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Ecological Accounting Process

Ecological Accounting Protocol – A Tool to Calculate the Opportunity Cost of Drainage Infrastructure


“The EAP approach begins by first recognizing the importance of a stream in a natural state and then asking: how can we maintain those ecological values while allowing the stream to be used for drainage,” states Jim Dumont. Benefits of the whole-system approach would include less flooding, less stream erosion, and more streamflow during dry weather when needed most.

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ARTICLE: What Gets Measured Can Be Managed – “Over the past year, we have improved the logic of the Ecological Accounting Protocol,” wrote Tim Pringle, EAP Initiative Chair (Asset Management BC Newsletter, Winter 2017)


“The Ecological Accounting Protocol is about specific values (pricing) – not imputed, generalized values,” wrote Tim Pringle. “Since cost-avoidance, at least perceived cost-avoidance, motivates much of the decision-making process about infrastructure, and development in general, why has the obvious role of natural assets been omitted to date? The Ecological Accounting Protocol suggests it is the lack of measurement.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2006: Mini-Summit on Water for Life and Livelihoods, held in Whistler, introduced the “settlement in balance with ecology” principle to focus attention on community wellbeing (May 2006)


“The mini-summit commenced the branding process within British Columbia for use of the phrase ‘water for life and livelihoods’ to focus on what is at stake over both the short and long terms,” stated Erik Karlsen. “It was a presentation by Tim Pringle that introduced the “settlement in balance with ecology” principle to draw attention to a balanced approach to achieving social, environmental, economic well-being — with inclusive and accountable governance.”

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“The Ecological Accounting Protocol is the lynch-pin for achieving Sustainable Watershed Systems through a whole-system, water balance approach,” stated Kim Stephens at a meeting of Metro Vancouver’s Stormwater Interagency Liaison Group (Nov 2016)


“The emphasis in using the Ecological Accounting Protocol (EAP) would be on adaptive management design, rather than a prescriptive approach,” stated Kim Stephens. “The essence of EAP is that ‘Optimum Infrastructure Design = Watershed Health’. Optimum implies preserving hydrologic integrity plus achieving best opportunity-cost outcomes in the long-term. The watershed defines what goes into EAP.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2008: At the Green Developers Dialogue, Tim Pringle illustrated how Green Value had moved from market-niche to market-share on Vancouver Island


The Real Estate Foundation of BC hosted the Green Developers Roundtable at the 2008 Gaining Ground Summit. “We organized the roundtable event to engage the major Vancouver Island developers in a conversation about the factors that facilitate or hinder their efforts to design, plan for and implement development incorporating Green Value Strategies on Vancouver Island,” said Jack Hall, REFBC Chair at that time.

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“The twin technical pillars for the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative are the Water Balance Methodology and Ecological Accounting Protocol,” states Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management (released in November 2015)


“The Ministry of Environment appreciates that the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC embraces shared responsibility for the Water Sustainability Action Plan. The next phase of the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative will add to ‘Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework’ and integrate watershed systems thinking and adaptation to a changing climate into asset management,” wrote Wes Shoemaker.

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FLASHBACK TO 2007: BC Green Infrastructure Partnership promoted a new way-of-way thinking about land development —— prelude to the Ecological Accounting Protocol


To develop a common understanding, the Green Infrastructure Partnership unveiled a cascading hierarchy. “Desired outcomes for water sustainability and green infrastructure can be achieved through infrastructure standards that reflect a full and proper understanding of the relationship between land and water”, stated Kim Stephens.

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Water is a Form-Maker: Partnership for Water Sustainability showcased Ecological Accounting Protocol at FLOWnGROW workshop in the Okanagan (Nov 2016)


“Whether discussing the economy or ecological challenges, the significance and relevance of the findings from Flow and Grow is that they will be replicable throughout the province and beyond,” stated Ted van der Gulik. “The reason for this applicability is that the workshop focus was on the impacts of climate change and the need to plan now for a water sustainable future.”

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ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROTOCOL: “To protect watershed health, engineered infrastructure ought to fit into natural systems, rather than the other way around,” stated Tim Pringle at the FLOWnGROW workshop (Nov 2016)


The Protocol is an economic tool to make real the notion of ‘watersheds as infrastructure assets’. “There are some philosophical principles that guide us,” stated Tim Pringle. “Foremost is that water is an ecosystem. It supports all of the living ecology that we treasure. The other principle is that we know that practitioners have knowledge and ability to do things on the ground in a more successful, sustainable way than we often see.”

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Ian McHarg’s “Design With Nature” vision has influenced development of the Ecological Accounting Protocol


Renowned landscape architect, writer and educator Ian L. McHarg (1920-2001) was best known for introducing environmental concerns in landscape architecture. His 1969 book Design With Nature pioneered the concept of environmental planning. “The title contains a gradient of meaning. It can be interpreted as simply descriptive of a planning method, deferential to places and peoples, it can invoke the Grand Design, it can emphasize the conjunction with and, finally it can be read as an imperative. DESIGN WITH NATURE!,” wrote Ian McHarg.

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