Waterloo’s city council approved 2020 utilities rates, which includes a 3.9 per cent increase on water utility bills. That equates to an additional cost of $41.87 for the average household.
Of that amount, the city’s share is 2.5 per cent (or $27), while the region’s share is 1.4 per cent (or $14.87).
City utilities rates pay for the costs associated with providing drinking water, collecting and treating sanitary wastewater, and responsibly managing stormwater (including water quality control and flood control).
Nancy Kodousek, Waterloo Region Director of Water Services, said wastewater is an especially important factor to manage. “In 2007 we launched a wastewater master plan that was significant, it was $700 million over 10 years to upgrade many of our wastewater treatment facilities.”
She explained that climate change is responsible for many of these changes. “Climate change, we’re seeing an impact both in our water and our wastewater systems,” she said. “When the water comes into the river, the rivers are filling so high today, we actually are building a pumping station”
The city says it is hiking water bills to deliver clean water and meet regulations to keep drinking water safe, maintain decaying pipes, and improve the environment by better treating the sewage that pours into the Grand River.
The drainage fee for water treatment has increased by the most, having doubled since 2014. The city maintains that it is critical to manage flooding as the climate changes. “We are seeing changes with climate change in how we operate and how we have to operate our facilities,” Koudesek said.
Council expects water prices to continue to increase over the course of the decade. In 2018, average water bills were $886, double the rate in 2006. Council expects this to more than double over the next decade, up to $1,310 by 2029.
To help combat rising water bill problems, the city is planning to introduce a pilot program for a smart meter to provide real time water consumption data. It will involve the citywide implementation of an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) system.
The AMI system will work by producing real time water reads on an hourly basis. The transmitters relay water consumption data (water reads) through a wireless communication platform and are ultimately received by the water utility’s database environment.
The new technology will prevent tenants from being surprised by abnormally large water bills.
“Any type of abnormal consumption for any property in the city would be captured real-time and be addressed in a much quicker fashion than our current meter-reading process, which is a bi-monthly process,” Todd Chapman, the city’s manager of programs in water services, told Waterloo Chronicle.
In addition, the system will help to prevent water waste and help to return the increased bills in reduction. “Flagging abnormal consumption in real-time would allow us to (prevent) significant waste of water, something that customers would not even know is happening on their property. That’s not something that saves the city money per se, but it’s in the general spirit of conserving our potable water,” explained Chapman.
AMI meter installations will begin in the spring of this year and are projected to be completed by the fall of 2023.