British Columbia’s communities and economy are highly dependent on freshwater resources.
Climate change and development pressures on our watersheds are growing at an unprecedented rate and scale, and we need to quickly “catch up” in our understanding of these pressures, and the impacts they are creating at local and watershed scales. Given that the costs and consequences of these impacts are disproportionately borne at the community level, there is an urgent need to mobilize and include these communities as partners with senior governments and industries in generating the necessary water knowledge and finding ways to avoid and mitigate impacts.
The Collaborative Monitoring Initiative (CMI) is directly addressing this need so that the best available knowledge is driving policy development and informing planning and decision making at all levels to ensure best possible outcomes in protecting water and the life that depends upon it.
Collaborative Monitoring Initiative
Community based water monitoring (CBM) has been steadily growing in BC, and it is evident that this will continue due to a general increase in the desire to participate in freshwater management and government decision making. Given this growing appetite for water monitoring, particular attention must be paid to establishing and implementing governance principles that establish a collaborative, coordinated province wide approach to maximize its value.
Of particular importance in the growth of these efforts is the full inclusion of Indigenous governments and organizations, given their long history of water knowledge, law, and management. Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in collaboration have the potential to greatly increase the overall knowledge base needed to make sound decisions. This collaboration must be based on a common view of how western science and Indigenous Knowledge principles can be used in harmony to focus on key issues and questions.
CMI is growing its ability to both support and learn from Indigenous communities to foster peer learning and create the necessary space to allow for reconciliation of different forms of knowledge and ways of knowing. By acknowledging and amplifying the strengths of Indigenous communities in water monitoring and related decision making, collaborative efforts aimed at protecting common values will be enhanced.
CMI seeks to improve outcomes for watersheds by supporting and learning from regional monitoring groups. The program:
- Provides support for a cohort of Indigenous and non-Indigenous regional collaborative initiatives and creates a community of practice for water monitoring in BC;
- Builds upon and implements past recommendations guided by an Advisory Network to help identify priorities;
- Learns from regional collaborative efforts to inform and advocate for a provincial program which ensures vertical integration and alignment between regional, provincial, and federal initiatives.
This momentum building initiative is testing the potential for longer term coordination and is identifying options for a sustainably resourced program. It also serves regional champions and supports a provincial water science and knowledge strategy that mobilizes and integrates Indigenous knowledge and data and community-based science initiatives. Development and implementation of the CMI program is shared across several key partners to ensure distributed leadership and to foster a collaborative networked approach.
The program advances its objectives through the following three core strategies:
- Convene and Coordinate:
- Foster a community of practice through workshops and webinars that bring together monitoring champions and facilitate peer learning and discussion of key issues in the field.
- Support and Learn from Regional Monitoring Champions:
- Facilitate communications between watersheds through outreach, direct engagement, and peer learning. Scale up and share learnings from regional initiatives to inform provincial and federal water monitoring programs.
- Develop Tools and Resources:
- Ensure that tools, guidelines, resources, and frameworks are known and available to support regional monitoring needs, address identified issues, and inform planning and specific decisions.
Linking Monitoring Programs to Decision Making
CMI creates opportunities for peer learning in all aspects of water monitoring as shown in the Water Knowledge Mobilization Framework, including knowledge acquisition, data management and use in decision making.
The Water Knowledge Mobilization Framework triangle includes all the activities necessary to acquire water data (project planning, data collection), manage it (organize, store, share, interpret, analyze, report), and apply it in a variety of decision making processes (planning, restoration, advocacy, regulatory, evaluation, etc.). It is the foundation of adaptive management, including an experimental approach and relies on ongoing evaluation and revision among the 3 corners.
Building community-based water monitoring capacity is a gateway to creating an upward spiral towards better watershed health outcomes. This will occur through promoting collaboration, engagement, and alignment on water knowledge and science among community groups and governments, as well as building broad based water literacy.
This shared governance and networked approach will help support and accelerate the necessary successes in watershed management, that will limit the severity and extent of BC’s water crisis. This collaborative approach will be pivotal in making the shift from fragmented efforts, by harnessing the energies of communities, emphasizing common values, mobilizing and integrating available Indigenous water knowledge and western science, and building a common framework among governments, industries, and communities.