New Paradigm: Watershed Systems as Infrastructure Assets

 

Note to Reader:

In September 2015, Kim Stephens of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC met with Metro Vancouver’s Stormwater Interagency Liaison Group (SILG), a technical committee comprising representatives of the region’s municipalities and other agencies.

The SILG presentation was an opportunity to initiate what the Partnership describes as a “soft rollout” of Beyond the Guidebook 2015: Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management. This is a deliverable under the umbrella of the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative (IREI).

To download a PDF copy of the PowerPoint presentation by Kim Stephens, click on Watershed Health, Resilient Rainwater Management and Sustainable Service Delivery: Collaborative Initiatives Will Help Local Governments Better Deliver on Regulatory Compliance.

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Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management

A watershed is an integrated system, is infrastructure, and must be viewed as an asset that provides municipal services. Watershed systems thinking covers the continuum from water supply to drainage, and encompasses human and/or ecosystem needs.

Kim Stephens_IMG_1611_120p“One of my purposes in meeting with SILG was to provide them with both context and a look ahead regarding the relevance to them of three landmark initiatives that came to fruition in 2014, namely:Water Sustainability Act, Develop with Care 2014, and Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework. Together the three provide a platform for integrated and coordinated actions to protect watershed health,” reports Kim Stephens, Partnership Executive Director.

“The three provincial initiatives are game-changers. They are drivers for a desired outcome that the Partnership is branding as Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management. Over the next two years, the IREI program would progressively inform and educate an expanding network of practitioners on how to integrate watershed systems thinking and climate change adaptation into asset management.”

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Protect the Water Balance

“Where a local government regulates land use, a watershed is an integral part of the drainage infrastructure assets of the local government. More specifically, the three pathways (surface, shallow lateral flow, groundwater) by which rainfall reaches streams are infrastructure assets. They provide ‘water balance services’. As such, protection and maintenance of the three pathways has financial, level-of-service and life-cycle implications for asset management,” emphasized Kim Stephens.

“What happens on the land does matter – for example, hardening the land surface short-circuits the water cycle (balance). The result: either too little or too much flow in watercourses. Consequences include avoidable and expensive fixes in an era when communities are challenged to fund and replace essential infrastructure services. Hence, the financial (economic) benefits of protecting urban watersheds are three-fold:

  • Mimic-Water Balance_Feb-2014Avoidance of financial liability due to short-circuiting.
  • Reduction of capital and operational costs.
  • Provision of ‘water balance’ services at less cost.”

“The need to protect headwater streams and groundwater resources in BC requires that communities expand their view from one that looks at the site by itself, to one that considers the site, watershed, stream and aquifer as an integrated system.”

“The Water Balance Methodology provides a logical and straightforward way to assess potential impacts resulting from urban development; and analytically demonstrate the effectiveness of the methods proposed for preventing and/or mitigating those impacts,” concluded Kim Stephens.

To Learn More:

To download a PDF copy of the PowerPoint presentation by Kim Stephens, click on Watershed Health, Resilient Rainwater Management and Sustainable Service Delivery: Collaborative Initiatives Will Help Local Governments Better Deliver on Regulatory Compliance.

The Water Balance Methodology is a pragmatic outcome of a ‘design with nature’ guiding philosophy that had its genesis more than two decades ago. To learn more, click on Primer on Water Balance Methodology for Protecting Watershed Health.

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