Maintaining your natural infrastructure systems

Understanding where to start

For a municipality considering the community’s natural infrastructure, it’s tempting to start with the ‘Assets’. But the challenge in doing so becomes apparent when trying to choose relevant management actions – Where do you start? How do you prioritize?
 
Municipalities need to start with the ‘Benefits’, as that is what they are charged with providing to their community. Then they can track backward – Which Functions create those Benefits? Which Assets perform those Functions?

ASSETS

FUNCTIONS

BENEFITS

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Function_dt.png
Assets.png

perform

create

It is important to remember this is a network
Multiple Assets can provide the same Function ...
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... and multiple Functions can contribute to a given Benefit
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Targeting management actions

Maintaining the flow of Benefits, then, requires targeting management actions strategically at multiple points.
Some management actions are focused on 
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Some management actions are focused on 
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Some management actions are focused on 
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Now the municipality can choose the Management Tools that support the desired management action.

The example of 'flood mitigation'

Let’s take the example of flood mitigation. As part of your overall effort to help your community manage its worries over floods, you might be looking to your natural infrastructure to help. So where do you start?
First you have to understand why (and if) natural infrastructure would even be considered. What is the Benefit being sought?
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You might identify
  • FLOOD MITIGATION

Knowing that, you have to track back and look at the  ‘Functions’ you might rely on for this Benefit.
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You might identify
  • STORMWATER MANAGEMENT

  • WATER DISBURSEMENT

  • MOISTURE RETENTION

  • EROSION CONTROL

Then you need to determine which are the Assets that perform these Functions in your area.
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You might identify
  • WETLANDS

  • NATIVE VEGETATION

  • RIVERS/STREAMS

  • LAKES

With this clear picture of the line between the Assets, the Functions, and the Benefit you are looking for, you can now choose your management tools. 
This takes you back along that chain because you need to link Management Actions to the right points in the system. For our Flood Mitigation example, it might look like this:
Magement actions focused on 
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...  might include
  • DIRECT PROTECTION

  • PLANNING FOR AVOIDANCE

  • GUIDELINES THAT MINIMIZE DAMAGE

Magement actions focused on 
Function_Titled.png
...  might include
  • ENHANCING STORAGE CAPACITY

  • REMOVING BARRIERS TO WATER DISTRIBUTION

  • ENHANCING HYDROLOGIC CONNECTIVITY

Magement actions focused on 
Benefits_Titled.png
...  might include
  • QUANTIFYING THE MITIGATIVE IMPACT

  • MAPPING AREAS IMPORTANT FOR FLOOD MITIGATION

  • PUBLIC EDUCATION AROUND LIVING IN A FLOODWAY

Some notes on natural infrastructure

What is a ‘Natural System’ vs

‘Natural Infrastructure’?

natural system really only refers to the Assets and Functions (the pieces and their interactions). 

 

Natural Infrastructure adds the human element, requiring a municipality to consider the derived Benefits and the associated management actions needed to sustain those benefits.

Is Natural Infrastructure

always sufficient?

Because Natural infrastructure approaches are effective, cost-efficient, and bring many co-benefits, they are the obvious place to start. However, it would be a mistake to suggest they are always the complete solution.

 

‘Flood mitigation,’ for example, means lowering the associated risk or severity, and natural infrastructure may be only part of providing this Benefit. In this example, complementary approaches could include engineered options (berms, dams, etc.), or simply agreeing not to develop in the floodway.