Blue Cities: Columbia Basin leads the field

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Meredith CWN conference May 2016 2CBEEN member Meredith Hamstead recently attended the Canadian Water Network Blue Cities Conference in Toronto with the support of CBEEN’s Pro-D Bursary Program. We asked her a few questions – here is what she said:

What was the conference about? 

The Blue Cities conference in Toronto was focused on water resilience in cities, but the relevance to our regional context was clear – most of the water resilience challenges that we face are endemic to communities across Canada, regardless of size. What is exceptional is that our region is not just keeping up, but is becoming a leader in the field of water conservation.

What did you learn that CBEEN members might be interested in?

The major transferrable learnings from this conference are:

  • Climate Resilience will not be achieved principally through innovation in technology but innovations in management, communications in particular.
  • More effective and transparent communications within an organization/program/initiative and with clients/public/policy makers will drive greater client/public demand for higher performance, which will drive sustainability innovation in response to that demand. This is an important idea for EE practitioners because it situates our work at the nexus of sustainability (to use a very urban sort of language!).
  • Data is sexy. In order to achieve tangible sustainability and climate resilience outcomes, ALL projects and communications must be backed by good data that informs decisions about the target audience, the right messaging, and the desired outcomes. Without solid data-backing, we will default our communications and decision making to old norms and ideas that are incompatible with the scale of change needed to achieve climate stabilization and resilience in the shortest term possible.

What resources would you recommend to other CBEEN members? 

  • RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study is the definitive national study on how people think about water in Canada – very useful in developing effective water related communication, especially when intended to influence policy makers. The most recent report was released in May 2016 and it can be found here.
  • Columbia Basin Water Smart ( ): What I discovered at the conference is that our home-grow Water Smart is really leading the field in methodology for improving water sustainability and climate resilience outcomes – it is a transferrable and duplicable model that applies to other regions and other sustainability challenges, so I share it here as a resource for CBEEN members who are welcome to contact me with their questions.
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