By September 26, 2017 Read More →

Ecofiscal urges Canadian municipalities to make users pay for water services

water services

In this May 1, 2014 photo, irrigation water services (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

90% of Canadians get drinking water from local municipality

Municipal water and wastewater services are vital to our health, the economy, and the environment, according to a new report from Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission.

These networks of infrastructure produce and deliver clean drinking water and remove and treat wastewater.

Yet there are hidden problems in many municipalities: Canadians are some of the biggest water users in the world, and our infrastructure deficits threaten both the quality and quantity of our clean water.

Changing the way we pay for water services can enable us to address all of these problems, says the Ecofiscal Commission.

water services

The report suggests to restructure and raise water rates, with the help of water meters, noting utilities can then connect water usage to the price users pay.

This helps drives conservation, providing funding for much needed infrastructure, and helping to protect our water sources. They can also be designed to be fair, ensuring water stays affordable for low-income households.

Some Canadian municipalities are leading the way. Their efforts to design better water rates illustrate the best practices that can help other municipalities improve their own systems.

Only the Pipes Should be Hidden helps municipalities tackle the complex challenges of operating their water systems in a sustainable manner. The report includes:

  • 5 case studies that highlight the progress Canadian municipalities have made in improving the sustainability of their systems. Featured are St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador; Montréal, Quebec; Ottawa, Ontario; The Battlefords, Saskatchewan; and Gibsons, British Columbia.
  • 10 best practices for designing and implementing water rates, drawn from experience across the country
  • 6 policy recommendations, including relying on water rates to recover full costs and encourage conservation


Quick Facts

  • 90 per cent of Canadians get their drinking water from their local municipality.
  • In a comparison of 20 OECD countries, Canada ranks 4th highest in terms of per capita water use.
  • At the beginning of 2015, at least 1,838 Canadian communities were under drinking-water advisories, most of which were caused by poor infrastructure.
  • Canada’s infrastructure deficit for water and wastewater assets is valued at $142 billion
  • The costs of our municipal water systems include the private costs borne by the water utility (operations, maintenance, capital) as well as the broader social costs (protecting our water sources).

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