APPLICATION OF BC’S FRAMEWORK FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY: “There are many considerations in a local government’s budget every year. The questions asked should revolve around service and risk. Are you asking the right questions?” – Wally Wells, Executive Director, Asset Management BC

Note to Reader:

Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who embrace the vision for Living Water Smart in British Columbia. In this edition, we feature Wally Wells, the Executive Director of Asset Management BC. He elaborates on the context for a provincial demonstration application program to operationalize asset management as a decision process for sustainable service delivery.


Asset Management BC and the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia are working on parallel AND interconnected tracks to operationalize actions and targets in Living Water Smart, the vision and strategy adopted by the Province in 2008 to build greener communities and adapt to a changing climate,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

“Asset Management BC and the Partnership have aligned efforts to operationalize asset management as a decision process for sustainable service delivery. Asset Management BC focus their efforts on constructed infrastructure. We focus our efforts on stream corridor systems. The end goal is interweaving of the two tracks.”

“We both have demonstration application programs underway with separate cohorts of local government partners. The Asset Management BC program is called Operationalizing Asset Management. The Partnership program is EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process.”

“Whether constructed or natural, an asset is an asset. And in the built environment, an asset requires an annual budget for maintenance and management (M&M). Our shared commitment to Living Water Smart, reinforced through a memorandum of understanding to collaborate and support each other, interconnects our parallel programs for advancing sustainable service delivery.”


The 4C’s – Collaboration, Capacity, Culture, and Council 

“After becoming CAO of Courtenay, BC in 2013, we began exploring how to implement an AM Program at the City. Collaborating with external agencies opened our minds to thinking of AM practices in far broader terms, so that they might be applied in any community, regardless of size. We didn’t realize it, at the time, but it led to us eventually conclude that operationalizing AM would involve four separate, interconnected initiatives that would be the pathway for our journey toward Sustainable Service Delivery. We describe them as the 4Cs,” stated David Allen, Past Co-Chair (2012-200), Asset Management Community-of-Practice.

To Learn More:

Read the article by David Allen: The 4C’s – Collaboration, Capacity, Culture, and Council


It is Budget Season – Are we asking the right questions?

“Every year local government Councils and Regional Boards deal with the annual budget, usually in two primary sections: the operating budget, and the capital budget. If local governments are to ensure the ‘sustainability’ of service delivery, all the players involved need to focus on WHY the project should proceed as opposed to the WHAT the project is,” urges Wally Wells.

“I have really struggled with the issue of Councils not asking the right questions. How do we get people engaged in asset management? That is the challenge that we must resolve. It calls for a bottom-up and top-down solution.”

“Bottom-up means showing that improving maintenance defers capital costs and improves reliability of assets. Top-down means recognizing that we can make better decisions across the organization if we have the right information. The over-arching challenge is how will we get the right information when that information is to be found outside the silos? Well, we get it by integrating across the organization, not across departments!”

Two Must-Ask Questions

“Elected representatives really need to address two key questions when a project is proposed in the capital works budget:

  • The first question is – Why are you doing this project and why now?  What does the result of implementing this project do for the services to our residents now and in the future?
  • And the second question is – How does this project minimize risk to our users and liability to our community?”

“There are many considerations in a local government’s budget every year.  The questions asked should revolve around service and risk. Are you asking the right questions?”


BC’s Framework for Sustainable Service Delivery
(and Continuous Improvement

“Everyone in a local government organizaton needs to recognize that asset management is a process, not a plan.  The approach BC local governments follow for their asset management process is enshrined in the document Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework. The important and telling part of the title is Asset Management is a process to provide a sound basis for decisions relating to the function – which is 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.  So, when considering a project related to an asset, we should be considering the service the asset is to provide.”

“But do we? We too often concern ourselves with the details of the project as opposed to the reason for carrying out the project. We should be considering is it money well spent or just money spent?  An Australian associate once said: ‘an asset without a user has no value’.  How true! Why would we retain an asset if it has no user?”




Level of Service is Not Well Understood

‘A key function of Council is determining the ‘level of service’ for the community, for residents, for the economy and for visitors. The role of Council is to set service levels that take into account a wide variety of factors including needs, benefits and costs.”

“An upgrade, change or addition to an asset needs to consider not only the service the asset provides but also the risk of ‘doing or not doing’ the project to both the local government and to the user.”

“There are two key components to level of service, one which is the policy side and the other the technical side.  Council, with staff assistance, is responsible for determination of the policy side.”

“Some service levels are mandated such as water quality, design standards for assets such as roads or building codes for structures. But others, such as the provision and use of facilities are optional or variable in the delivery of the use.”

“On the technical side, staff set up performance-based metrics to measure if the service is being delivered appropriately, timely and to an acceptable standard.  Staff put a lot of effort into these measures with established criteria and parameters for reporting out on service delivery.”

The process for overcoming a barrier to move from asset management to sustainable service delivery.


Provincial Demonstration Program to Operationalize Asset Management as a Decision Process for the Sustainable Service Delivery Function

“Learning from past experience, Asset Management BC has a program initiative underway to operationalize asset management. We have selected a cohort of seven local governments and First Nations communities in different regions.”

“These are demonstration applications and cover a range of situations along the Asset Management Continuum (refer to image below). The understanding gained from this process will inform evolution and application of the BC Framework.”

Each flag represents where each of the seven participating communities sits on the Asset Management Continuum. Each flag also represents a point of entry for tackling a barrier to operationalizing asset management.


“We have asked each participating government to identify a barrier to sustainable service delivery. We are working our way through a process with each one to overcome that specific barrier. We recognize that there may be other barriers.”

“We have posed the question how do we get to sustainable service delivery? We have had many discussions about the asset management plan. But how do move from the asset management plan, which has a lot of financial and technical detail, to making decisions for sustainable service. This is where the phrase ‘operationalizing asset management’ comes into focus.”

“Many communities are stuck on the asset management plan. That is partly a consequence of what is written into regulations which define asset management as a plan. But asset management is much more than a plan,” concludes Wally Wells.


About the Partnership for Water Sustainability

Incorporation of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia as a not-for-profit society on November 19, 2010 was a milestone moment. Incorporation signified a bold leap forward. Two decades earlier, a group of like-minded and passionate individuals, including representatives of three levels of government, came together as a technical committee. Over time, this “water roundtable” evolved into The Partnership.

The umbrella for Partnership initiatives and programs is the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia. In turn, the Action Plan is nested within Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan. Released in 2008, Living Water Smart was the provincial government’s call to action, and to this day transcends governments.

The Partnership’s guiding philosophy is to help others be successful. When they are successful, we are successful. The Partnership is led by a team of mission-focused volunteers, elders and collaborators. These individuals bring experience, knowledge and wisdom to the Partnership roundtable. This enhances the effectiveness of the Partnership as “the hub for a convening for action network”. Although many on the Partnership leadership team have retired from their day jobs, the water-centric mission continues.