EAP, THE ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS, IS GAME-CHANGING: “With all the talk about integrating natural assets into asset management, the players forget that nature is a system. They focus too much on specific aspects of the system, rather than its interrelated functions,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair
Note to Reader:
“SHARE INFORMATION. INFORM DECISIONS.” This soundbite lines up nicely with the mission of Waterbucket eNews which is to help our readers make sense of a complicated world. Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the vision for Living Water Smart in British Columbia to build greener communities and adapt to a changing climate; and embrace “design with nature” approaches to reconnect people, land, fish, and water in altered landscapes.
The edition of Waterbucket eNews published on October 19, 2021 featured EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process. The EAP program provides local governments with a methodology and metrics for integration of natural assets into local government asset management programs.
on the financial case for the stream
“In Beyond the Guidebook 2015: Moving Towards Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management, the Partnership introduced EAP as a concept for integration of stream systems within an Asset Management Plan. To help our local government partners and others visualize the primary elements of the whole-system approach to sustainable drainage service delivery, we also introduced the ‘twin pillars’ branding graphic,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.
“The Ecological Accounting pillar addresses “loss of riparian integrity” within a stream corridor. The Water Balance Accounting pillar address “changes in hydrology” on the land draining to the stream. Integration of the two is the ultimate goal of the whole-system approach. Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework provides local governments with an incentive to go down this path.”
“It took a building blocks process to bridge from the Partnership’s starting point — how EAP looks at the “stream as a whole-system”, rather than as an amorphous “natural asset” — to reach the EAP destination – that is, a pragmatic methodology plus meaningful metrics for measuring the Riparian Deficit in a way that resonates with local government.”
What Happens on the Land Matters to Streams
“The goal in having a budget line item for M&M of stream systems would be to move from reactive remediation that is at best stopgap and of limited longevity, to stream restoration that is effective and lasting. The leap forward in ‘addressing the elephant in the room’ is striving for whole-system action on the landscape that would ensure stream system integrity,” continued Kim Stephens.
“Whether constructed or natural, an asset is an asset. And in the built environment, each asset type requires an annual budget for M&M. It has been a 6-year journey to evolve the EAP methodology from concept to application. The goal of making the financial case for the stream has been realized through a systematic process that is founded on EAP demonstration applications.”
“The Riparian Deficit is a new way of defining ‘loss of riparian integrity’. It is an attention-grabber because it is the environmental equivalent of the Infrastructure Deficit (or Gap). The latter is the driver for contemporary asset management which has a goal of sustainable service delivery for constructed assets such as water, sewer and drainage infrastructure.”
The Financial Case for the Stream
“A whole-system way of thinking and doing is an ongoing theme for Waterbucket eNews and the Living Water Smart Series – for example, an understanding of the system context is foundational to both the Water Sustainability Act (groundwater licensing) and Blue Ecology (water reconciliation) which the Partnership for Water Sustainability has previously featured,” stated Kim Stephens.
“In this edition, we turn our attention to EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, a program initiative led by the Partnership. Just like the other two examples, the EAP program is an application of a whole-system approach. Implementation is in collaboration with multiple local government partners in five sub-regions within the Salish Sea and Georgia Basin bioregion of southwest British Columbia.”
“EAP bridges a gap. It provides local government with a methodology and metrics for integrating natural assets, notably stream corridor systems, into municipal infrastructure. A stream is a land use because the stream corridor is defined in regulations and has a financial value. EAP uses real numbers from BC Assessment, not hypothetical assumptions, to establish the financial case for the stream corridor system,” explained Tim Pringle, EAP Chair.
“In British Columbia, there is an expectation that local governments would integrate natural assets into their asset management processes. EAP shows them how to do it for stream systems. Operationalizing EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, within an Asset Management Plan is a featured story in the Fall 2021 Issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter.”
“The EAP methodology and metrics recognize the importance of the stream system in the landscape. Over the past four years, a series of “big ideas” have emerged during the 3-stage program of testing, refining and mainstreaming EAP. These big ideas are transformative in their implications for local government asset management.”
“Each case study is a building block in a systematic process of applied research. The end goal is to establish a line item for ‘maintenance and management’ (M&M) of stream systems in an annual budget.”
EAP Builds on a Science-Based Foundation
“EAP is the culmination of a 25-year journey that began with seminal research by Chris May, Richard Horner and others at the University of Washington in the 1990s. They applied a whole-system approach and correlated land use changes with impacts on stream condition,” explained Kim Stephens.
“Horner and May also ranked the four limiting factors that provide a road map for science-based action to protect and/or restore stream integrity. The top two consequences of changes in use are short-circuiting of water balance pathways, and loss of riparian integrity.”
“In British Columbia, the Partnership for Water Sustainability has built on their work over the past two decades to develop tools and resources that would support enhanced land and water management in a changing climate.”
“Puget Sound research in Washington State’s part of the Salish Sea was game-changing in nature, and yielded the science-based understanding that is the foundation for Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, released in 2002.”
“A generation later, the findings of Horner and May have renewed meaning. Beginning with Beyond the Guidebook 2015: Moving Towards Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management, EAP is a core element of the ongoing Beyond the Guidebook initiative. It closes the circle with guidance on how to address loss of riparian integrity.”
