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Thinkers coming to discuss water

Issues facing watersheds like the Cowichan River and similar areas around the globe will be discussed during Watersheds 2014. -
Issues facing watersheds like the Cowichan River and similar areas around the globe will be discussed during Watersheds 2014.
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Cowichan officials are gearing up to host national and international water experts next week as part of a prestigious conference.

Watersheds 2014 is being staged by the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance, in partnership with Cowichan Tribes, the Cowichan Valley Regional District and Cowichan Watershed Board.

The conference will see the coming together of water practitioners, watershed groups, First Nations, and other decision-makers from across the country and around the world.

“The goal is to support skills development to improve collaboration between citizens, stakeholders, and rights holders at the watershed scale,” said POLIS communications co-ordinator Laura Brandes in an email to the News Leader Pictorial. “There is already good work being done in this field in Cowichan, and we are honoured to be hosting the event on traditional Cowichan Tribes land.”

“The event is designed to support skills development and capacity-building for watershed groups, First Nations, and community watershed champions,” explained POLIS project co-ordinator Oliver M. Brandes. “It’s all about watershed governance. This involves rescaling our decision-making to align with ecological boundaries rather than political lines on a map.”

The timing and location of Watersheds 2014 is extremely significant, given the B.C. provincial government has committed to a new Water Sustainability Act by early 2014.

And more so in Cowichan considering past and ongoing issues including the flow management crisis in the Cowichan River and the controversy over South Island Aggregates’ plan to use its Stebbings Road quarry in South Cowichan to treat five million tonnes of waste soils.

“We’re very pleased to be hosting this event in Cowichan,” said CVRD and Cowichan Watershed board chair Rob Hutchins. “There is a lot of opportunity and appetite for this in B.C. right now. Here in Cowichan we have experienced, firsthand, the importance of collaborative decision-making and innovations in watershed management. We’re thrilled to share our lessons and also to learn from the experiences of others as we move forward.”

“We don’t see this as a one-off event,” added Brandes. “It’s part of a much bigger picture and a global trend towards more inclusive and ecologically sound decision-making.”

Watersheds 2014 is taking place at the Quw’utsun’ Cultural and Conference Centre Jan. 27 to 29, thanks to a partnership between the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance at the University of Victoria, UVic Geography, and Brock University’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre.

For more information on the forum click here.

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