ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE DRAINAGE SERVICE DELIVERY: “Asset Management BC and the Partnership for Water Sustainability are collaborating to connect the dots between asset management and water sustainability. Our message is explicit: get it right at the front-end; avoid a liability,” stated Wally Wells, Executive Director of Asset Management BC

Note to Reader:

The Partnership for Water Sustainability and Asset Management BC share common interests and are jointly operationalizing lynchpin action items identified in Living Water Smart in British Columbia. Shared commitment to Living Water Smart actions provides the foundation for collaboration goals that are defined in a Memorandum of Understanding.

The umbrella for collaboration is 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.

An over-arching goal of collaboration is to advance a mutually supporting approach that profiles and raises awareness of the guiding philosophy, principles and objectives embodied in the BC Framework. This includes publishing articles by each other. In April 2022, Waterbucket eNews featured a reflective essay by Wally Wells, Executive Director of Asset Management BC.

What is the story behind the story?

“An issue we have in communicating our message often seems to relate to the use and interpretation or misinterpretation of words or phrases. Too often we use technical terms within our own skill sets, not appreciating that others may not know what we are really saying,” explains Wally Wells.

“In asset management and other areas, we use language different from what common language is that everyone understands, or specific disciplines understand a word or phrase differently.”

“Asset Management, itself, is an intimidating term. The process of asset management or ‘managing assets’, is not new. The process, as defined today, just leads to better decisions across the entire organization for priority setting with limited budgets. However, we have succeeded in confusing everyone.”

What’s in a WORD?

“When Wally Wells asked me to read What’s in a WORD: The word ‘Plan’, his storyline resonated. Time and again in my career, I have observed a pattern much like what Wally describes in his article. All too often, our engineering profession takes a seemingly simple concept or idea, surrounds it with layers of complexity, and ultimately confuses everyone,” states Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Partnership Executive Director.

“By focusing on the distinction between a “plan” and a “strategy”, Wally’s article goes to the heart of output-oriented versus outcome-oriented approaches. That is the takeaway message. Wally Wells has done a public service by drawing attention to the need to retrain elected representatives to look at “plans” differently and think about risks and consequences for the community because of a Council doing or not doing things.”

“The issue of ‘output versus outcome’ is one that the provincial government first identified two decades ago when it released Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia. The Guidebook premise is that a focus on desired outcomes would lead to action, whereas a focus on output leads to “analysis paralysis”. Living Water Smart in British Columbia is outcome oriented.”

“Choice of words can make or break one’s ability to open minds to a new or different way of thinking,” Kim Stephens emphasizes.

Asset Management for Sustainable Drainage Service Delivery

“The complementary efforts of Asset Management BC, the Partnership for Water Sustainability and our local government partners are operationalizing some of the 45 provincial actions spelled out in Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan. These actions are the foundation for a whole-system, adaptive approach to connecting the Built and Natural environments through Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework.”

“In 2019, the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs established an expectation that grant applicants would integrate natural assets into their asset management strategies. And to quote Wally Wells, asset management is a continuous process, not a discrete task, whether the assets are constructed or natural.”

“The drainage service comprises two inter-connected components, namely, constructed infrastructure and the stream system. The Partnership contribution is to show local governments how they can integrate stream systems and water assets (such as wetlands) into their asset management budgets.”

“Our commitment to the BC Framework is reflected and embodied in the Sustainable Creekshed Systems through Asset Management initiative. EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, is one of the “twin pillars” for Sustainable Drainage Service Delivery,” concludes Kim Stephens.


To read the complete story published on April 26th 2022, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British  Columbia: Asset management is an awkward term and confuses everyone.

After that, read the article co-authored by  Wally Wells and Kim Stephens in 2016 and titled OP-ED: On Sharing a Vision for “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management”