Restore Watershed Hydrology and Re-Set the Ecological Baseline: “A goal of the IREI program is to embed state-of-the-art hydrology in engineering ‘standard practice’,” says Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability
Note to Reader:
Rolled out in 2015, Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework goes to the heart of what local government does on an everyday basis. The BC Framework sets a strategic direction that refocuses business processes on outcomes that reduce life-cycle costs and risks. The BC Framework is a potentially powerful regulatory driver for transforming drainage engineering practice at the site scale.
Launched in 2012, the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative (IREI) is aligned with the vision for Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A Framework for BC. Currently, the IREI is funded by the governments of Canada and British Columbia to develop tools and resources that would help local governments implement “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management”.
Sustainable Service Delivery in BC
The BC Framework provides a high level overview of what is needed to develop, implement and maintain strong asset management practices for local governments.
“The BC Framework makes the link between local government services, the infrastructure that supports the delivery of those services, and the health of watershed systems. The BC Framework was developed by a partnership comprised of the Union of BC Municipalities, Asset Management BC and the Province,” explains Wally Wells, Executive Director, Asset Management BC. He is also a Director of NALT, the Nanaimo & Area Land Trust.
Asset Management Explained
“Asset management is a continuous process, not a discrete task,” emphasizes Wally Wells. “Too much emphasis is too often placed on the ‘Asset Management Plan.’ The PLAN is only a part of the overall process. The PROCESS deals with all of the components necessary to refocus the business process to achieve three desired outcomes.
“First, properly manage a community’s infrastructure within the built environment. Secondly, understand the life-cycle implications of managing the built and natural environments as integrated components of a healthy watershed. Thirdly, inform and educate elected representatives and citizens.
“The asset management process is a continuum. The process starts with the engineered assets that local governments provide. Communities will progress along the continuum incrementally as their understanding grows. By also accounting for and integrating the services that nature provides, over time communities can achieve the goal of Sustainable Service Delivery for watershed systems.”
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Coined in 2010, the term Sustainable Service Delivery was introduced by the Province to integrate financial accountability, infrastructure sustainability and service delivery. When the BC Framework was launched in early 2015, it quickly garnered both national and international attention. Other provinces, as well as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, are integrating the BC Framework into their respective work.
Download a copy of the short-form version of Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework.
Sustainable Watershed Systems
“Among land and drainage practitioners, how water gets to a stream and how long it takes is not well understood. Unintended consequences of this failure to ‘get it right’ include degraded urban streams, more flooding, more stream erosion, less streamflow when needed most, and an unfunded infrastructure liability,” states Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.
“Consequences are cascading – failure to protect the natural water balance creates and exacerbates risks; floods and droughts impact more often; unfunded liabilities grow over time. This legacy of ‘avoidable consequences’ has financial implications for taxpayers.
Water Balance Approach
“Alignment with the BC Framework would enable and support the transition of drainage practice from ‘voodoo hydrology’ to a water balance approach branded as Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management.
“In 2006, American engineer and textbook author Andy Reese coined the term voodoo hydrology to both describe drainage practice and draw attention to the need for changing the way drainage engineers practice their trade.
“The process to adopt, change or evolve standards of practice is slow. Bridging the gap between policy and action relies on local governments that lead by example and undertake how-to-do-it demonstration applications,” concludes Kim Stephens.
“The BC Framework sets a strategic direction that refocuses business processes on outcomes that reduce life-cycle costs and risks. The program goals for the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative (IREI) are aligned with this strategic direction,” stated the Hon. Peter Fassbender when he announced (in March 2017) funding for the IREI program through 2018. The vision for implementation of a whole-system, water balance approach is to protect and/or restore stream health.
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“We have for years relied upon common design methodologies and trusted their results,” states Andy Reese. “But should we? It is an inexact science at best. We rely on judgment and guesswork. Perhaps, if we make enough estimates of enough factors, the errors will average out to the right answer. This is where voodoo really comes in handy.”
“My old friend Dr. Tom Debo, late of Georgia Tech and co-author of our textbook Municipal Stormwater Management, is fond of saying, ‘I love urban hydrology. They can never prove you are wrong, only inconsistent.’ “
Andy Reese is a leading American water resources engineer and popular writer, speaker, and co-author of the best-selling textbook Municipal Stormwater Management. He is known for his mantra: Stormwater – Back to the Future.
He is a recognized national leader in the development of local stormwater programs, LID design, green infrastructure, and financing studies for local government including participating in and managing the development of over 25 stormwater utilities.
In February 2013, Andy Reese delivered a webinar for Forester University titled Voodoo Hydrology – Pitfalls of Urban Hydrology Methods & What You Need to Know. The webinar triggered an overwhelming response. So much so that it has become an annual series.
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