LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Our key message is: Get it right at the front-end for long-term sustainability. All those involved in land development have a role to play in achieving Sustainable Service Delivery,” stated Judy Walker, Village of Cumberland, when she provided context for the Comox Valley regional response to the infrastructure funding gap at the 2011 State of Vancouver Island Economic Summit

Note to Reader:

The initial capital cost of municipal infrastructure is about 20% of the life-cycle cost; the other 80% largely represents a future unfunded liability. Unless there is an inter-generational financial vision for sustainable funding, combined with a supporting culture, the funding gap will grow and there will be an incremental erosion of the service levels for constructed assets would inevitably result. This is the local government reality-check for integration of stream systems (natural assets) into asset management plans and annual budgets.

The approach BC local governments follow for their asset management process is enshrined in the document Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC FrameworkThe important and telling part of the title is that Asset Management is a process to provide a sound basis for decisions relating to the function of service delivery. Assets exist and are created, upgraded, replaced, maintained, and operated to provide a service. There is no other reason for their existence than provision of the intended service.  

A Living Water Smart Policy Objective is to Create a “Sustainable Service Delivery Culture”

“Released in 2008, Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan is government’s call to action, and to this day transcends governments. Living Water Smart has 45 actions and targets, one of which states that: Governments will develop new protocols for capital planning that will look at the life-cycle costs and benefits of buildings, goods and services,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

“Through a Memorandum of Understanding with Asset Management BC, the Partnership brings a whole-system perspective to the unfunded infrastructure funding gap and liability issue that is associated with drainage and creek systems. As Glen Brown, founding Chair of Asset Management BC, stated at the Partnership’s 2015 Annual Water Sustainability Workshop,:

The ultimate vision for Sustainability Service Delivery is that communities would manage natural assets in the same way that they manage their engineered assets’.”

“The 2015 workshop was the forum where Glen Brown introduced the Asset Management Continuum to illustrate steps in the Sustainable Service Delivery journey. Over the years, we have evolved the graphic to improve the visual presentation. However, the basic information remains the same. In other words, the concept is standing the test of time.”

EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process

“Most importantly from the drainage service perspective, the  Asset Management Continuum points the way to EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process. EAP brings a whole-system approach to an understanding of drainage service realities. The essence of EAP is expressed as follows: What is the environment that supports the package of ecological services?”

“EAP implementation depends on decision-makers understanding that a municipal drainage service has two interconnected components – one is the constructed infrastructure and the other is the stream system. This is a land use perspective,” concluded Kim Stephens.


The Public Infrastructure Dilemma – How Will We Sustain Our Water, Our Streets and Ourselves?

In 2011, Comox Valley local governments were early adopters of the vision for ‘sustainable service delivery’. So much so, they delivered the program content for a ‘convening for action’ forum at the 2011 State of Vancouver Island Economic Summit. This event helped brand ‘sustainable service delivery’ as the wave of the future.

Branded as a ‘Forum within the Summit’, the focus of this session was on solutions to the ‘infrastructure liability’ challenge confronting all local governments. The Summit provided an early opportunity to showcase how one region – the Comox Valley – was responding to the challenge and developing a regional response to infrastructure liability.

The sustainable service delivery theme for the ‘Forum within the Summit’ was just a year after Glen Brown first conceived the term to brand the future direction of asset management.

To Learn More:

To read the complete story, download a PDF copy of “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Asset Management Continuum for Sustainable Service Delivery”.