Getting the Most from Infrastructure Assets: The idea of ecological accounting (Part 1 of 2) (Asset Management BC Newsletter, Winter 2016)
Note to Reader:
The Winter 2016 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter, published in February 2016, includes an article by Tim Pringle, Past-President, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC. The article is the first in a two-part series for the AMBC Newsletter. Tim Pringle is Chair of the Ecological Accounting Protocol Project, an initiative of the Partnership. In the article, he discusses the importance of devising an ecological accounting protocol and the valuation issues that arise.
Ecological Accounting: “The emphasis is on ‘civil services’ that provide a municipal function,” says Tim Pringle
Tim Pringle coined the phrase ecological accounting protocol to make clear the distinction vis-à-vis ecological economics. “The purpose of the proposed accounting protocol is to enable comparison of engineered infrastructure to natural systems by means of common units of measurement and value,” states Tim Pringle.
The first of his articles, in a two-part series for the AMBC Newsletter, discusses the importance of devising an ecological accounting protocol and the valuation issues that arise. The focus of Part two is on how the protocol would enable full risk and opportunity assessment of all assets owned by and available to local government.
Think Like a Watershed
“Human settlement always depends on natural assets for basic needs. Local government, at least in BC, commands the greatest influence on the use of civil services that may be drawn from natural assets,” wrote Tim Pringle.
“In this article we explore what this process looks like on the ground in the context of site development and drainage (horizontal infrastructure) and Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A Framework for BC.”
“Emphasis is on hydrologic functions, the primary natural form maker in watersheds and a key consideration in the process of land development, also a form maker in watersheds.”
The Practical Challenge
“Strategies for sustainable service delivery based on asset management can be more successful over the life cycle of infrastructure if both engineered and natural civil services are utilized. The challenge is how to calculate the most effective blend of these options.”
“Of course the need for measurement and valuation is paramount. While engineered services involve expenditures that are readily accounted, those drawn from nature do not have commonly accepted measures and values.”
“Let’s posit that ecological accounting is the process needed for this challenge. We explore the idea in the final sections of this article.”
Ecological Accounting versus Ecological Economics
“Ecological accounting differs from ecological economics,” emphasizes Tim Pringle. “The latter approach determines general values for natural systems with emphasis on influencing policy and statistical measures. The former process determines which infrastructure services may be drawn from natural assets and the cost of using those services at specific sites and throughout a watershed.”
“There appears to be little existing research to describe the cost of managing natural assets compared to engineered assets. Ecological accounting faces the challenge of monetizing natural assets and services in a way that can be compared to engineered assets and services.”
To Learn More:
Download Getting the Most from Infrastructure Assets: The Idea of Ecological Accounting to read the complete article published in the Winter (February) 2016 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter.
Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A Framework for BC
Released in December 2014, the BC Framework is a game-changer. It makes the link between local government services, the infrastructure that supports the delivery of those services, and the health of watershed systems. The Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC is collaborating with Asset Management BC to integrate “watershed systems thinking” into the Asset Management Continuum. The Partnership is the lead for development of an Ecological Accounting Protocol.