” said Natasha Overduin (Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources & POLIS), lead author of the new handbook. “When it’s done right, watershed governance can help resolve water problems and conflicts, like a scarcity of water for both human and ecological needs, or water quality degradation resulting from activities on the land.”

Despite an abundance of ideas about what is needed to improve water decision-making in B.C., few resources exist to provide practical assistance to existing watershed initiatives. This handbook addresses this gap.

“The handbook is designed to help advance skills and knowledge about increasing the impact of local organizations, communities, and governments to make meaningful progress on watershed governance from a ground-up perspective,” said Natasha. “We imagine the handbook will be particularly useful for coordinators and project managers. It offers practical guidance on how to work with different partners, as well as the steps needed to build effective collaborative watershed initiatives.”

A key feature is the “Stepping Stones to Watershed Governance” framework, which helps groups strategically assess their progress and identify next steps to move forward.

Released by the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER) and the POLIS Water Sustainability Project, the publication was developed from multiple years of applied research and action on watershed governance in B.C. It was created by a team of leaders dedicated to finding solutions and supporting communities in their journeys to better water partnerships and decisions. It synthesizes a number of existing toolkits, legal analyses, and case studies from organizations including the POLIS Water Sustainability Project, the Fraser Basin Council, the First Nations Fisheries Council, and the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria.

“This is the first edition,” said Natasha. “Watershed governance is a constantly evolving field, so this guide will need to evolve, too. It will be a ‘living document’ with revised editions released as we learn from the ongoing community action and experimentation happening across B.C.”

Download the report.