FINANCIAL VALUATION OF STREAM CORRIDORS AS ECOLOGICAL SYSTEMS:“A central idea of the EAP methodology is that a stream is a land use. If the stream did not exist, the land it occupies would be in the same use as nearby development. A stream is a land use because the area of the setback zone is defined in regulations,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair, Ecological Accounting Process Initiative (May 2021)

Note to Reader:

The EAP program has three stages: Test / Refine / Mainstream. During 2017 and 2018, two Stage 1 demonstration applications tested the concept, and demonstrated EAP relevance to local government. In 2019, two Stage 2 demonstration applications resulted in working definitions and consistent application of the EAP methodology. In 2020, the Partnership for Water Sustainability initiated the  first of six  Stage 3 case studies that will be completed by early 2022.

Each EAP case study is unique  Creekshed-specific questions framed by partner local government  partners define the research objectives. Each demonstration application yields key lessons and results in fresh observations.

The parallel concepts of the NATURAL COMMONS and the CONSTRUCTED COMMONS enable residents, elected persons, and practitioners to consider ecological services and use of land (development) as equally important.

Ecological Accounting Process is a Game-Changer

“In late 2015, the Partnership for Water Sustainability introduced the vision for EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process. The driver for EAP is degradation of stream channels and streamside protection areas. EAP addresses the elephant in the room which is the unfunded cost (hence liability) to protect, remediate or enhance stream systems in urban and rural landscapes,” states Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

“The EAP methodology and metrics have been developed to support Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery. Moreover, EAP is a pillar of the whole-system, water balance approach to integration of land and water management. The program for Sustainable Creekshed Systems, through Asset Management is a foundation piece for the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia. In turn, the Action Plan is nested within Living Water Smart in British Columbia.”

EAP Bridges a Gap

“EAP satisfies a local government need for a financial methodology and metrics for valuation of ecological assets. Most importantly, EAP interweaves the financial, social and ecological perspectives within a single number.”

“This number is defined as the Natural Commons Asset (NCA) value. The end goal is an annual budget for ‘maintenance and management’ (M&M) of stream systems.”

“The NCA value puts the discussion of natural assets (stream systems) on an equal footing with constructed assets (physical infrastructure). This is a game-chamber. Environmental planners now have a starting point for a conversation with engineers and accountants about the services that natural and constructed assets both provide.”

‘It has been five years of determined effort by EAP Chair Tim Pringle and his team to test, refine and mainstream EAP. This has been accomplished through collaboration with a group of local government partners willing to break new ground. Each EAP project advances refinement of the methodology.”

“Each case study is unique in that partner communities frame creekshed-specific questions to be addressed by their EAP application. Each case study yields key lessons and results in fresh observations. Each has supported the depth of analysis for subsequent EAP applications.”

To Learn More:

Visit the EAP homepage on the Green Infrastructure Community-of-Interest: Download copies of the reports on EAP demonstration applications that have been released to date.

A Stream is a Land Use and provides a
“Package of Ecological Services”

The EAP methodology focuses on the historical and current land use practices that have changed landscapes, modified hydrology, and have led to present-day community perceptions of the worth of the stream or creekshed and the ecological services it provides. A whole-system understanding is the starting point for developing meaningful metrics,” states Tim Pringle, EAP Chair.

“The starting point for application of EAP is recognition that local governments have existing tools in the form of policies and legislation for ‘maintenance and management’ (M&M) of ecological assets within riparian corridors.”

Three Big Areas

“In EAP reports, readers will encounter some uncommon concepts about the use and conservation of land as applied to natural asset management. EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, considers use and conservation of land to be equally important values for prosperous human settlements.”

The First Big Idea: 

“Streams are Natural Commons, systems that provide ecological services (uses) that the community jointly can access and enjoy. The idea of the commons includes social, ecological and financial qualities.”

“Use and conservation of natural commons assets implies a social contract; that these natural assets will be maintained and managed to ensure access to ecological services in the future. The community has similar expectation concerning constructed commons – roads, storm drainage systems, potable water systems.”

The Second Big Idea:

“A stream in settled areas is a Land Use. The setback zone for streamside protection is defined in the Riparian Areas Protection Regulation. The financial value of the setback zone is measured using BC Assessment data. This calculation may be used to assign financial value to riparian areas beyond the stream setback zone that are conserved to enhance the stream’s functioning condition.”

The Third Big Idea:

“A stream is an ecological system that has Worth, described by the investment the community has made to maintain and manage the stream.  The stream, depending on its ecological condition, may influence positively or negatively the financial value of nearby parcels of land.”

EAP Metrics Focus on Parcel (Land Only) Assessments

“A central idea of the EAP methodology is that a stream is a land use. If the stream did not exist, the land it occupies would be in the same use as nearby development. A stream is a land use because the area of the setback zone is defined in regulations.”

“In turn, EAP describes this land use as the Natural Commons Asset, or NCA. And furthermore, a proxy financial value can be assigned to the NCA using BC Assessment data for abutting or adjacent parcels.”

“BC Assessment separates land values from the worth of improvements. BC Assessment data reflects the influence of buyer and seller behaviour over time. BC Assessment values for classes of property are based on completed real estate transactions. They are not appraisals.”

“The NCA provides a ‘range of uses’ desired by the community. These are described as the package of ecological services. They are the benefits and values that the stream system, or NCA, provides to the public: drainage, recreational and cultural value, and critical habitat.”

To Learn More:

The Primer on the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) – A Methodology for Valuing the ‘Water Balance Services’ Provided by Nature is the seventh in a series of guidance documents that form the basis for knowledge-transfer via the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative (IREI). The foundation document for the series is Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, released in 2002.