What Happens on the Land Matters: Town of Gibsons “Eco-Asset Strategy” Incorporates Natural Capital in Infrastructure Management
Note to Reader:
In September 2015, a webinar co-hosted by the BC Water & Waste Association (BCWWA) and the Metro Vancouver Stormwater Interagency Liaison Group (SILG) introduced a provincial audience to the story of how the Town of Gibsons has embraced natural capital valuation and integrated natural capital assets, and the ecosystem services they provide, into the Town’s infrastructure.
Following the webinar, Kim Stephens of the Partnership for Water Sustainability introduced the SILG audience to 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).
Leading Change in Canada!
Gibsons is one the first Canadian municipalities to explore managing the natural capital in their community, using infrastructure and financial management concepts that are systematically applied to managing engineered assets. Their rationale is that the natural services provided by these systems, in the form of rainwater management, flood control and water purification, have tangible value to the community.
“The Town is developing a program, called Eco-Assets, which recognizes the role of nature as a fundamental component of the municipal infrastructure system, leading to a greater understanding of the value of ecosystems services and improved financial and operational management plans of the community’s natural assets,” states Emanuel Machado, the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer.
“The Town’s approach aligns with Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management, the branding developed by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC to an approach that integrates natural systems thinking and adaptation to a changing climate into asset management,” observes Kim Stephens, the Partnership’s Executive Director.
Nature is Our Most Valuable Infrastructure Asset
“Natural capital assets, such as green space, aquifers, foreshore area and creeks, can be as effective as engineered (or grey) infrastructure in water management,” stated Dave Newman, Director of Engineering with the Town of Gibsons. He shared the Town’s story at the BCWWA-SILG webinar.
Look at Asset Management Differently
“In some areas, they provide clear advantages over engineered infrastructure as they:
- are cheaper to operate and maintain, if not degraded;
- may provide “free” ecosystem services;
- do not depreciate if properly managed; and
- are carbon neutral or even carbon positive.’
“Bringing these natural assets into the same asset management system as engineered infrastructure recognizes the quantifiable value they provide to the community and integrates them into the municipal framework for operating budgets, maintenance and regular support.”
Gibsons Established an Accounting Precedent
After much discussion, Dave Newman reported, the Town’s financial auditors agreed to include the following note on the Town’s financial statements:
“The Town is fortunate to have many natural assets that reduce the need for man-made infrastructure that would otherwise be required. This includes the Gibsons aquifer (water storage and filtration), creeks, ditches and wetlands (rain water management) and the foreshore area (natural seawall). Canadian public sector accounting standards do not allow for the valuation and recording of such assets into the financial statements of the Town. As such, these natural assets are not reported in these financial statements. Nevertheless, the Town acknowledges the importance of these assets and the need to manage them in conjunction with man-made infrastructure.”
“The hope is that these beginnings will lead to a broader conversion in the municipal finance community, and ultimately the creation of an actual standard that communities can use for the valuation of their assets,” commented Dave Newman.
Quotable Quote by Dave Newman
“When considering the civil function that many of our natural assets perform, in many instances at a fraction of the cost of engineered assets, it makes good sense to recognize and manage them in a manner that reflects their true worth,” concluded Dave Newman.
To Learn More:
To download a PDF copy of the PowerPoint presentation by Dave Newman, click on Town of Gibsons Asset Management.
To read a related story that provides the perspective of the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, click on Leading Change in British Columbia: “Bring nature into the DNA of decision-making to build resilient communities,” says Emanuel Machado, Town of Gibsons CAO.
Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management
The presentation by Kim Stephens to SILG (following the webinar) initiated 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).
“The IREI provides local government with a mechanism to share outcomes and cross-pollinate experience with each other,” stated Kim Stephens.
“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.”
“Released in December 2014, Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework points the way to a holistic and integrated approach to asset management. Nature, and the ecosystem services that it provides, are a fundamental and integral part of a community’s infrastructure system,” Kim Stephens emphasized.
To Learn More:
To read the complete story about the presentation by Kim Stephens, click on Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management: Metro Vancouver technical committee introduced to work-in-progress “Beyond the Guidebook 2015″