RECONNECT HYDROLOGY AND STREAM ECOLOGY BY DESIGN: “Changes to hydrology and riparian condition due to changes in land use are the top two factors influencing system integrity,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC, in an article published in the Winter 2021 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter

Note to Reader:

The Winter 2021 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter includes an article co-written by Kim Stephens and Tim Pringle of the Partnership for Water Sustainability about EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process. EAP is an initiative of the Partnership. Program implementation is in three stages and involves ten demonstration applications in five regions to test the idea (2018), refine the methodology (2019) and mainstream implementation (2020 and 2021). 

EAP provides local governments with a tool to establish benchmarks for maintenance and management of stream corridor systems in the built environment. The context is Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework. The program driver is the “unfunded infrastructure liability” typically associated with drainage, in particular the financial consequences over time when stream channels are degraded and riparian integrity is compromised.

The article title includes the expression “elephant in the room” because it is a metaphorical idiom for an important or enormous topic, question, or controversial issue that is obvious or that everyone knows about but no one mentions or wants to discuss. It is based on the idea/thought that something as conspicuous as an elephant can appear to be overlooked in codified social interactions. 


Elephant in the Room: Drainage and the Unfunded Infrastructure Liability

Banksy is a pseudonymous England-based street artist, political activist, and film director, active since the 1990s. One of Banksy’s most controversial pieces, named The Elephant in the Room, debuted at his first US exhibition – “Barely Legal”. This piece showcased Tai, a 38-year-old elephant, whom was painted to match the color pattern on the wall.

It is All About the Service!

“A central idea of the EAP methodology is that a stream system has a ‘package of ecological services‘.  This concept refers to the combined range of uses desired by the community. Three key words capture the essence of what the phrase ‘range of uses’ means, namely: drainage, recreation and habitat. This is plain language that elected Councils and Boards understand,” states Tim Pringle, EAP Chair.

“EAP supports local governments to operationalize ‘maintenance and management’ (M&M) of stream corridor systems under the umbrella of their Asset Management Plans. EAP provides the methodology and metrics necessary to achieve this goal.”

To Learn More:

To read the complete article, download a copy of Elephant in the Room: Drainage and the Unfunded Infrastructure Liability

Sustainable Creekshed Systems and the Asset Management Continuum

“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. It is the elephant in the room,” continues Kim Stephens, Partnership Executive Director.

“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.”

Reconnect Hydrology and Stream Ecology

The two images presented below conceptualize the asset management context for EAP. The first illustrates where EAP fits on the Asset Management Continuum. The second portrays the twin pillars of the whole-system approach to reconnecting hydrology and stream ecology in the built environment. What happens on the land (changes in hydrology) matters to the integrity of the stream corridor ecology.

“When stream system integrity is fully protected in a pristine creekshed, there is no need for stream restoration or improvement. However, changes to hydrology and riparian condition due to changes in land use are the top two factors influencing system integrity,” explains Kim Stephens.

“Restoring land drainage and stream corridor system integrity for a creekshed as a whole system would require looking beyond the stream corridor to the surrounding landscape – that is, reconnect hydrology and stream ecology by design; restore the natural flow paths by which rainwater reaches streams.”