A Busy Reader’s Guide to Understanding EAP
“The EAP methodology focuses on the historical and current land use practices that have changed landscapes, modified hydrology, and have led to present-day community perceptions of the worth of the stream or creekshed and the ecological services it provides. A whole-system understanding is the starting point for developing meaningful metrics. Managing the built and natural environments as interconnected systems is a guiding principle,” stated Tim Pringle.
“Unless communities measure the effect of impacts, degradation of riparian assets and streamside protection areas will continue. EAP addresses the elephant in the room which is degradation of stream channels and streamside protection areas. EAP helps to quantify the unfunded and growing cost (hence liability) to protect, remediate or enhance stream systems in disturbed urban and rural landscapes. This is the starting point for a life-cycle approach to M&M of the drainage service.”
“Effective M&M requires an understanding of how water balance pathways connect creekshed hydrology and stream ecology, how changes on the land disconnect them, and how green infrastructure design can reconnect them. The Busy Reader’s Guide (the image included below) is a mind-map that introduces a set of core ideas.”
Click on the image to download a PDF copy:
Quantifying and valuing nature are complex tasks. Undertaking them alters our conception of nature. This John Henneberry quotable quote underscores the wisdom inherent in the whole-system approach:
John Henneberry was a source of inspiration for Tim Pringle during the early years of the EAP program. His pioneering work in the United Kingdom provided validation of the wisdom inherent in the whole-system philosophy that guides the EAP program. John Henneberry’s interests lay at the interface between planning and property, and focused on the use of economic instruments in planning and the reproduction of the urban built environment. He wrote and researched widely on these topics. He is remembered by his colleagues and contemporaries as a gifted scholar, teacher and university leader.
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IN MEMORIAM: “The University of Sheffield’s John Henneberry (1952-2021) was a source of inspiration for me when we were initially developing the methodology and metrics for EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process. He identified the same methodological problems that we experienced in quantifying the financial value of ecological services. Natural systems do not dissect conveniently in order to be quantified and given financial value,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair (October 2021)
Use and Conservation of Land Are Equal Values
“Use and conservation of land are equal values – this is the starting point for EAP. Therefore, one should not be subrogated to the other. But that is traditionally what we have done. Use of land has been the dominant consideration. Until very recently, ecological services have not even been part of the asset management mind-set. At best, ecological services have been considered as an add-on,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair.
“The EAP program has been a multi-year journey to evolve the EAP methodology. Each EAP case study is unique in that partner communities framed creekshed-specific questions to be addressed by their EAP application. Each has yielded key lessons and resulted in fresh observations and insights. We describe these as ‘big ideas’ (listed in table below). Each case study has supported the depth of analysis for subsequent EAP applications.”
“The EAP process is collaborative. We modify our theoretical and intellectual approach through conversations with the players. Our goal is to express EAP in language that works for them. That is why Riparian Deficit resonates. We still have work to do with EAP in terms of getting our ideas into language that is easy for a wide audience to use. But we are getting close.”
Ecological Services are Core Local Government Services
“Ecological services are not intuitively understood by the public, elected representatives, and asset managers. To stimulate awareness and advance uptake of a ‘whole-system approach’ to asset management, it helps to define ecological services in terms of drainage, recreation, habitat, and enjoyment of property uses. This is plain language that everyone understands.”“Once communities make the mental transition to view ecological services as core local government services, and then look at their budgets differently, the change in mind-set should lead to this question: how can we do things better? This shift in perspective would logically lead to the next question:
How do we establish an annual budget for M&M that sustains the ‘package of ecological services’ in a stream system that humans depend upon for drainage, recreation, habitat, and enjoyment of property uses?
“EAP interweaves financial, social, and ecological perspectives within a single number to establish the financial case for a stream corridor system. This aggregate number is the Natural Commons Asset (NCA) value. The NCA value provides environmental planners with a starting point for a balanced conversation with engineers and accountants about the services that natural and constructed assets both provide. This alone is a game-changer,” concluded Tim Pringle.
About the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC
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. The Partnership evolved from a technical committee in the 1990s, to a “water roundtable” in the first decade of the 2000s, and then to a legal entity. The Partnership has its roots in government – local, provincial, federal.
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.
Conceptual Framework for Inter-Generational Collaboration
Technical knowledge alone is not enough to resolve water challenges facing BC. Making things happen in the real world requires an appreciation and understanding of human behaviour, combined with a knowledge of how decisions are made. It takes a career to figure this out.
The Partnership has a primary goal, to build bridges of understanding and pass the baton from the past to the present and future. To achieve the goal, the Partnership is growing a network in the local government setting. This network embraces collaborative leadership and inter-generational collaboration.
Application of Experience, Knowledge and Wisdom
The Partnership believes that when each generation is receptive to accepting the inter-generational baton and embracing the wisdom that goes with it, the decisions of successive generations will benefit from and build upon the experience of those who went before them.
The Partnership leadership team brings experience, knowledge, and wisdom – a forceful combination to help collaborators reach their vision, mission, and goals for achieving water sustainability. When they are successful, the Partnership is successful.
The Time Continuum graphic (above) conceptualizes the way of thinking that underpins the inter-generational mission of the Partnership for Water Sustainability. Influence choices. Capitalize on the REACHABLE and TEACHABLE MOMENTS to influence choices.
TO LEARN MORE, VISIT: https://waterbucket.ca/about-us/