Tapping into Water Sustainability

POLIS team at WEST Conference 2023

Published On: July 20th, 2023

From June 14th to 16th, the POLIS team participated in the annual Water and Environment Student Talks Conference, also known as WEST. This interdisciplinary conference, held online and in-person on the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus, is organized by students for students and young professionals. This year’s gathering, Tapping into Water Sustainability, focused on interdisciplinary collaborations and holistic approaches to achieve sustainability and find solutions to today’s pressing water challenges.

As part of the conference’s “Three-Minute Talks,” POLIS’ Shayla Auld presented Towards Watershed and Climate Security to an online crowd of researchers, professors, industry professionals, community members, and influencers from around the world. Over 30 individuals were in attendance, all interested and involved in water sustainability work in some capacity.

Shayla’s talk built on key messages from the POLIS paper Towards Watershed Security: The role of water in modernized land use planning in B.C. (2020), which was co-authored by Oliver M. Brandes, Rosie Simms, Jon O’Riordan, and Gwen Bridge. She focused on:

  1. Reconciliation and land use planning cannot be successful without explicit and sustained attention to water.
  2. Economic recovery and a resilient local economy require clarity around resource development and investment potential, including what can and cannot be done on the land and in the water.
  3. The provincial government and planning partners need capacity, a clear priority, and sustained support for a new planning regime if they are to succeed.

POLIS’ Shayla Auld and other WEST participants during a breakout session with Valarie Jenkinson, CEO of Operators Without Borders.

Shayla also attended the in-person poster session on the UBC campus, where water industry professionals presented on their recent research. Shayla was specifically interested to learn from Rheanne Kroschinsky (Masters Student and Graduate Research Assistant in IGS,CESCE, UBC), who presented her work on A New Model for Community Watershed Governance in Peachland, B.C. Shayla also participated in a roundtable breakout session, where participants had the opportunity to connect with over 10 industry leaders in the field.

Later, conference participants attended keynote talks by Dr. Emily Tow (Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Olin College of Engineering), Gwen Bridge (Environmental Scientist; Chief Executive Officer, Gwen Bridge Consulting Ltd.; Member of Saddle Lake Cree Nation) and Dr. Zafar Adeel (Executive Director, Pacific Water Research Centre; Professor of Professional Practice, Simon Fraser University).

POLIS’ Oliver M. Brandes was also in attendance, serving as a judge for a session focused on Water Governance, Policy, and Stewardship. The participants brought excellent work to the table, and the session was a wonderful reminder of the diverse and talented work being done right now in the water and governance field. As one of the judges, Oliver reflected that the range of material presented was remarkable, and the attention to community needs and making meaningful impact was inspiring and reassuring.

Overall, the POLIS team was extremely pleased to take part in this well-organized and informative conference, and look forward to attending again in the future.