City councillors in Thunder Bay approved an increase in water rates Monday night, as the city says it needs to charge more to balance the books.

Thunder Bay residents can expect to pay about six per cent more for water next year, or about $4 more per month.

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Thunder Bay’s constant increases since 2009 — some as high as 14 per cent — have been necessary, according to the city's manager of infrastructure.

The city’s constant increases since 2009 — some as high as 14 per cent — have been necessary, according to the city's manager of infrastructure.

Darrel Matson said projections made four years ago are on target so the water department will break even, eventually.

"The trend thus far is we're tracking well and we never made any adjustments to the increases from 2009 to date, because they were really doing what they intended to do,” he said.

Balancing the books

Councillor Mark Bentz agreed with the rate hike, saying water is still ranked as affordable in the city.

But he questioned the low rates for business and industry.

"Perhaps we should be re-evaluating that policy because, certainly in Ontario, it appears that we're [charging] much less for commercial water than any other city."

Kerri Marshall

Kerri Marshall is manager of Thunder Bay's environment division. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The manager of the city's environment division said the department needs more money to replace pipes.

"That infrastructure is aging, the average age is around 50 years,” Kerri Marshall said.

“A lot of those [water] mains are coming to a point in their life when they need to be renewed or rehabilitated."

Marshall said the increases will also help balance the water department's books, so it doesn't have to keep borrowing as much money for capital expenses.

Council will give final approval of the cost of water during budget deliberations in early 2014.