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asset management for sustainable service delivery

    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Local governments have real data to quantify the financial value of streams as physical assets. This metric allows them to put streams into the basket of local government asset management responsibilities,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair of the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) program


    “If we know how to do a much better job of protecting ecological features and stream systems in our communities and on our landscape, then why aren’t we doing a better job? Why are streams still being degraded? These are among the questions driving the EAP program. The methodology and metrics focus on the land underlying the natural asset. In the case of stream systems, this is the setback zone defined in B.C. provincial legislation – namely, the Riparian Areas Protection Regulation,” stated Tim Pringle.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “The growing cost of neglect, combined with the urgency of the flood liability issue in particular, is the driver for linking municipal infrastructure asset management and stream health as cause-and-effect,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC (January 2023)


    “My over-arching message to those who were elected to municipal councils and regional boards in October 2022 is succinct: Get the water part right in a changing climate, and you will be amazed how other parts of the community resiliency puzzle then fall into place,” stated Kim Stephens. “Land use alters the landscape. That is obvious, right. But there is an elephant in the room. It is the unfunded liability due to neglect of the drainage service. The cost of neglect grows over time. The consequence of neglect is an accumulating financial liability to fund creek channel stabilization and stream corridor revegetation in urban and rural settings.”

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “An airplane analogy is one way to describe the relationship between council and staff. Think of one wing as political and the other as administration. If either wing is not functioning properly, the plane will crash,” stated Peter Steblin, Coquitlam City Manager


    As each new generation inherits the world, vital knowledge is forgotten. Generational amnesia has profound effects on the way that we see the world. The challenge is to overcome generational amnesia so that communities learn from past experience, apply this knowledge, and achieve better policy and financial outcomes. Peter Steblin provides a perspective on how elected councils and local government staff can function effectively to arrive at affordable and effective solutions to challenges. He says, “Staff gives good advice and council makes the decision. The operative phrase is a respect-based relationship.”

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern always acts as a great sounding board about the concepts underpinning our network approach in general and our Ambassadors Program in particular,” stated Derek Richmond, Partnership for Water Sustainability (November 2022)


    “The biggest takeaway from our conversation with Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern concerns the ‘what, how and who’ as the current leadership of the Partnership looks ahead to pass the baton.. Using the Partnership’s Ambassadors Program as the example of WHAT; – this was the breakthrough to articulate our need for succession planning and sustainability of the network. The WHO now becomes obvious because it is the ambassadors themselves. The HOW is now clear too, by looking back at what we were successful with in the past,” stated Derek Richmond.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “For decades we have trained our elected officials how to think and what to do with a plan. But now, with an Asset Management Plan for Sustainable Service Delivery, we want them to do something completely different. No wonder they are confused,” stated Wally Wells of Asset Management BC (November 2022)


    “We have managed assets for decades and understand what that is and what we are doing. Suddenly we took two very simple words, reversed them, and went from managing assets to asset management. The result? We confused everyone. Section 7 of the Community Charter defines the roles and responsibilities of local government in terms of ‘care of infrastructure and services’. In other words, Sustainable Service Delivery. This goes to the heart of affordable and sustainable re-investment in municipal infrastructure assets to meet a level-of-service desired by the community,” stated Wally Wells.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Well-maintained municipal infrastructure assets are worthless IF THEY DO NOT provide a service. Also, for any asset management approach to be successful, it must not focus on the infrastructure asset by itself,” stated Glen Brown, founding Chair of Asset Management BC


    In British Columbia, local governments must show how they are progressing along the Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery continuum. “Money – it should be about how to get the most value out of every dollar spent on municipal infrastructure. Too often, thinking stops after the capital investment is made. Yet everyone needs to be thinking in terms of life-cycle costs, including future recapitalization of the investment,” stated Glen Brown. Section 7 of the Community Charter defines the roles and responsibilities of local government in terms of “care of infrastructure and services”.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, defines the stream and regulated setback zone as the Natural Commons Asset. The NCA has a financial value which we determine through an analysis of parcel data using BC Assessment for sample groups,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair (October 2022)


    “Start with an understanding of the parcel because that is how communities regulate and plan land use. It is the parcel level where you get the information that you need to change practice to protect natural assets. That is what everyone must get their heads around. Having a defensible number allows us to look at riparian condition and set targets for restoration. The riparian condition is one measure of the state of M&M over time. We usually find the streamside setback zone is in a deficit position because things that ought to have occurred to protect it have not,” stated Tim Pringle.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Nature and natural assets are now part of the mix for local government asset management. This represents a huge shift in thinking because we have always treated nature as an externality in our economic system,” stated David Allen, Asset Management BC (October 2022)


    “The old way of thinking comes to mind when we look at what the Public Sector Accounting Board has in mind when it talks about including natural assets in PSAB 3150.. My suggestion is practical and straightforward. Just do what the Town of Gibsons did in 2014. They included an accountant’s note in the Financial Statement that refers to natural assets. That is all you need. An auditor’s note is an appropriate form of recognition and can be accompanied by reference to a separate report specific to natural assets,” stated David Allen

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Now, with the Ecological Accounting Process as a foundation piece, local governments have a rationale and a metric to do business differently via multiple planning pathways to achieve the goal of natural asset management,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability (June 2022)


    “EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, evolved as one ‘big idea’ led to the next one. We could not have made the leap directly from the first to the last. It required a building blocks process. This is the beneficial outcome of a systematic approach to applied research that tests and refines the methodology and metrics to get them right, and is founded on the principle of collaboration that benefits everyone. With the perspective of hindsight, each local government took a leap of faith that EAP would fit into their strategic directions,” stated Kim Stephens.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Avoid the Pain, Be Deliberate, Fund the Plan: Waiting for municipal infrastructure to fail means that you are forced into one path. And this is probably the most expensive path. Do not wait until things go wrong,” stated Dan Horan, Director of Engineering & Public Works, District of Oak Bay


    “One of the biggest challenges is to create awareness and understanding of why communities need to take sustainable service delivery seriously. A key message is that the level of service to the community can be so much better when asset management is done properly. Another key message is that you do not have to tackle every challenge at once. Dealing with life-cycle realities is such a challenging area of engineering and utility asset management to think about. Many other fields of engineering have already been through multiple life cycles of the asset. They have already felt the pain of not doing it right,” stated Dan Horan.

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