SUSTAINABLE CREEKSHED SYSTEMS AND THE ASSET MANAGEMENT CONTINUUM: “We needed a way to illustrate diagrammatically what the journey by a local government to the eventual Sustainable Service Delivery destination would look like. This led us to the concept of a continuum. The relevance of this way of thinking is that different local governments will always be at different points and different levels of maturity along the asset management continuum. This is why we focus on outcomes and do not prescribe what to do in BC,” stated Glen Brown, Asset Management BC Chair, when he unveiled the continuum at the 2015 Annual Workshop organized by the Partnership for Water Sustainability

Note to Reader:

During the years 2013 through 2017, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia organized and co-hosted the Water Sustainability Annual Workshop Series through a partnership with the Irrigation Industry Association of BC. In December 2015, the Feast AND Famine Workshop addressed this over-arching question:

What should we expect and what can we do to build “water-resilient communities”? The program comprised four modules that were cascading – from high-level visioning to ground-level applications – and showcased solutions and tools to address risk and build resiliency. Adaptation to a changing climate was a unifying theme.

“Feast AND Famine” attracted attracted media attention, resulting in front-page headline stories in both of BC’s major daily newspapers. This led to further radio and TV coverage when the 2015 drought was voted BC’s top news story of the year in an online poll. 


Download a copy of an article titled Feast AND Famine, Flood AND Drought: Solutions and tools for building water-resilient communities, and published in the March 2016 edition of Watermark magazine. This built on an article titled Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: Supporting the Vision for Integration of Natural Systems Thinking into “The BC Framework”, published in the August 2015 edition of Watermark magazine.

These articles provide important context for “Feast AND Famine Module D”, which was titled Sustainable Service Delivery for Watershed Systems. Module D featured UBCM’s Glen Brown in his leadership role as Chair of Asset Management BC. His presentation is the subject of the story that follows below. 

Sustainable Service Delivery for Watershed Systems

Context is everything. In August 2015, the article published in Watermark magazine and co-authored by Kim Stephens, Glen Brown and Wally Wells opened with this statement:

“Released in December 2014, Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework is a game-changer. It signifies the dawn of a new era for British Columbia local government in terms of how communities service urbanizing and redeveloping areas; and define how infrastructure is planned, financed, implemented and maintained. A ‘new business as usual’ is emerging and extends beyond traditional municipal infrastructure to encompass services that nature provides, including hydrologic integrity and watershed health.”

“The article was transformational in scope because it explained the BC Framework, introduced the ‘asset management continuum’, and foreshadowed how the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative (IREI) would integrate ‘natural systems thinking’ into the BC Framework – to protect watershed health, restore hydrologic integrity, and tackle the ‘unfunded infrastructure liability’ that is the unwanted legacy of historical ‘storm water management’,” recalls Kim Stephens.

What the Asset Management Continuum Means in Practice

“The article established the context for a lunch meeting that I had with Glen Brown in mid-October 2015 to brainstorm what he would present in his module six weeks later at the Feast AND Famine Workshop. Looking back, one must keep in mind that introduction of the idea of ‘sustainable service delivery for watershed systems’ was a bold leap forward in 2015. Consider that it was still early days for mainstreaming Sustainable Service Delivery as the desired standard of practice for conventional municipal infrastructure.”

“Over lunch, and on a serviette as I recall, Glen Brown and I roughed out a sketch that would explain to our audience what it means to progress along the asset management continuum to achieve sustainable service delivery. Uppermost in our minds was the need to seed the idea of integrating natural systems into asset management, but without scaring local governments at a time when most had yet to reconcile what sustainable service delivery meant in practice. Glen transformed our sketch into a slide for presentation at the workshop.”

“BRANDING GRAPHIC 1.0” – The original version of the slide that Glen Brown used in December 2015 to introduce the idea of integrating natural systems into municipal infrastructure asset management.

