Canada’s first watershed-scale municipal natural asset management initiative is now underway!

On Vancouver Island, the Comox Valley Regional District, City of Courtenay, Town of Comox and Village of Cumberland and K’ómoks First Nation are now working with MNAI to value natural assets in the Comox Lake watershed that provide safe, reliable drinking water,  as well as other social, environmental, cultural and economic benefits, and to develop and implement strategies for their effective management.

Local government services depend on infrastructure like roads, pipes, sewers, libraries and buses. This project is based on the idea that nature is also crucial to the livability of our communities and to providing core services. For example, forested watersheds provide clean drinking water, wetlands protect communities from floods and vegetated banks protect home properties from erosion – as well as may other benefits. The press release is here and the project document is here.

“Like many other local governments across the country, the CVRD recognizes that healthy natural assets play a key role in delivering essential services at a lower lifecycle cost,” said Russell Dyson, Chief Administrative Officer of the Comox Valley Regional District. “We are committed to working together with our regional partners to manage our water resources. This initiative supports our community’s shared goal of providing a secure supply of reliable, high quality drinking water for the future”.

The watershed project is supported by Natural Resources Canada’s Climate Change Adaptation Program ($137,500); the Province of British Columbia’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing ($125,000); and the Smart Prosperity Institute ($12,500 in kind).  The participating local governments themselves will contribute a total of $105,000 over the project period.  These funds will cover detailed guidance material, workshops, technical support, economic analysis, modelling and the development of strategies and methods for long term management of natural assets in the watershed.  The Comox Valley project was selected in response to a Request for Expressions of Interest issued by MNAI in 2018.

The Comox Valley is also the site of a Cohort 2 MNAI project in the City of Courtenay, BC.  “In 2018, the City of Courtenay partnered with the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative to determine how natural assets could help us manage flood risks.  We’re very encouraged that this original project has provided impetus for a regional initiative focused on drinking water,” said David Allen, Chief Administrative Officer of the City of Courtenay.  You can read more about the Cohort 2 projects here.

Looking ahead, there is an opportunity for a similar watershed project in Ontario’s Greenbelt; the Request for Expressions of Interest is here.