Manitoba

Water, sewer rates on the rise, along with price tag for sewage-treatment upgrades

Winnipeggers are poised to pay more for water and sewage treatment this year, partly to sock away money for sewage-treatment upgrades that continue to rise in cost.

Average Winnipeg household to pay an extra $61 this year; North End sewage plant cost now projected at $1.8B

The average Winnipeg household can expect to pay $61 more for water-and-sewer service this year. (CBC)

Winnipeggers are poised to pay more for water and sewage treatment this year, partly to sock away money for sewage-treatment upgrades that continue to rise in cost.

The city is proposing to hike water-and-sewer rates this year by 4.7 per cent for residential households. This would add $61 to the annual water-and-sewer bill for the average Winnipeg household, according to a report that comes before council's water and waste committee next week.

Commercial water users are also facing a 4.5-per-cent hike to their water-and-sewer bills. That will force businesses to either absorb the higher cost or pass it on to their customers, said Amina Tasse, manager at Mid Town Car Wash.

"The water is running here constantly," said Tasse, estimating 300 cars pass through her business on a busy day.

She said her customers will notice if the car wash passes on the cost hike.

"We've only raised our prices twice in the eight years we've been here, so they notice it right away," she said.

The main reason for the rate hike is the city is undergoing billions worth of sewage-treatment upgrades in order to comply with a provincial environmental order issued in 2003.

The city spent $47 million upgrading the West End Water Pollution Control Centre a decade ago and is spending $336 million on upgrades to the South End Water Pollution Control Centre.

The city is also planning upgrades at its largest sewage-treatment plant, the North End Water Pollution Control Centre.

A separate new report to council projects that will cost nearly $1.8 billion, including finance charges. That's a rise of almost $400 million.

The cost hike is the result of a more detailed project estimate. The city is now recommending the work be conducted in three phases.

Last week, a city finance report claimed the province wants to claw back on a $34.4-million commitment to the project and have the city spend the money on other infrastructure projects.

The provincial government confirmed it agrees with this idea but claimed it was the city that wanted to redirect the funds.

On top of the upgrades to all three sewage-treatment plants, the city must also spend billions over the coming decades to replace combined sewers with separate, dedicated pipes for sewage and storm water.

The province has given the city until 2045 to capture 85 per cent of the diluted sewage that flows into Winnipeg's rivers during an average year.

The water-and-sewer bill report states that if Ottawa and Manitoba do not assist the city with its wastewater-treatment upgrades, water and sewer bills could exceed property-tax bills for Winnipeg households in a matter of years.