On March 24th, the POLIS Water Sustainability Project and Brock University’s Environmental Sustainability Research Center (ESRC) hosted the virtual book launch for Water Resilience: Management and Governance in Times of Change. The result of a decade-long collaboration between editors Ryan Plummer (ESRC) and Julia Baird (ESRC), the book explores the importance of a “water resilience perspective” to better adapt to the environment’s inherent complexity and uncertainty.
Joined by several contributing authors and over 100 participants from across Canada and the globe, it was both a celebratory and informative event, with Tim Kulchyski (Cowichan Tribes and Cowichan Watershed Board) and Simon Mitchell (WWF-Canada) invited to share their practical knowledge alongside the editors.
Julia Baird led the discussion around the book’s main takeaways. She began by acknowledging the challenges it takes to move from traditional command-and-control policies towards more inclusive and multi-level decision-making. Issues related to time and timing appear as a recurring themes throughout the book’s multiple case studies. “Change takes time,” Julia noted. “This is not ground breaking, but it is worth emphasizing.”
Several chapters also highlight the importance of involving multiple actors at different levels to establish water resilience. “Broadening participation can help understand problems at multiple scales, address power imbalances, and help build capacity,” she said in conclusion.
Offering his perspective on how change takes place on the ground, Tim Kulchyski discussed how water resilience has played a role in his work informing the development of a regional watershed management plan between Cowichan Tribes and the Cowichan Valley Regional District. This case is featured in the book chapter “Capacities for Watershed Resilience: Persistence, Adaptation, and Transformation,” which POLIS Water Sustainability Project Lead Oliver M. Brandes contributed to.
Tim recounted when he heard about the concept of “water resilience” at a 2013 workshop co-hosted by ESRC and POLIS with the Cowichan Watershed Board and Cowichan Tribes, as part of the lead-up to Watersheds 2014. “It was the first time I heard a distinct way to relate the teaching of our Elders and to be able to start to have a more meaningful dialogue on a more meaningful way of thinking.” He discussed how important it is to consider the environment as a cross-cutting system across all sectors, rather than as a lone silo within Crown government decision-making.
Simon Mitchell closed the discussion by highlighting the importance of having hard data on how water systems function and how the different actors involved in its governance interact with each other in order to plan a path forward to protect these environments. “We all have a water story,” he said when pointing out water’s universal importance.