Michelle Molnar (Canada) 1; Erica Olson (Canada) 2; Jimena Eyzaguirre (Canada) 2
1 - Municipal Natural Assets Initiative Society; 2 - ESSA Technologies Ltd.
Today, we have the numbers and evidence to show that it is smarter and cheaper, by orders of magnitude, to invest in maintaining and expanding green infrastructure, such as forests, urban parks and stormwater ponds, than to design, build and manage engineered stormwater infrastructure.
As a result, we are better-positioned to make sound decisions about future spending.
This quote is from Wayne Rowe, Mayor of the Town of Gibsons, British Columbia, Canada, reflecting on the benefits accrued from integrating nature-based solutions in the ledgers of municipal asset management.
Local governments across Canada are faced with significant asset management challenges. Many of the services they provideincluding water and wastewater, waste removal, transportation, and environmental servicesdepend, in large part, on engineered infrastructure assets that are in need of renewal. Meanwhile, the effects of climate change are expected to put even more strain on these assets and on local government budgets.
To provide community services in a cost effective and sustainable manner now and into the future, local governments are looking for ways to improve management of the critical assets that supply these services.
Unfortunately, local governments lack policies to measure and manage one class of assets: natural assets. Natural assets are ecosystem features that provide, or could be restored to provide, services just like the other engineered assets, but historically have not been considered on equal footing or included in asset management plans.
Natural assets like forests, grasslands, parks, marshes, and estuaries can supply many of the municipal services offered by grey infrastructure, often at lower costs and reduced risk. However, it’s not enough to demonstrate the business case for nature-based solutions as a one off. There is a need to connect predictable finance streams toward ecosystem management, conservation and restoration. The Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI) is a Canadian program that supports and guides 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 presentation describes the MNAI framework and shares lessons learned from its pilot application in six communities. These communities successfully assessed the value of stormwater services provided by a local natural asset and how that value changed under various scenarios.