SUSTAINABLE WATERSHED SYSTEMS, THROUGH ASSET MANAGEMENT: “Collaboration is leading to precedents for integrating watershed systems with land use and infrastructure decisions,” stated Jon Lefebure, Chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District
Note to Reader:
Collaborating under the umbrella of the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative (IREI), the Cowichan Valley Regional District is one of five regional districts sharing and learning from each other about how to implement “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management”.
The other IREI partners are Capital Region, Nanaimo Region, Comox Valley and Metro Vancouver. Together, the five represent 75% of British Columbia’s population. The not-for-profit Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC is the IREI secretariat.
In March 2017, the governments of Canada and British Columbia announced program funding for Sustainable Watershed Systems. The Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) acted on behalf of the partners to receive the capacity-building grant from the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund (CWWF).
Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework
“Achieving sustainable service delivery is the primary objective of asset management. The province, in partnership with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and Asset Management BC, developed the BC Framework to support local governments moving towards service, asset and financial sustainability,” said the Honourable Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.
“The BC Framework sets a strategic direction that would refocus business processes on outcomes that reduce life-cycle costs and risks. It links local government services, infrastructure that supports service delivery, and watershed health.
“The BC Framework sets a strategic direction that refocuses business processes on outcomes that reduce life-cycle costs and risks. It links local government services, infrastructure that supports service delivery, and watershed health.
“No longer is asset management only about hard engineered assets such as watermains, sewers and roads. The BC Framework encourages local governments to manage their natural assets in the same way they manage their hard engineered assets.
“The program goals for the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative are aligned with this strategic direction. Work needs to be done today to ensure we have a secure water future. Benefits are long-term.
“Successful implementation provincewide of Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management, would represent an evolution in how infrastructure is planned, financed, implemented and maintained in British Columbia,” concluded Minister Fassbender.
To Learn More:
Download Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework, released in December 2014.
Benefits of Local Government Collaboration
“Local government collaboration under the umbrella of the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative (IREI) is producing tools and resources that will help communities integrate watershed systems with land use and infrastructure decisions. There is no reason for any of us to re-invent the wheel. We are sharing and learning from each other. We are cross-pollinating our experience. Collaboration is leading to precedents for getting it right,” explained Jon Lefebure, CVRD Chair.
“The CVRD has been an active partner for over ten years and has benefited from the tools, professional development and working relationships made possible through our membership in the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.
“The CVRD has identified the challenges regarding drainage due to development and the need for a whole-system, water balance approach to get it right. Through the IREI program, we can explore and test solutions. The IREI enables local governments to leverage resources for common activities such as education, research and policy development.”
“The focus of the IREI work plan is to promote integration of service, natural asset and financial sustainability through an asset management process to achieve a healthy watershed.
“Other regions recognize BC as a leader in this area. They perceive BC moving in the right direction with integration of watershed systems thinking and climate change adaptation into asset management,” said Chair Lefebure.
Moving from Awareness to Understanding to Implementation
“The Partnership for Water Sustainability develops tools and provides professional development on behalf of government,” said Ted van der Gulik, Partnership President.
“The IREI was launched in 2012. A year ago regional district partners recommitted through 2021. The current IREI program focus and goal is: Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management.
“Understanding leads to action. Getting there is a step-by-step process. Presently, we are creating awareness. Early uptake of the vision for Sustainable Watershed Systems has exceeded our expectations.
“There is clearly interest and an appetite to learn more. It is an idea whose time has come. Starting in November 2015, we have introduced the vision to an array of audiences in a variety of forums and media.
“The next phase of the work plan will demonstrate how to integrate whole-system, water balance thinking and climate adaptation into drainage infrastructure asset management.
“Benefits would include less flooding, less stream erosion, and more streamflow during dry weather when needed most. These water balance benefits would ultimately translate into lower life-cycle costs and a water-resilient future.
“The work of the Partnership links directly to Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework. Once local governments have fully implemented a life-cycle approach to infrastructure decision-making, such that Sustainable Service Delivery for engineered assets is standard practice, the next step would be to account for the Water Balance Services provided by nature’s assets.
“In the interim, the Partnership’s job is to teach, train and mentor practitioners so that they are ready for that next step,” concluded Ted van Gulik.
Did You Know:
The Partnership for Water Sustainability:
- Develops tools and implements programs that are accessible and replicable.
- Tackles “the disconnect” between information and implementation.
- Facilitates alignment of regional and local actions with the provincial policy, program and regulatory framework.
- Profiles. showcases and celebrates local government successes through professional development and outreach.