The Value of a Ditch

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The Okanagan Sustainability Leadership Council recently hosted a series of talks from Emanuel Machado, Chief Administrative Officer of the Town of Gibsons, BC and the Chair of the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI). In this talk, we learned of the progress being made by the Town of Gibsons towards ‘valuing ditches’. The Town of Gibsons was the first North American municipality to use asset management, financial management and ecology principles systematically to manage engineered assets. The rationale is that the services provided by these systems, in the form of rainwater management, flood control and water purification, have tangible value to the community.

In developing an Eco-Assets Strategy, Gibsons sought to develop:

  • The economic, social and environmental benefits of including natural assets in asset management plans
  • The use of principles of asset management, financial planning and ecology to maintain the ecosystems services nature provides
  • The operational changes required to accommodate the expanded focus on natural assets
  • Explorations of how arts, education and science can be used to improve the community’s understanding of and appreciation for infrastructure services

Gibsons has begun to scale up their strategy, acting as a lead on the formation and growth of a Municipal Natural Assets Initiative. The MNAI team provides scientific, economic and municipal expertise to support and guide local governments in identifying, valuing and accounting for natural assets in their financial planning and asset management programs, and in developing leading-edge, sustainable and climate resilient infrastructure.

This new thinking about how communities can work to re-value and re-integrate nature into conventional infrastructure planning is needed to move away from expensive and damaging business-as-usual infrastructure planning.

The tiny town of Gibsons is proving not only that it can be done, but that the benefits of ‘valuing ditches’ are a lot higher than many people anticipated. There is a lot of promise in this approach for the Okanagan Valley, where ecosystem services are highly undervalued and overexploited.

The OSLC is grateful to Emanuel Machado for sharing experiences and for the pioneering work being done to recognized and make visible the natural value of ecosystems.

More information and resources here:

Town of Gibsons – www.gibsons.ca/natural-assets

Municipal Natural Assets Initiative – www.mnai.ca

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