AVOID THE PAIN, BE DELIBERATE, FUND THE PLAN: “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, Chair of Asset Management BC
Note to Reader:
Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the vision for Living Water Smart in British Columbia to build greener communities and adapt to a changing climate; and embrace “design with nature” approaches to reconnect people, land, fish, and water in altered landscapes.
On May 17, 2022, Waterbucket eNews celebrated “Asset Management Awareness Day in British Columbia” by featuring Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework, released in December 2014. This is a case study illustration of how to achieve desired outcomes provincially by influencing behaviour at the local government scale over time.
Integration of Stream Systems into ‘Sustainable Drainage Service Delivery’
Know your history. Understand the context. These are key thoughts, and they provide an over-arching perspective for stories published on Waterbucket eNews. In this edition, we feature the “story behind the story” for Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework.
Released in December 2014 by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) through Asset Management BC, the game-changing BC Framework is a case study illustration of how to achieve desired outcomes provincially by influencing behaviour at the local government scale over time.
Why the BC Framework is a game-changer
The BC Framework establishes expectations; it does not prescribe solutions. It is a game-changer because it redefines the context for deciding how infrastructure is planned, financed, implemented, and maintained. It raises questions about how communities would service urbanizing and redeveloping areas in future.
Most importantly, the BC Framework emphasizes the paramount nature of the services that constructed infrastructure provides. The BC Framework also shines the spotlight on what the life-cycle costs are over time to maintain, renew or replace assets such as pipes, pumps, roads and buildings.
Vision for fully integrated and sustainable service delivery in BC
The BC Framework also points the way to a holistic and integrated approach to asset management. Nature, and the ecosystem services that it provides, are viewed as a fundamental and integral part of a community’s infrastructure system. This is not to suggest that all ecosystem services provide a municipal function.
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.
BC Framework inextricably linked to senior government grant programs
A longstanding goal of the Ministry of the Municipal Affairs is to find a balance between supporting those local governments who are leaders, while over time raising the bar to encourage the rest.
Over time, the process has been one of incrementally raising the bar in defined steps – awareness first, then education, and finally, full implementation.
To learn more, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery in the District of Oak Bay.
“It takes courage on the part of a Council or Regional Board members to look beyond the short-term, understand what sustainable funding entails over the long-term, and direct staff to get on with the job. This is the local government reality-check,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Partnership Executive Director.
“In November 2015, release of Beyond the Guidebook 2015: Moving Towards “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management” launched an educational process led by the Partnership for Water Sustainability. Alignment with the BC Framework is the context for the focus on asset management in the title.”
“The program goal is to encourage local governments to reframe how they look at urbanizing watersheds, and then connect the dots between drainage infrastructure and stream health. Moreover, getting an unfunded liability under control is the incentive for local governments to move from stopgap remediation to long-term solutions.”
Integration of Stream Systems into ‘Sustainable Drainage Service Delivery’
“When one thinks about asset management, it is often in the context of municipal infrastructure and how this provides the ‘water service’ or the ‘sanitary sewer service’, and so on. The Drainage Service is the neglected service, and the cost of neglect grows over time,” continued Kim Stephens.
“The consequence of neglect is an accumulating financial liability to fund creek channel stabilization and riparian corridor restoration in urban and rural settings. Thus, the Partnership mission is to focus attention on this foundational concept: Drainage infrastructure and the stream system together constitute the municipal Drainage Service.”
“The urgency of the drainage liability issue spurred the Partnership’s analytical process that linked municipal asset management and stream health as ’cause-and-effect’, for better of for worse. The Asset Management Continuum serves as a road map for moving from stopgap remediation to long-term solutions.”
Continuum of Steps”
“he asset management journey for a local government is a ‘continuum of steps’ as illustrated below. Step One is embrace the BC Framework. Step Two is implement Sustainable Service Delivery. Step Three is apply the Ecological Accounting Process.” explained Kim Stephens.
“There is typically no funding mechanism for stream maintenance and management (M&M) such as for water and sanitary sewer utilities. So, the unfunded liability caused by drainage impacts grows over time. Once the life-cycle approach is standard practice for constructed assets, getting to Step Three would be so much easier!”
To learn more, download a PDF copy of
To learn more, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart: Adapting Asset Management to Climate Realities.
‘Sustainable Service Delivery’ explained
Glen Brown coined the term Sustainable Service Delivery in 2010 when he was an Executive Director with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. Formal branding came with release of Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework in December 2014, and rollout in 2015. The emphasis on service is a game-changer for local government infrastructure asset management.
At that time, and thanks to the early work of the then newly formed Asset Management BC, chaired by Glen Brown, local governments were just starting to wrap their minds around the ‘20/80 Rule’ and the implications of the 80% as an unfunded liability.
It is all about the service
“My inspiration came from Guy Felio, one of the original gurus of asset management nationally. Guy said, ‘It’s all about the service’, because infrastructure/ assets are worthless IF they do not provide a service,” explains Glen Brown.
“That is what resonated with me. Also, Guy Felio said, for any asset management approach to be successful, it must not focus on the infrastructure asset by itself. That way-of-thinking applies to nature and the environment as well.”
A Synthesis of Three Ideas
During a curriculum planning session for a local government workshop organized by the Partnership for Water Sustainability, Glen Brown synthesized three themes – financial accountability, infrastructure sustainability, service delivery – into a single easy to remember phrase: Sustainable Service Delivery. The rest is history, as they say.
Glen Brown coined the term to focus local government attention on two desired outcomes that flow from policy objectives in Living Water Smart, BC’s Water Plan.
Desired outcome #1: Local governments would shift the spotlight from the infrastructure itself to the service AND the level-of-service that the infrastructure asset provides.
Desired outcome #2: Local governments would implement a life-cycle approach to asset management AND eliminate the unfunded gap for infrastructure replacement.
The 4Cs for Sustainable Service Delivery: Collaboration, Capacity, Culture & Council
“After becoming CAO of Courtenay, BC in 2013, we began exploring how to implement an Asset Management Program at the City. Collaborating with external agencies opened our minds to thinking of AM practices in far broader terms, so that they might be applied in any community, regardless of size,” states David Allen, Past-Chair (2012-2020), Asset Management BC Community-of-Practice.
“We didn’t realize it, at the time, but it led to us eventually conclude that operationalizing AM would involve four separate, interconnected initiatives that would be the pathway for our journey toward Sustainable Service Delivery: They coalesced into what we locally refer to as The 4C’s – Collaboration, Capacity, Culture, and Council.”
“It is all about building trust between Council and staff, keeping in mind what can realistically be accomplished by an organization, and being clear about the limitations of the current state-of-practice and knowledge and our ability to explain what the numbers mean in that context.”
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