Creating a sustainable freshwater future requires collaboration and understanding from multiple parties. The POLIS Water Sustainability Project at the University of Victoria's Centre for Global Studies has made significant strides in helping local people and communities participate in the governance of their home waters and wild salmon systems. Our recently closed Wild Salmon Ecosystem Initiative has long supported the POLIS team. 

The POLIS team works to increase understanding of freshwater issues and to drive law, policy, and governance reform to generate change towards a sustainable freshwater future. POLIS’ most recent work has produced new transdisciplinary applied research, held meetings with water leaders, experts, and practitioners, and communicated leading thinking on freshwater sustainability.

Courtesy of Megan Spencer, Carmen Rosen of Still Moon Arts Society shares a map of Vancouver's lost streams at Watersheds 2016

Watersheds 2016

In fall 2016, POLIS was a core partner (along with the First Nations Fisheries Council, Canadian Freshwater Alliance, and Fraser Basin Council) on the forum Watersheds 2016: Building Capacity for Collaboration and Watershed Governance in British Columbia. This event was part of the biannual Watersheds forums designed for watershed groups, water practitioners, researchers, First Nations, and other decision-makers.

One-hundred and fifty participants came together at Watersheds 2016 to build upon important skills with the goal of enhancing the capacity for successful watershed governance in British Columbia. This forum blended practical insights from those working on the ground (and in the water) with big ideas and emerging innovative watershed governance solutions from across B.C. and other regions.

“A wealth of practical information and ‘lived’ experience was given by all presenters,” said one participant. “Innovative, creative, practical solutions to a wide variety of issues and challenges were offered.”

Building on the success of Watersheds 2016, a Watersheds 2018 event will be held in late spring or fall of next year to continue to build the west coast watershed community.

B.C.’s Water Sustainability Act

The POLIS team has played a key role in elevating attention around British Columbia’s new Water Sustainability Act (passed in 2016), including its potential to transform freshwater management and governance in the province for the benefit of wild salmon systems.

The 2015 POLIS report Awash with Opportunity: Ensuring the Sustainability of British Columbia’s New Water Law provides a detailed legal analysis of the Water Sustainability Act and the core regulations required to bring its sustainable aspects into full effect. This applied research outlines leading best practices from around the globe and offers clear recommendations for regulation development.

One priority identified by the POLIS team is the need for the provincial government to develop strong environmental flows regulations under the Water Sustainability Act. Building on this recommendation, POLIS partnered with WWF-Canada in February 2016 to convene a Forum on Environmental Flow Needs in British Columbia. The gathering demonstrated leading thinking, pooled existing knowledge and information, and introduced new perspectives and ideas to work towards a shared understanding of needs and priorities for improved management of environmental flows in B.C. This event also mobilized a group of cross-sectoral leaders, experts, and practitioners to continue to engage and work with government to develop this critical regulation.

Creating a Blue Dialogue

POLIS’ Creating a Blue Dialogue webinar series will be starting its eighth season this fall. This series brings together expert and emerging water practitioners and thinkers from across the country to engage with innovative ideas on water policy and governance in Canada. The series strengthens the national capacity to engage with and solve problems, develops peer-to-peer learning opportunities, and raises awareness about emerging and priority water issues, best practices, and policies. Recent webinars focused on indigenous water initiatives, strengthening monitoring and reporting for B.C.’s watersheds, and evolving water planning processes in B.C.

Although Moore’s Wild Salmon Ecosystem Initiative is now closed, the ongoing work of the POLIS Water Sustainability Project reminds us of the “ripple effect” of this important initiative, as POLIS continues to combine practical expert research with community action to improve the management and governance of wild salmon systems on the west coast and beyond.


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Watersheds 2016: Building Capacity for Collaboration and Watershed Governance in British Columbia


Awash with Opportunity: Ensuring the Sustainability of British Columbia's New Water Law

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