ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING: Do you wonder how streams influence neighbourhoods and property values? To find out, download the latest report by the Partnership!

Editor’s Context:

“During a crisis, the challenge is to prepare for the day after tomorrow when all attention is focused on today. Front and centre for British Columbians is the day-by-day response to the COVID-19 emergency. At the same time, however, we must keep our eyes on the horizon and get ready for the “new business as usual” that must surely follow as day follows night,” states Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

“This is the context for release of Kilmer Creek Re-Alignment in the District of North Vancouver: Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process for Financial Valuation. This report illustrates what the ‘new business as usual’ for enhancing and restoring the natural commons could look like, post COVID-19.

“The report also introduces new terminology – such as, the NATURAL COMMONS ASSET. The NCA is the portion of the stream defined by the set-back area required by streamside protection regulations. Often the NCA is augmented by contiguous natural area, such as parkland. This larger area is the Natural Commons Area. 

“In addition, the report emphasizes the acronym M&M to draw attention to the distinction between these objectives as strategies: MAINTENANCE, which means ‘prevent degradation’; and MANAGEMENT, which means ‘improve the condition’.

“The Kilmer Creek report would inform those who wish to get serious about valuing and incorporating riparian ecological assets and services into asset management strategies and plans. The ultimate desired outcome in applying EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, is that science-based actions would be implemented to reconnect hydrology and ecology in the built environment. Once restored, hydrologic function would support sustainable M&M of riparian ecological services.”

The parallel concepts of the NATURAL COMMONS and the CONSTRUCTED COMMONS enable residents, elected persons, and practitioners to consider ecological services and use of land (development) as equally important.


“The once-in-a-lifetime redevelopment of the Argyle high school site in North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley is an opportunity for stream restoration in one of the older urban areas,”  says Tim Pringle, EAP Chair


EAP is a Decision Support Tool

EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, is a pragmatic ‘made in BC’ approach to valuation of the ecological services supplied by a stream (one of our most common ecological systems). Think of it as a decision support tool for use by the community and local government.

EAP addresses this question: How do communities decide how much to invest in the natural commons? The EAP methodology and metrics enable a local government to  determine the WORTH of the natural commons, with ‘worth’ being the foundation for an annual budget for maintenance and maintenance of ecological assets.

EAP is an initiative of the Partnership for Water Sustainability. EAP considers the system as a whole, takes into account social values, and is guided by how the community uses the natural commons, including influences on nearby parcel values.

Application of the EAP methodology and metrics can help to inform an investment strategy for protection and/or restoration of ecological-hydrological function in the natural commons. EAP is particularly relevant to urban and suburban creeksheds drained by a 1st order stream.

EAP is a Three-Stage Initiative

The EAP program has three stages: Test / Refine / Mainstream. During 2017 and 2018, two Stage 1 demonstration applications tested the concept, and demonstrated EAP relevance to local government. In 2019, two Stage 2 demonstration applications resulted in working definitions and consistent application of the EAP methodology.

In 2020 and 2021, six Stage 3 demonstration applications will mainstream use of EAP. The grand total of ten demonstration applications will encompass a range of land use situations in five regional districts. Each case study is unique. Partner communities frame creekshed-specific questions to be addressed by the EAP analysis.

The Stage 2 applications are Kilmer Creek in the District of North Vancouver and Shelly Creek in the City of Parksville and Regional District of Nanaimo. The Kilmer findings are highlighted in the article below. The Shelly findings were released in April 2020.

EAP provides metrics to identify and rank social, economic and environmental options for maintaining and enhancing the functioning condition of Kilmer Creek in conjunction with the redevelopment of the Argyle high school property.

How Much to Invest:

EAP emphasizes social rather than financial values.

EAP employs one financial valuation process – that is, calculation of the land value of the Natural Commons Asset.

BC Assessment land values are used for this calculation.

Measures of Return-on-Investment:

Improved/restored ecological services.

Bringing the stream back to landmark status.

Satisfying the social contract expectations of the community.

Download a copy of the Kilmer Creek EAP Report:

Kilmer Creek Re-Alignment in the District of North Vancouver: Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process for Financial Valuation.

November 2014 – Flooding through Cousteau school site when Kilmer Ceek blocked and overflowed.

Financial Valuation for Kilmer Creekshed
in the District of North Vancouver

Kilmer Creek is a 1st order stream and is part of the Hastings Creek watershed in the Lynn Valley area of North Vancouver. Based on area, the upper two-thirds is forested mountainside. In the urbanized lower one-third, decades of land use decisions have materially altered the natural drainage system.

