Regional Council Deputy Chair Christine Scott has taken the “Water Futures” portfolio as her leadership domain in the HBRC strategic planning process.

The HBRC stated goal in this area is to: “Generate foresight and knowledge on water quality, availability and demand, improve management of community expectations around water, and establish the value of water to the region’s well-being.”

And HBRC’s newly adopted strategic workplan notes that, amongst the new strategic goals: “… the area of greatest strategic risk is the Council’s management of the region’s water resources.”

With this context, BayBuzz had a quite stimulating interview with Councillor Scott last week, aimed at getting a better take on her water vision.

Interestingly, Christine’s water vision begins with land use. As she sees it, the first question to address is what constitutes the optimal use of HB’s land resource. For how the land is used will drive the water demands of the region, as well as stresses on its water quality. And we must get a realistic projection of water demand versus supply out into the future … 2050 is the time frame she mentioned.

Of course, there’s plenty to debate regarding what that “optimal” land use might be!

As Councillor Scott sees it, there are still big unknowns concerning surface and groundwater interactions, the ecology of groundwater, and water storage. She seems more comfortable than I and some others with respect to the timetable for getting actionable information.

We discussed water pricing quite a bit. Her view, taking a global perspective, is that no one has gotten the model quite right yet. She worries that the wrong pricing regime might have more impact on the type of water use “favored” than on inducing water conservation or sustainability. By the same token, there’s no denying that a free commodity is one that will be wasted.

My main take-away is that where Councillor Scott and we outside agitators differ most is over the required and achievable pace for improving our region’s water stewardship. As she put it: “We have time to get water right.”

I and many others are not so sure about that! We fear a drip-by-drip Chinese water torture as Councillors McIntyre and Scott duel over who can take the longest term view of improving water management.

And throughout the conversation, as well as in the HBRC language quoted above, is the implication that public expectations about water quality are to be “managed” rather than met … the public’s expectations are too simplistic, uninformed, unrealistic.

That’s a chancy, if not patronising, game that elected officeholders can play at their own risk!

The same day as this interview, water — and public expectations about it — took the floor at the Hastings District Council. There, the matter immediately at hand was approval of a fairly routine water by-law.

But spurred by questions and observations about water metering, water charges and conservation from Councillors Bowers, Bradshaw and Twigg, the Mayor and CEO agreed to bring a comprehensive discussion of the District’s water management issues before the Council in the future, as part of the LTCCP review.

Well done, Councillors. This was a great outcome in lieu of what had promised to be a perfunctory sign-off on a cosmetic touch-up of the existing by-law. We look forward to the HDC discussion of water issues.

In fact, it would be delightful to see Councillors Scott and Bowers joust for the inter-mural title of “Water Action Woman!”

Tom

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