Fraser Basin Council


2.1 The Value of Planning

Through water-related planning processes, decision makers and the broader community will be better able to understand current and future pressures on water quantity and quality. They will be better able to manage in the face of those pressures. For example, population growth projections can inform the potential for growth in water use and demand relative to available supply. Similarly, future climate scenarios can help users understand if future water supplies might decrease. By exploring future climate, population, and development scenarios, planners can identify when water use might be projected to exceed supply and can help make the case for water conservation and other strategies to contain demand within supply limits. There can also be public education benefits associated with planning processes, which can lead to public support in implementing plans and any associated strategies.

The following section will explain what water and watershed planning is, why it is important, when it is needed and the range of options available in BC. Sections 5, 6 and 7 then describe in more detail the characteristics and requirements associated with different planning options.

A community vision for a sustainable watershed commonly includes one or more of the following desired outcomes:

  • managing water uses and rates of consumption within available water supplies seasonally, annually and over the long-term
  • developing and managing water supplies in ways that do not compromise the health and biodiversity of fish, wildlife, ecosystems and watersheds
  • managing the allocation of water in ways that support a variety of high-value water uses, including human consumptive and non-consumptive uses as well as instream, environmental uses
  • supporting a wide variety of economic development activities
  • managing wastewater discharges within the capacity of receiving waters to absorb and assimilate those wastes
  • supporting renewable energy sources while minimizing impacts on the environment
  • managing human development patterns in ways that stabilize rather than destabilize the hydrologic cycle
  • managing development in ways that reduce rather than increase the vulnerability of communities to flooding and erosion
  • maintaining and strengthening community resiliency and preparedness for change, including changes in climate

Planning can be reactive and responsive to longstanding issues and challenges. Planning can also be proactive in anticipating challenges that may be emerging on the horizon.

A significant new challenge for water and watershed planning is how to deal with climate change. Changes in temperature, precipitation and extreme weather events have already influenced hydrology, and subsequent drought, and flooding and erosion effects. These in turn contribute to a variety of impacts on communities and ecosystems. Scientists project that more changes will come. Identifying, understanding and preparing for these changes (sometimes referred to as climate change “adaptation”) should become an important component, or a relevant lens to apply, within water and watershed planning processes.

In sections 5, 6 and 7 of this guide the following approaches to planning for water and watersheds are profiled:

The suitability of these plans for a community, region or watershed will vary significantly depending on the nature and scope of the issues that need to be addressed. For example, the following are some key considerations:

  • Water quantity or quality?
  • Surface or groundwater?
  • Drinking water or instream water?
  • Water use, wastewater discharge, or land use?

Back to top


About Rethinking our Water Ways

This website is a guide to help BC communities learn more about planning for local watersheds and water resources, navigate current planning processes, consider relevant issues and challenges — including regional climate change impacts —  and build capacity to develop and implement plans.


The Rethinking our Water Ways guide and website are possible thanks to funding support from the BC Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Canada's Regional Adaptation Collaborative Program. The guide and website were launched and distributed through a series of regional workshops throughout BC, with funding contributions from the Fraser Salmon and Watersheds Program, Environment Canada and the Real Estate Foundation of BC. Learn more about our funders and advisors.

We want to hear from you

Share your suggestions for this website, and ideas for future water workshops, with:

Steve Litke
Senior Program Manager
T: 604 488-5358

About the Fraser Basin Council

Rethinking our Water Ways is an initiative of the Fraser Basin Council (FBC), a charitable non-profit society that advances sustainability in the Fraser River Basin, across BC, and beyond. Established in 1997, FBC brings people together from multiple sectors to learn about sustainability and find collaborative solutions to current issues. Learn more about FBC by visiting