“Dating back to the 1980s, the District of North Vancouver is a leader in implementing policy and regulations for streamside protection. Where subdivision design followed streamside regulation, the neighbourhood is enhanced by the intact riparian quality of the stream,” reports Tim Pringle, EAP Chair.

“Pending redevelopment of Argyle Secondary School adjacent to Kilmer Creek has opened the door to creek daylighting and realignment. This provides the opportunity to address ecological and conveyance deficiencies in a section of the stream where pre-1960s land use decisions removed the riparian functions.”

Lower Kilmer Restoration in a Lynn Valley Context:

“Two school frontages abut the stream. They account for 55% of the channel length through the area developed prior to streamside regulation. Thus, culvert daylighting plus channel realignment through school lands represent the single, most favourable opportunity to achieve stream restoration in the context of redevelopment in one of the older urban areas of Lynn Valley.

“Stream restoration would enable the school district to fulfill a compelling social obligation, and that is, to recognize its responsibility to support maintenance and management of Kilmer Creek as a natural commons.”

Institutional Commons & Social Contract Explained:

“Services such as fire protection and schools are a related kind of constructed commons – we define these as the institutional commons. The quality and desirability of neighbourhoods are influenced considerably by the commons services available – natural, constructed and institutional. An implied social contract exists.

“The contract terms are that core services would be supplied through commons systems; and, maintenance and management (M&M) would take place. Thus, there is a social contract expectation that M&M would ensure that commons services would be available in the future. This implies that the assets are valued both socially and financially.”

KILMER CREEK: Trail-head to forested creekshed on mountainside above urban area.

The Research Question

What impact does the stream as an ecological system (as a natural commons) have on neighbourhoods and nearby residential parcels (land only); and, does the stream influence the utility and financial value of parcels?

Influence on Property Values

“Many variables influence the character and appeal of neighbourhoods. These variables include land use design, the size, age, type of housing and other improvements; as well as landscaping and natural features such as streams,” continues Tim Pringle.

“The EAP analysis used data for parcel value (land only) and area reported by the BC Assessment Authority. Assessed values reflect decades of choices made by purchasers and sellers.”

Worth of the Natural Commons Asset (NCA)

“As an ecological system altered by historical land use, Kilmer Creek requires maintenance and management – that is, M&M.

“The EAP analysis determined that the financial value of the Kilmer Creek NCA is about $2.9 million per kilometre. This provides a starting point for establishing an annual budget for M&M. The baseline might reasonably be set at 1% of the NCA value.”

Kilmer Creek above Cousteau Eco-School

Implications for Asset Management Strategies and Plans

“The idea of a natural commons supporting a package of ecological services which the community wants and expects to have implies that approved plans for land development should not result in ecological services being merely residual outcomes. Should the community simply be happy with what is left,” asks Tim Pringle.

“The commons concept includes social, ecological and financial values. EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, represents the social perspective and is the way for the community to get into the conversation about valuation of ecological systems and services.”

The Natural Commons is a Land Use

“In the process of doing our research, we arrived at an important insight about ecological assets; that is, an ecological commons is a land use. Regulations define stream functions and setback requirements.  Whether it is a pond, wetland or riparian zone, it can be measured.

“The assessed values of adjacent parcels can be used to provide a financial value for the natural commons.  The inference is that the area occupied by the natural commons would be zoned residential or whatever if the stream was not there.

“BC Assessment provides longitudinal measures of property valuesdistinguishing the financial values of land and improvements. Assessments of parcel values are comprehensive and comparative based on sales of interests in properties.

“An important perspective on assessment data is that it captures the preferences of purchasers and sellers.  Not only is the sales price of transactions reflected, so is the quality of worth.”

Ecological Systems provide Core Municipal Services

“Streams (as defined in the Riparian Areas Regulations) intercept and detain rainwater, convey flows from storm sewers, provide alignments for trails and greenways while supporting local aquatic and terrestrial life.

“These and other services influence quality of life and the financial value of land parcels. Maintenance and management (M&M) of ecological assets should therefore be planned as core municipal services.

“Residents and property owners are familiar with constructed commons services – roads, potable water, storm sewers and many other ongoing services.  They expect these services to endure. Similarly, communities expect the ecological services provided by the natural commons to be enduring.”

The ultimate desired outcome in applying EAP is to reconnect hydrology and ecology in the built environment. Once hydrologic function is restored, maintenance and management of ecological assets would be sustainable.

Click on the image below to download a copy of the report