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Aug. 5, 2020 | Wednesday
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No increase on water bills in 2020
Water rates will remain the same this year. (File photo/Dariya Baiguzhiyeva)

Niagara-on-the-Lake residents will see no changes to their water and wastewater bills this year.

The fee for water usage will stay the same as last year, at $1.4969 per cubic metre.

There will be no increase to the fixed water rate either with the fee depending on the meter size.

The variable wastewater rate will also remain unchanged, at $1.2663 per cubic metre.

The decision was made at a special council meeting Monday after a municipal finance specialist John Murphy of DFA Infrastructure International Inc. firm made a presentation to council recommending no increase to the current rates as the town is in an “excellent” financial position in regard to its water and wastewater systems.

“The current rates are adequate to fund your system,” Murphy told councillors. “You’re in a financially sustainable position as of today.”

According to the rate study done by the consultant firm, there will be about 7,574 water customers who will use about 2.4 million cubic metres of water in 2020. Residential customers account for 52 per cent of metered water, while non-residential customers comprise 48 per cent.

The amount of water purchased from Niagara Region is projected to be 3,309,802 cubic metres in 2020. About 20 per cent of that water will be what is known as unaccounted for water.

Coun. Allan Bisback asked if there was a way to meter the unaccounted water.

“There has to be a way between the water flowing through the pipes, running it past the meter, going to the billing agency, going on the bill that we can account for it,” he said.

Murphy said there may be a number of reasons for water loss such as unauthorized usage or water leaks through the system.

Coun. Gary Burroughs noted every municipality has challenges with water loss and it’s not something the town should be “panicking” about at this time.

The annual operating cost of the town’s water system is $6,412,352, Murphy said. The projected non-rate revenue, which comes from items like bulk water and administration penalty fees, sits at $370,952.

The town will pay $2,616,212 in 2020 to purchase water from the region.

The water rates are sufficient enough to sustain the system until 2023 when a 1 per cent increase is recommended, according to the rate study.

In regard to wastewater, there are about 6,101 customers who are billed for 1,826,129 cubic metres of wastewater.

The annual operating cost of the town’s wastewater system is $4,821,737. The largest component of that cost, about 70 per cent, is the regional charge to treat wastewater, about $3,300,220.

“The cost to treat wastewater by the region is expensive,” Murphy noted.

Based on the number of customers and projected volume of wastewater, Murphy also recommended no increase to wastewater rates as the fees will be sustainable until 2021 when a 2 per cent increase rate is recommended followed by a 4 per cent increase starting in 2022.

Councillors also approved the Water System Financial Plan, which will be submitted to the Ministry of the Environment as part of the town’s drinking water licence renewal application.

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