I said a couple of weeks ago that I would do a post on water and wastewater rates, and it just so happens that they are being discussed at Council this afternoon after a presentation by Watson and Associates for our updated Financial Plan and Water and Wastewater Rate Study.
After Walkerton in 2002 when over 2300 people were sick and 7 people died due to contaminated water supply provided by the town of Walkerton, many regulations have come into play including the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002 that govern exactly how municipalities provide safe and clean drinking water to their residents.
Another regulation that came from Walkerton was the Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act, which was later repealed and replaced with the O.Reg. 453/07, but the premise of both is somewhat similar. In order to obtain their Drinking Water License under the Safe Drinking Water Act, municipalities must submit a full financial plan to the Ministry of Environment of the costs of providing water and wastewater services. Now, add the Water Opportunities Act, 2010 which adds more regulations onto municipalities to provide water and wastewater services that regulates municipalities to submit: -An asset management plan for the physical infrastructure; -A financial plan; -For water, a water conservation plan; -An assessment of risks that may interfere with the future delivery of the municipal service, including, if required by the regulations, the risks posed by climate change and a plan to deal with those risks; and -Strategies for maintaining and improving the municipal service, including strategies to ensure the municipal service can satisfy future demand, consider technologies, services and practices that promote the efficient use of water and reduce negative impacts on Ontario’s water resources, and increase co- operation with other municipal service providers.
If that wasn’t enough, let’s add the Infastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2015 which mandates all municipalities have an asset management plan in place for all infrastructure that they own, which includes all water and wastewater infrastructure. Other acts such as the Municipal Act 2003 and Development Charges Act (as amended) also play into water and wastewater regulations, as well as a few others.
Part of all of these reporting measures is that municipalities, including Thames Centre, forecast our costs for at least 6 years, which the municipality in partnership with our consultant, have done from 2020-2029 to sustainably provide water and wastewater systems to our residents. Currently, Thames Centre services 2,544 metered water customers, 870 metered wastewater customers, and 55 non-metered wastewater customers. The forecast assumes the addition of 632 water and wastewater customers over the forecast period, an average of 63 new customers per year, with 2020 assuming only 46 additional customers.
For our Financial Plan to be submitted to the Ministry of Environment, Watson and Associates was obtained by Thames Centre, to complete the report. It’s a lovely document, which includes full calculations into a financial plan. You can read Watson and Associates Financial Plan here: https://tc-egenda.middlesex.ca/…/803032_Watson_Associates_W…
Additionally, we must submit a Water and Wastewater Rate Study that shows how the municipality is going to financial sustain our water and wastewater systems through a mandated “user-pay system” via rates. It must be remembered, that under O. Reg. 453/07, that this is a living document and subject to annual budget changes. What is submitted here for our Drinking Water License, is not set in stone and it is up to Council to annually set the water and wastewater rates. Although this is being discussed at Council today, it does not set the rates prescribed in the report. You can find https://tc-egenda.middlesex.ca/…/803033_Watson_AssociatesWa…. Setting water and wastewater rates are very prescriptive under many regulations set out by the province. As you can see, we are mandated under financial business plans submitted to the province to financially sustain these systems, which makes it very difficult for a member of Council, or Council as a whole, to simply decrease rates because we think they are “too high”. Additionally as you can come to the conclusion at is comparing water and wastewater rates in between municipalities is impossible because every system is different and the needs and growth of each community is different. It is very much comparing apples to oranges because there are so many factors which include geography, soil conditions, population (number of people on the system), pumping requirements, capital investments, the water source and the reliability of the source, etc. Again, every system is different.
You can find an overview of the presentation being made to Council today here that touches on both the Financial Plan and the Water and Wastewater Rate Study, although of course it does not go into as much detail as the full reports: https://tc-egenda.middlesex.ca/…/803041_Presentation_Watson….
I am happy to discuss water and wastewater rates at anytime, but before sending a message that your rates are high and are higher than your friend who lives in xyz, please take the time to read the links above and understand how your rates are set and why. I know that our rates are higher in comparison to other municipalities, and I also know for a fact that our rates are lower than other municipalities, as I mentioned above though, comparing rates between municipalities is very much apples and oranges. Again, I am happy to take any questions or concerns though!
Quick sidenote: providing safe and cleaning drinking water to you is an absolute priority to both the staff and Council of the Municipality of Thames Centre. Should (heaven forbid) another Walkerton arise where your water system has been contaminated - both staff and members of Council under the Safe Drinking Water Act would/could be found personally responsible and there are fines into the millions of dollars and jail time for each of us. Our responsibilities are not taken lightly.