The New Paradigm: Watershed Systems as Infrastructure Assets (Fall 2015)

Note to Reader:

Figure1_provincial game-changersThe Fall 2015 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter includes an article by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC. Co-authored by Kim Stephens (Partnership Executive Director), Kate Miller (Cowichan Valley Regional District) and Richard Boase (District of North Vancouver), the article provides context and describes why “Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework” and two other provincial game-changers are drivers for Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management. It then introduces the ‘Water OUT= Water IN’ mind-map for looking at the Water Balance differently. Finally, the article enlightens how the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative (IREI) would facilitate integration of watershed systems thinking and adaptation to a changing climate into asset management.


Feast AND Famine: Moving Towards “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management”

The ‘new normal’ in British Columbia is floods and droughts. The summer dry season has extended on both ends and we can no longer count on a predictable snowpack and reliable rain to maintain a healthy water balance in our watersheds. Annual volumes of water entering and exiting our regions are not necessarily changing; instead, what is changing is how and when water arrives – it is feast AND famine!

What Happens on the Land Matters!

A systems approach to watershed health and protection recognizes that actions on the land have consequences for the three pathways to streams and hence the water balance of the watershed. Those consequences are felt in both dry weather and wet weather – too little or too much water, respectively.

Local governments regulate how land is developed, drained and serviced. This means local governments have the authority and ability to determine and Mimic-Water Balance_Feb-2014implement watershed-based volume targets that would help to prevent drainage impacts in wet weather and also maintain an adequate water supply in dry weather for human and/or ecosystem needs.

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.

The Goal: Protect ‘Water Balance Services’

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, interflow, 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.

Of the three drivers shown in the graphic above, Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework is the lynch-pin for local governments to protect (restore) hydrologic integrity and watershed health

To Learn More:

Released in February 2014, the Primer on Water Balance Methodology for Protecting Watershed Health is primarily written for a technical audience, and provides the water resource practitioner with how-to-guidance for applying an analytical process to establish Watershed-based Targets that “mimic the Natural Water Balance”.

Released in December 2014, Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A Framework for BC makes the link between local government services, the infrastructure that supports the delivery of those services, and watershed health.

To download and read the complete article by Kim Stephens et al in the Fall 2015 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter, click on Feast AND Famine: Moving Towards “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management”

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