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Water Rates Climbing

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Water/sewer rate hikes are on the books for many cities in Canada. The expected hikes range from 1.8 per cent in Victoria's Capital District Region to a whopping 20 per cent in Halifax.

Most cities say they need to raise the rates in order to meet aging infrastructure and pipe replacement programs. In BC's Capital Regional District, the rate hike is also tied to the loss of revenue due to lower water consumption. Residential water usage has been declining at between 2 per cent and 5 per cent a year for the past 10 years, spurred in part by CRD water conservation campaigns. While water use is declining, the CRD still needs to keep revenue high enough to pay for the cost of maintaining the water system. So this year again, Greater Victoria residents lower consumption will be rewarded with rate increases.

Rates are inching their way up all across Ontario, starting with Toronto where $1 billion of work that is not currently funded needs to be done between now and 2023. A previous decision to increase rates 9 per cent annually for nine years comes to an end in 2014, but now 8 per cent hikes sare being proposed for 2015, 2016 and 2017.

In Hamilton, a 4 per cent water rate increase was recently approved by council a few days after two of its major water users, McMaster University and the public school board, said in a letter to council that they shouldn't be charged for water and sewage at the same rate as industrial and commercial customers. The request is unlikely to be acepted as together they pay close to $2.7-million for about one-million cubic metres of water, enough to fill 406 Olympic swimming pools.

Durham Region councillors approved the 2014 water and sanitary sewer user rates on Wednesday, the combined increase works out to 6.3 per cent. In Markham, council approved an 8 per cent hike per cubic metre of water, bringing 2014 water and wastewater rates up to $3.07 per cubic metre, compared to $2.84 this year. In Sudbury, residents woke up to a major watermain break, the morning after city council approved a in water rates aimed at dealing with these recurring issues. The city's price of water services is going up by 4.6 per cent next year. In Thunder Bay, the manager of the city's environment division said the department needs more money to replace pipes therefore residents can expect to pay about 6 per cent more for water next year, or about $4 more per month.

On the East coast, a water rate hike of nearly 30 per cent over two years proposed by the Halifax Regional water Commission raised concerns among businesses and homeowners. The hike was reviewed by the Utility Review Board and was downsized to 20 per cent.

In British Columbia, the City of Nanaimo is bumping up sewer and water rates by a total 12.5 per cent beginning Jan. 1, increasing the average bill by just over $32. In the prairies, Yorkton, SK, has approved a 4.3 per cent increase in operational funding for infrastructure upkeep and to offset the escalating costs of PVC materials and fleet rentals.

The Water Chronicles (www.water.ca)

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