FEATURE ARTICLE: Sustainable Watershed Systems – Nature’s Assets Provide Vital Community Infrastructure Services (published in Innovation Magazine, Sep-Oct 2016)
Note to Reader:
The September-October 2016 issue of Innovation Magazine, the Journal of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (APEGBC), featured noteworthy presentations from three professional development sessions in advance of the 2016 Annual Conference in October 2016. One of these articles introduced the APEGBC membership to a new BC sustainability initiative that advances integration of watershed assets into everyday community infrastructure planning and management.
Create a Legacy:
Sustainable Watershed Systems,
through Asset Management
The executive of the APEGBC Municipal Engineering Division invited Kim Stephens, Executive Director with the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC, to make a presentation on Sustainable Watershed Systems at the 2016 Annual Conference in Victoria.
“We’re very interested in the work that Kim Stephens and the Partnership are doing around asset management and sustainable water sheds,” explained Sara Brodie, Development Engineering & Building Supervisor with the City of Campbell River.
Spread the Word
“After looking over the program topics, we invited Kim Stephens to write an article for Innovation magazine that would help spread word about his presentation, titled Create a Legacy: Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management, as well as provide a sneak peek for conference attendees,” states Monique Kieran in providing context for the article.
Monique Kieran is the Managing Editor and Publications Specialist with APEGBC.
“The article complements Kim’s presentation, provides greater depth about aspects of the subject, and serves as a sort of proceedings article for the conference presentation.”
Mimic the Natural Water Balance
According to Kim Stephens, the essence of the storyline is that: “What happens on the land does matter. A watershed is an integrated system, and therefore must be protected and managed as such. Restoring hydrologic integrity, and thus mimic the Water Balance, is the pathway to a water-resilient future.”
“The Partnership for Water Sustainability, Province, UBCM and Asset Management BC are aligning efforts to advance implementation of Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A Framework for BC,” he adds.
“The four share a commitment to a whole systems approach to community development and infrastructure servicing. The Partnership contribution is integration of “watershed systems thinking” into the BC Framework. This means restore hydrologic integrity and mimic the natural Water Balance through a blend of engineered assets and nature’s services.”
The article is a collaborative effort of Kim Stephens, Glen Brown (Union of BC Municipalities), and Brian Bedford (BC Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development).
Nature’s Assets Provide Vital Community Infrastructure Services
“In North America, community asset management traditionally focuses on hard engineered assets—water mains, sanitary and storm sewers, roads, and so on. However, communities are starting to recognize the value of natural assets and their role in local government service delivery, and include natural assets in their asset management programs,” state the authors.
Avoid Expensive Fixes
“Restoring hydrologic integrity, and thus the water balance, is key to a water-resilient future, and one of the aims of BC’s new Water Sustainability Act (2014). As communities are finding, failure to protect water-balance pathways carries financial, level-of-service, and lifecycle costs for taxpayers.”
“These costs include expensive and ongoing fixes in an era when local governments are challenged to fund and replace aging built infrastructure such as water and sewage systems, road networks and buildings.”
Manage as Integrated Systems
“Communities would benefit from shifting their definitions of community infrastructure to include entire watersheds. Including the components and pathways of a watershed system among infrastructure assets, and both managing them as integrated systems to maintain the natural water balance within communities and protecting them, would help communities avoid incurring expensive fixes and unfunded liability.”
“This kind of watershed-systems thinking includes all components of a watershed, and encompasses both human and ecosystem needs.”
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