Public Values

Cities under pressure over water

Canada's water infrastructure in a dismal state, cost-cutting at odds with repairs.

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz is negotiating new utility regulations with the Straight Goods News staff

Canadian cities are facing considerable challenges to maintaining or building needed water infrastructure.

Toronto will likely increase the water rate by 9 percent in 2011, which would raise the average Torontonian's water bill by $56. The rate has risen by 9 percent annually for the past several years to address a system in crisis, with aged pipes corroding, leaking, and bursting.

The city of Saint John, New Brunswick, has already approved an 8.3 percent increase in water rates for 2011, which means residents will be paying an additional $72 per year. An 11 percent hike will follow in December 2012. The antiquated water and sewage system has caused the city difficulty with boil water orders in recent years. Since 2008, the city has been hit with seven boil orders.

  Canadian municipalities currently face a water and wastewater infrastructure deficit of $31 billion.

Other sources of funding are also being explored. In June, city council voted to file a funding application with PPP Canada Inc., the federal office responsible for P3s. To proceed, a business case analysis of the application would have to be undertaken, costing the city another $200,000 in 2011.

In Winnipeg, the city is negotiating with environmental giant Veolia Canada about a wastewater consulting contract. A new arm's-length utility would oversee sewage treatment, garbage collection, and water treatment. It would also develop green power.

The project has been at a standstill since the summer of 2009 because the city and province have not come to an agreement about regulations. Mayor Sam Katz says conversations with the province about the utility regulations are still ongoing.

In terms of overall need, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimates that Canadian municipalities currently face a water and wastewater infrastructure deficit of $31 billion.

Links and sources
  Water/garbage: Why these fees have to go up
  Saint John hikes water rates
  P3 still an option for new water system
  Water and waste utility in limbo
  Canadian cities grapple with water rate increases

Posted: January 16, 2011

  Public services
  Natural resources

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