A Call to Action for Healthy & Resilient Watersheds

Working for Watersheds Roadmap Released

Published On: December 18th, 2023

Released in October, the new Working for Watersheds Roadmap lays out a strategic vision for how to grow and develop British Columbia’s watershed sector and achieve a thriving, regenerative economy in the next decade. The authors define the watershed sector as the thousands of people in B.C. working to support the maintenance, restoration, or improvement of healthy watersheds. This sector is foundational to a range of economic activities reliant on healthy watersheds, such as mining, forestry, agriculture, and manufacturing.

There is both a critical need and a vital opportunity to grow and develop B.C.’s water and watershed sectors to meet the challenges facing our watersheds. The Roadmap is a call to action for people, organizations, and water users across the sector to work together to realize the vision of healthy and resilient watersheds. Watershed security is a priority and a necessary foundation to a prosperous future.

The Working for Watersheds Roadmap is the latest output from the Working for Watersheds Initiative, which POLIS and the BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative helped catalyze and have continued to support with strategic engagement and ongoing advice since it launched in 2020. The Working for Watersheds Initiative is a collaboration between industry, government, Indigenous communities, and several non-profit organizations. It works to enhance the future economic impact of the watershed sector.

“Strong support for the watershed sector—which means support for healthy and secure watersheds—has never been more urgent. As British Columbians, we’ve just experienced the worst drought in B.C.’s history. Then, add to this the reality of wildfires and floods. We must shift our mindset,” said Oliver M. Brandes, Project Lead at the University of Victoria’s POLIS Water Sustainability Project. “A better understanding of B.C.’s watershed sector and how to support and enable its workers through sustainable funding and better policies and governance will help ensure a sustainable and secure freshwater future.”

The Roadmap was informed by key learnings from the 2023 Water Innovation Dialogue Series. This series was hosted by the Working for Watersheds Initiative and led by Delphi with support from GLOBE Series. The POLIS team also partnered on this series, which included an in-person workshop at the University of Victoria, a virtual First Nations roundtable, three virtual sessions focusing on different aspects of the sector, and a survey to collect additional context and insights.

“The series focused on identifying barriers to growth in the sector—such as funding, training, and regulatory environments—and ways that these barriers can be addressed. We learned a lot and the key takeaways have been summarized in the new Roadmap,” said Tim Morris, Project Director at the BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative. “In particular, the B.C. provincial mandate to develop a Watershed Security Strategy and Fund presents a real opportunity. We heard repeatedly that we need adequate and consistent funding directed at the watershed sector, with strong First Nation leadership stewarding the work.”

The Roadmap identifies five main Streams of Action to advance the watershed sector, each of which contains specific priority steps.

  1. Engage internal and external partners and raise the profile of the watershed sector.
  2. Develop thriving skills training programs and support workers.
  3. Support technology development, commercialization, and deployment of solutions in response to watershed priorities in B.C.
  4. Secure and maintain adequate and consistent funding directed at the watershed sector.
  5. Create policy and governance mechanisms that allow for more cohesion and collaboration across different levels of government and across sectors.

The POLIS team will continue to support and advise the work of the Working for Watershed Initiative as its ongoing work continues to build and gain momentum. Further workshops and other engagement efforts are planned for early 2024.

Download Working for Watersheds Roadmap (2023)

Download Working for Watersheds: Opportunities for Growth in B.C.’s Watershed Sector (2021)