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CBC Ottawa

Water rate hike held to 3.9%

I think they meant to sit on this till tomorrow's Environment Committee meeting, but here it is now:

For immediate release:
February 15, 2011

Proposed Water and Sewer Rate Increase Lowest in Eight Years

Ottawa - Mayor Jim Watson and Environment Committee Chair Maria McRae are pleased to announce the City's 2011 draft water and wastewater budget contains the lowest proposed rate increase in eight years.

The draft rate budget, tabled today at the City's Environment Committee, supports City Council's commitments to providing high-quality drinking water, protecting the environment, reducing the risk of flooding, and renewing existing infrastructure while keeping costs down.

The budget contains a 3.9-per-cent increase, which is less than half the increase imposed in each of the last three years and the lowest since 2003. At the same time, the budget maintains funding for the City's infrastructure renewal and flood protection needs, and makes the necessary investments in the Ottawa River Action Plan. (See Highlights below)

"I'm pleased to deliver a rate budget that balances the City's pressing infrastructure needs and protection of the environment while limiting impact on taxpayers," Mayor Jim Watson said. "Ottawa produces and delivers some of the safest and best quality water found anywhere in the world, and we need to invest in our infrastructure to make sure this continues."

The draft rate budget will be debated at Committee March 28 and sent to Council for final approval on April 13.

According to the Ontario Municipal Benchmarking Initiative (OMBI), City of Ottawa water and wastewater services are consistently operated efficiently and effectively. In every category, the independent body concludes the citizens of Ottawa are receiving excellent value for money by meeting or exceeding provincial averages.

The replacement value of the City's network of pipes is estimated at approximately $17 billion, and, since much of this infrastructure was installed shortly after World War II, these systems require continuing rehabilitation or replacement to maintain current standards.

Principally, this is what drives increases in water and wastewater budgets in all cities. In Ottawa's case, the proposed 2011 rate increase will cost roughly 50 cents per week for the average household, and mean that, for about same price as one 500ml bottle of water, the City delivers 1,000 litres of some of the best drinking water in North America through your tap.

"We are committed to delivering top quality services to the citizens of Ottawa in the most cost efficient manner possible," Environment Committee Chair Councillor Maria McRae said. "With the investments we are making in the Ottawa River Action Plan and combined sewer overflow control, the City of Ottawa will remain a leader in environmental protection."

Highlights of the 2011 draft Rate Budget include:

  • A greatly reduced rate increase -- 3.9-per-cent - when compared to the last three years when nine per increases were imposed.
  • An overall operating budget of $264 million for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services.
  • A $206 million capital works program directed at improving and renewing the City's water and wastewater infrastructure. Of that total, approximately 95% of this program will be directed towards rehabilitating and renewing City infrastructure.
  • Major elements of the 2011 capital program include:
    • $17 million for Ottawa River Action Plan projects aimed at ensuring the long-term health of the Ottawa River;
    • $6.8 million in works to reduce the risk of flooding in the City's West End;
    • $1.75 million to reimburse residents who install protective plumbing devices;
    • $5 million to rehabilitate more than eight kilometres of watermains in total;
    • $3.8 million to rehabilitate the Woodroffe Avenue watermain and other measures to increase service reliability in the area;
    • $4.8 million to rehabilitate more than seven kilometres of sanitary sewers; and
    • $4.4 million to rehabilitate more almost five kilometres of storm sewers.
  • The City will also continue to directly assist homeowners improve their own infrastructure through programs including:
    • The Protective Plumbing Program -- $1.75 million;
    • The Sewer Lateral Replacement Program -- $1.2 million; and
    • The Lead Service Replacement Program -- $1 million.
  • A proposed water charge of $1.32 per cubic metre - roughly 1,000 litres of delivered water for the same price as one 500 ml bottle of water bought in a store.
  • A sewer surcharge of 117% of the water charge.

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