Progress Incrementally Along the Continuum

“We framed the Asset Management Continuum as a series of three steps, recognizing that most local governments were at Ground Zero in 2015,” continues Glen Brown. “Our operative phrase was ‘as understanding grows’. We saw this as the key consideration for local governments progressing along the continuum. Although it might be possible, we believed it unrealistic to expect anyone to jump directly to Step Three and integrate natural systems into their asset management strategies.”

“We needed a way to illustrate this diagrammatically. This led us to the concept of a continuum. The continuum bridges two pieces. One piece is recognition that the asset management process is founded on an incremental approach. The other piece is integration of natural capital, natural assets and watershed systems thinking.”

“At the 2015 Feast AND Famine Workshop, I explained that implementation of asset management along with the associated evolution of local government thinking is a continuous process, not a discrete task. Some local governments are advanced. Some are just starting out. Our approach is not to dictate or prescribe what to do.”

“Over time, capacity and expertise will increase for asset management. We are saying the same thing for integration of natural assets. Local governments, over time, will progress. A desired outcome is that they will eventually incorporate natural capital into their asset management processes, and that will recognize the financial value of natural systems.”

Watch the video of Glen Brown’s presentation in 2015 on YouTube:

Water Balance Pathway to a Water-Resilient Future

“Within six months of Glen’s unveiling of the Asset Management Continuum, the BC Society of Landscape Architects (BCSLA), provided the Partnership with a reason to enhance the look-and-feel of the graphic. BCSLA invited the Partnership to provide the content for an entire issue of their Sitelines magazine,” states Kim Stephens.

“In the issue, which we titled Water Balance Pathway to a Water-Resilient Future, we explained that the natural pathways by which rainfall reaches streams are nature’s ‘infrastructure assets’. They provide Water Balance Services that blend with services provided by engineered assets (infrastructure).”

“We framed the context with this statement: the Water Balance of watersheds in urban areas is out of balance. A legacy of community and infrastructure design practices has failed to protect the water balance. In an era when BC’s climate is changing (wetter, warmer winters and longer, drier summers), the consequences are feast AND famine, flood AND drought.”

“We started out at a high level, presented tools developed by the Partnership, and concluded with a watershed focus. Co-authored by Glen Brown and Ray Fung, the last article in the special issue was titled Sustainable Service Delivery: Watersheds are infrastructure assets.”

Asset Management & Ecosystem Services

“The BC Framework is a game-changer because it is strategically aligned with asset management requirements under senior government funding programs, in particular the Gas Tax Program. The BC Framework also points the way to integration of natural systems thinking and climate change thinking into asset management,” wrote Glen Brown.

“The ultimate vision for fully integrated Sustainable Service Delivery is that communities would protect, preserve, restore and manage natural assets in the same way that they manage their engineered assets.”

“A watershed, and the ecosystem services that it provides, is a fundamental and integral part of a community’s infrastructure. This is not to suggest that all ecosystem services provide a municipal function. But as an example, trees, soil, green spaces and water do contribute a valuable municipal function in maintaining the hydrologic integrity of a healthy watershed system.”

“Once refined and normalized, integrating natural capital into an asset management framework would allow local governments to truly move towards Sustainable Service Delivery!”

To Learn More:

To read the complete article by Glen Brown and Ray Fung, download a copy of Sustainable Service Delivery: Watersheds are infrastructure assets.

“BRANDING GRAPHIC 2.0” – As published in Sitelines Magazine in June 2016.


EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, is a Land Use Perspective

In November 2015, release of Beyond the Guidebook 2015: Moving Towards “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management” introduced EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, and led to the third iteration of the Asset Management Continuum.

Asset Maintenance and Management (M&M)

The strength of EAP is in how it looks at and values streams as systems and as a land use.  A stream corridor is a land use because it satisfies two criteria: it is defined in the Riparian Areas Protection Regulations Act, and it has a financial value.

A stream corridor is a “Natural Commons” and its financial value is defined as the Natural Commons Asset (NCA) value. EAP uses BC Assessment data to find the financial value of a stream.  EAP puts M&M of stream corridors and wetlands on an equal footing with say, pipes and pumps.

BRANDING GRAPHIC 3.0:  This enhanced version provided further clarity by spelling out EAP as Step Three