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Some users may have seen their water/sewer bills increase following council’s approval of a new utility pricing model earlier this year.
CAO Bill Given explained that the municipality expected the bill to increase by $50 per month — or $100 per two-month billing cycle — for the average residential consumer.
“It was a pretty clear and explicit choice throughout the process,” Given said.
“The intent of the model is really to create a more transparent system for people to see and understand the types of fees that are being charged and where that money is going.”
In the past, users were billed only based on water consumption with a flat rate for that water.
The Connection, Capital, and Consumption (CCC) model now charges users based on three different factors: Connection, Capital, and Consumption.
Connection charges are meant to provide a basic level of revenue for the utility.
“It helps account for the basic services required whether or not someone turns on their taps,” Given said.
“For example, the municipality has to maintain staff for the utility billing counter, and we have to have staff at the water treatment plant, and we have to test the fire hydrants.”
The consumption charge is the cost of water consumed and wastewater discharged from the property in question, with heavy consumers paying more.
“And for most residential users, that cost per cubic meter has actually come down in 2022 under the new model, and so the idea of having a tiered rate consumption model is there to encourage heavy consumers to do what they can to reduce their consumption. consumption,” Given said.
A complicating factor is that some properties use “trappers” that constantly drip water to keep pipes from freezing in the winter, which could exaggerate the impact on their utility bills.
“If someone has a bleed line, that will push them into the highest consumption category, so they’ll start paying high consumption fees, at a higher rate,” Given said.
“The municipality is aware of this, and people who bleed the lines will receive a credit to compensate for it.”
The municipality applies the bleeding credits at the end of April once all the traps are turned off.
The adjustments will appear on the March/April bill and the credit will only apply during the water purge season from November 1 to April 30.
The calculation of purge credits requires several days of work, and therefore cannot be completed every billing cycle, according to the municipality.
The capital charge, on the other hand, is directly allocated to the maintenance costs of the physical infrastructure of the water and sewer system.
A 2017 asset management study indicated that approximately $1.7 million needed to be invested in water and wastewater infrastructure each year.
“Over the past few years, the annual investment in this area has been underfunded, and the strategy with the capital requirement is to gradually expand over this five-year period to eventually reach the recommended amount in 2017” , said Given. .
Commercial properties, especially those with larger water meters, pay higher capital charges and connection fees than residential properties.
A review of the new utility pricing model will be brought to council in the fall.
“It’s a very fair comment to say that it’s a complex model, especially when you see it on your utility bill, because we have consumption charges, capital charges and capital charges for the water and sewage,” Given said.
“It’s a good example of why you start a system and with the explicit intention of continuously adjusting and improving it.”