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Asset Management for Sustainable Drainage Service Delivery

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


“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. 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,” stated Wally Wells.

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SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY FOR WATERSHED SYSTEMS: “We needed a way to illustrate diagrammatically what the journey by a local government to the eventual Sustainable Service Delivery destination would look like. This led us to the concept of a continuum,” stated Glen Brown, Asset Management BC Chair (reference: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Sustainable Service Delivery for Watershed Systems” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in March 2022)


“We framed the Asset Management Continuum as a series of three steps, recognizing that most local governments were at Ground Zero in 2015. Our operative phrase was ‘as understanding grows’. We saw this as the key consideration for local governments progressing along the continuum. Although it might be possible, we believed it unrealistic to expect anyone to jump directly to Step Three and integrate natural systems into their asset management strategies. We needed a way to illustrate this diagrammatically. This led us to the concept of a continuum,” stated Glen Brown.

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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)


“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, which is a methodology plus meaningful metrics for measuring the Riparian Deficit, the environmental equivalent of the Infrastructure Liability (Deficit) for constructed assets; and establishing budgets for Maintenance and Management,” stated Tim Pringle.

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INTEGRATING NATURAL ASSETS INTO INFRASTRUCTURE ON BC’S SUNSHINE COAST: “We wondered why are we clearing a forest to put in infrastructure to manage drainage runoff, when we know the forest can provide that service,” stated Michael Wall, Manager of Asset Management & Strategic Initiatives, qathet Regional District


The landfill closure plan revolved around site drainage and control of runoff discharging to a salmon stream. The essence of the story is that the qathet Regional District rejected an engineered solution in favour of a natural asset solution. Doing business differently saved $700,000 which was 80% 0f the original capital budget. “During construction, we experienced a few 50mm rain events that we had to manage with fire pumps that pumped into the forest, dispersing through sprinklers. Amazingly though, we could see there was no pooling or surface movement. It was our first time seeing in real time what the forest could manage,” stated Michael Wall.

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APPLICATION OF ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS (EAP) TO MILLSTONE RIVER IN NANAIMO REGION: “Accounting for our region’s natural assets is part of responsible asset management that includes ecological systems as well as physical infrastructure. This report has given the RDN, as well as the City of Nanaimo, further insight as we develop our existing framework for the protection and enhancement of our important natural features in our communities, including stream corridors,” stated Chair Tyler Brown when he commented on how the EAP outcomes would inform the RDN’s Corporate Asset Management Planning (April 2021)


The Millstone project provided the RDN, the City of Nanaimo and local stewardship group Island Waters Fly Fishers with the opportunity to get a real measure that accounts for the value and worth of the Millstone River stream corridor in asset management planning. The Millstone River EAP project has provided the RDN with a path forward so that it could account for and operationalize maintenance and management of stream corridor systems across the region. This would be done under the umbrella of its Corporate Asset Management Plan. This would be a BC-first.

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BE GUIDED BY A VISION FOR INTER-GENERATIONAL COLLABORATION: “Looking through an inter-generational lens, the term permaculture is what resonates with me. It has three guiding principles. The first is care of land. It is foundational because the other two build on it. The second principle is care of people, and the third is care of the process,” stated Director Ben Geselbracht, Regional District of Nanaimo


“When I think about sustaining the watershed protection legacy from one Board to the next, it is about viewing it within a larger vision for creating sustainable human settlement. When our perspective is the watershed, water is fundamentally what keeps everything moving. The watershed is the foundational scale of consideration, and therefore we must base our design of human settlements upon it. A long-term and shared community vision is necessary to integrate all the care of land considerations such that Design With Nature is on the tip of everyone’s tongue,” stated Ben Geselbracht.

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FLASHBACK TO 2009: “Re-focus Integrated Stormwater Management Plans on on watershed targets and outcomes so that there are clear linkages with the land use planning and development approval process; move beyond pilot projects to a watershed-based approach to achieving performance targets for rainwater management and green infrastructure” – Metro Vancouver Reference Panel recommendation


Metro Vancouver’s Integrated Plan established the framework for moving beyond regulatory compliance to transitioning Metro Vancouver to an approach that would achieve the Sustainable Region Vision. “Think about it – the Reference Panel has influenced the waste committee, the finance committee and the way we make decisions overall. It is great. The community benefits when there is collaboration and a true partnership between local government staff and community members in a working group,” stated (former) West Vancouver Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones.

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ASSET MANAGEMENT BC NEWSLETTER (February 2021): “Restoring land drainage and stream corridor system integrity for a creekshed would require looking beyond the stream corridor to the surrounding landscape – that is, reconnect hydrology and stream ecology by design,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC


“EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, 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. It is the elephant in the room. 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,” stated Kim Stephens.

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APPLICATION OF ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS TO SHELLY CREEK ON VANCOUVER ISLAND: “As a result of alterations to the hydrology of the creekshed, the Shelly Creek ‘riparian ecosystem’ has been reduced to a number of ‘riparian zones’ as defined in regulations. We view this finding as one of the key takeaways from the financial valuation of the Shelly Creek natural commons and the package of ecological services that it provides,” stated Tim Chair, EAP Chair


“The Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) considers use and conservation of land to be equally important values. Historically, land use and property development in our communities have been given priority over ecological systems such as streams. Too often the result has been remnant ecological services that fall far short of the benefits that these natural commons can provide. The research findings suggest that the diminution of stream functions gradually will draw the attention of property owners and the community to the ‘no harm’ rule in land appraisal.,” stated Tim Pringle.

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IMPROVE WHERE WE LIVE: Ecological Accounting Process and Water Balance Methodology – the twin pillars of a whole-system, water balance vision for restorative land development in British Columbia


“The vision for EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, is that it would help local governments progress along the Asset Management Continuum for Sustainable Service Delivery. Once a life-cycle approach is standard practice, the next logical step is to integrate ecological services from natural systems into asset management,” stated Tim Pringle. “The principal focus of EAP is on the investment of resources already made by many stakeholders, as well as their aspirations concerning prevention of degradation to and work on enhancement of ecological services in the creekshed.”

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