DOWNLOADABLE RESOURCE: “Through the building blocks approach that has defined the EAP program, we have reached a point where a number of hydra-like concepts have been tamed to become the Riparian Deficit,” stated Tim Pringle (August 2021)

Note to Reader:

EAP is the acronym for the Ecological Accounting Process, an initiative of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia. The EAP program is the culmination of a 25-year journey that began with publication of seminal research by Chris May and Rich Horner of the University of Washington (Seattle) in 1996. They correlated land use changes with impacts on stream condition. They also ranked the four limiting factors that provide a road map for science-based action. Their findings are embedded in Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia and continue to guide the Beyond the Guidebook initiative.

EAP is a Building Blocks Process

“The Partnership’s EAP initiative is a 3-stage program for testing EAP in 2017-2018, refining it in 2019, and mainstreaming it in 2020 through 2022. Demonstration applications have been completed in five regions on the east coast of Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland,” states Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

“Each case study yields key lessons and fresh insights. It has been a 6-year journey to evolve the methodology from concept to application. It took a building blocks process to bridge from the starting point — how EAP looks at the ‘stream as a whole-system’ (rather than as an amorphous ‘natural asset’) — to reach the destination.”

To Learn More:

For a tabular listing of EAP building blocks, download a PDF copy of What We Have Learned. This is a synopsis of “big ideas” that emerged during the EAP journey and are at the heart of the EAP methodology and metrics.

The Riparian Deficit

“The destination is a methodology plus meaningful metrics for measuring the Riparian Deficit. This is a new concept. We are framing it as the environmental equivalent of the Infrastructure Liability (Deficit) for constructed assets. Simply put, EAP provides the basis for establishing budgets for maintenance and management, or M&M, of stream corridor systems,” continues Tim Pringle, EAP Chair.

The Land Use Context

“The EAP methodology focuses on the historical and current land use practices that have changed landscapes, modified hydrology, and have led to present-day community perceptions of the worth of the stream or creekshed and the ecological services it provides. A whole-system understanding is the starting point for developing meaningful metrics.”

“When land development takes place, there is necessarily a riparian deficit. Thus, when applying EAP, one must always come up with some measure of the riparian deficit. This is the most useful output.”

“Through application of the EAP methodology and metrics, one assigns a value to the stream. And one can show what the community has invested in the stream as a measure of what it is worth. But from a purely quantitative point of view, what is not measured at all, by anyone, is the ‘riparian deficit’ from the land use perspective.”

To Learn More:

Watch the video of Tim Pringle on YouTube as he explains the Riparian Deficit. The duration is 4:30 minutes.


The Social Contract Context

“So, there is a riparian deficit. How do you deal with it? Quantify what that is. Give that information to the local government and other collaborators. And then, ask what is the strategy that is manageable, and that could help address that problem?”

“When you see that context, it takes us back to the larger ideas. There is a Natural Commons Area which is the setback zone (from the creek). We can measure that zone and give it a value using BC Assessment data. That is a real number that the environmental department can use (to have a conversation) with other engineering, planning, and parks people. And Council too.”

“You go up to the next level. Now you are talking about a Natural Commons. Why would you want to do this? Because a stream is a natural commons. It is just like an Infrastructure Commons. People expect roads and drainage to be provided so that their properties are safe, and they can enjoy their properties.”

Package of Ecological Services

“People have the same expectations for streams but for different reasons. They want the natural area, they want wildlife, they want greenways, they want privacy. That is the Natural Commons concept. We talk about a package of ecological services. That is why a Natural Commons makes sense to people – they want to make use of those ecological features, or at least know they are available. And of course, ecological services require maintenance and management.”

“We talk about maintenance as preventing degradation or costly remediation in the future; and we talk about management which is really enhancement. That is what stewardship groups do. They are the partner that can attract other money to help local government get work done on streams.”

To Learn More:

URBAN DESIGN & THE PACKAGE OF ECOLOGICAL SERVICES: “The ‘Comox story’ is indeed a blueprint for what the phrase hard work of hope means in practice,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability, when he met with Comox Town Council to present the 8th in the Watershed Case Profile Series (September 2019)

Cascading Ideas

“So, we get back to those big ideas. If you have a Natural Commons and people expect the services to be there, then there is an implied social contract – which is that someone is managing and maintaining the Natural Commons. Well, is that true?”‘

“With EAP, we are striving to go from the big idea of the Natural Commons, the social contract, and on down to the very specific analytical thing which is quantitative – and that is, what is the Riparian Deficit? That is what one must understand. That is what we will be addressing in the future if we want our stream to survive.”

“What we do is very different from other approaches to what is called Total Economic Valuation. That approach would say, for example, that if a stream conveys stormwater drainage away, then it has a value because you don’t have to be build municipal infrastructure. That might be interesting to know, but you really cannot do anything with that number.”

“What you need to know is what is your asset worth per lineal metre. You need to know how big the asset is. You must know that it is a system. And then you must pay attention to it in that kind of a context. Most importantly, you must know what the community thinks the asset is worth. Are they going to invest in it? Do they want a greenway? Do they want parks?”

“Through the building blocks approach that has defined the EAP program, we have reached a point where a number of hydra-like concepts have been tamed to become the Riparian Deficit,” concludes Tim Pringle.

To Learn More:

Download Millstone River – A Natural Commons in the Regional District of Nanaimo: Operationalizing the Ecological Accounting Process for Financial Valuation of Stream Corridor Systems within an Asset Management Plan, the fifth in a series of reports on EAP demonstration applications.

The Elephant in the Room

“EAP focuses on drainage and the condition and/or integrity of stream corridors. Both natural and constructed assets need to be addressed in the drainage context. Both are systems and therefore require similar M&M strategies. Drainage infrastructure, or lack thereof, is typically an unfunded liability that grows over time,” adds Kim Stephens.

“The driver for EAP is degradation of stream channels and streamside protection areas. EAP addresses the elephant in the room which is the unfunded and growing cost (hence liability) to protect, remediate or enhance stream systems in urban and rural landscapes.”

To Learn More:

Read ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: “Local governments require a methodology and metrics to operationalize ‘maintenance and management’ (M&M) of stream corridor systems under the umbrella of their Asset Management Plans,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair of the Ecological Accounting Process Initiative, in an article published in the Winter 2021 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter.

Life-Cycle Approach to Stream Restoration

“The provincial umbrella for EAP is Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework. The BC Framework emphasizes the services that assets provide and the life-cycle costs. Over time, M&M represents 80% of the total life-cycle cost; the first 20% represents the initial capital investment.”

“EAP supports local governments intending to adopt a life-cycle approach to M&M of natural assets much as it would apply to constructed assets.  Effective M&M of natural assets requires commitment backed up by line items in an annual report.”

“The goal would be to move from reactive remediation that is at best stopgap and of limited longevity, to stream restoration that is effective and lasting,” concludes Kim Stephens.