The Story of Vancouver as the Bluest City

It is 2040 and Vancouver is a world leader in responsible water and energy management. Building upon Vancouver’s Greenest City action plan and other sustainability initiatives throughout Metro Vancouver, the lower mainland has invested heavily in a Bluest City plan. Through the plan there is a movement towards more decentralized water systems. The Bluest City plan emphasizes reusing water as much as possible, capturing runoff, re-using “waste” water, vertical urban farming to reduce runoff and improve local food security and have citizens act as water stewards. In this story, stormwater systems are integrated with green space and wetlands within the water catchment system to manage water flows and as social tools to connect citizens with the local water cycle and there is full-cost accounting for water utilities. This approach has involved rethinking: building codes, policies and regulations that manage water resources.

The City engages citizens about our relationship to water through experiential and peer learning. Water Education Citizen committees were formed in 2020 to involve citizens in planning campaigns and participating in the budgeting of resources. Creative and interactive public education and outreach tools engage citizens to think of water use, our impacts on ecosystems and potential water opportunities. For example, bus stop poster shelters capture the excess rainwater and have a water-based game.

The Story of Climate Resilient Vancouver

It is 2040 and Vancouver has been creating and enacting visionary plans to ensure the city is prepared for new climate change realities. Examples of these plans include: floodplain development regulations, green infrastructure and the use of common spaces to collect floodwaters for gradual infiltration. Vancouver is emerging as a world leader in adapting to and creating opportunities in an unstable climate. Local leadership plans are responsive to unpredictability, focused on building resilience and a culture of learning from our failures. Social media is used to share and build ideas and promote climate chance adaptation design competitions for entrepreneurs. Government and the private sector have invested in research and development to test technological and social interventions and their effectiveness for climate change adaption (e.g. solar roads, adaptive tourism, water data projects, beautifying seawalls, household, commercial and institutional innovative water provisioning systems, etc.).

As a result of sea level rise and the City’s relative prosperity, Vancouver has absorbed many climate refugees which has heightened social tensions. The increased population and loss of land has resulted in housing scarcity, an increased demand on municipal services and local resources. There has also been an intrusion of salt water making freshwater a more precious resource, so groundwater use is closely monitored. In an effort to encourage wise water use, the cost of potable water has increased. Social marketing strategies, social media and education campaigns are in place to encourage Vancouverites to value water and adopt wise water behaviour (rather than relying on coercion or financial incentives to encourage change). These changes have culminated in a culture shift of values and expectations (the way we think about ourselves, an ethic of working together, our relationship with nature, etc.).

The Story of Elite Vancouver

In 2040, domestic and international investment in Vancouver and the lower mainland has continued at full pace. The city is viewed as a highly desirable location to live and work – leading to benefits (i.e. access to capital) and challenges. The growth trajectory for Vancouver has followed that of Hong Kong and San Francisco. Some of the greatest buildings in the world are being built downtown with sustainable features (e.g. energy generation, efficiency, green roofs, etc.). Many international corporations have relocated their head offices to the top floors of these buildings. As a result of unchecked development, anyone not part of this new elite could ever dream of purchasing or even renting a house in these desirable downtown locations. This has led to increasing urban sprawl and the dislocation of less affluent residents to outside of the downtown. This sprawl makes maintaining infrastructure difficult. For the most part in 2040, local decision makers support technical solutions to water related challenges (e.g. desalinization plants to meet increasing demand for potable water) rather than address in the root causes (e.g. ways to reduce demand for water, matching quality of water for use, etc.).

The Story of Disaster Prepared Vancouver

The year is 2040, and Vancouver has heeded the warnings about the risks of living on an unstable coastline where the threats of earthquakes, tsunamis and other disasters could wipe out large areas of the city. Local leaders also know these damages could be exacerbated by oil spills due to broken pipelines. Vancouver is prepared for a variety of natural disasters and is equipped with control infrastructure (e.g. floodgates, warning systems, etc.), emergency response strategies, evacuation plans, system redundancy and decentralized water systems (e.g. rainwater harvesting) to supply residents. The city also values naturalized features, since too much concrete and ridged infrastructure inhibits the natural resilience of the landscape and urban system to recover. When the big earthquake and tsunami of 2023 occurred, the city rebounded quickly with minimal damage thanks to aggressive preparatory measures and first respondents who were well prepared to handle disaster response with a variety of tools and supplies. However, the less affluent tended to be less prepared as it required additional resources.

The Story of Transport Hub Vancouver

The global transport of resources, people, and ideas has accelerated over the past 25 years. Vancouver has taken deliberate steps to be a central node in this global network and has established world-class infrastructure to support virtual and physical movement. Vancouver exists at the nexus of Asia, North America, and beyond linking it to some of the largest markets and communities in the world. It was challenging to plan for this future in 2014, as it was uncertain whether fossil fuels or alternative energies would be prevalent. As Vancouver was developing its transportation infrastructure, local planners realised this would create more impervious surfaces which would impede water infiltration. So they opted where possible to use environmentally responsive materials to support long-term viability. This transport ideology has led local Vancouver culture to continue developing as a smorgasbord with a vibrant blend of people from all over the world.


Canadian Water Network
RBC Blue Water