New Brunswick

Riverview expects 'significant' water rate hike because of algae

The cost Moncton charges to Dieppe and Riverview for drinking water is projected to rise 15 per cent to address blue-green algae in the municipal water supply.

Town hopes to reduce impact of projected 15 per cent increase

Moncton's Tower Road Dam, one of the city's two drinking water reservoirs in the Turtle Creek area. (Shane Magee/CBC News)

The rate Moncton charges to Dieppe and Riverview for drinking water is projected to rise 15 per cent next year in part because of blue-green algae in the region's municipal drinking water supply.

The algae were found in the Turtle Creek watershed in 2017 and once again this year. The watershed supplies drinking water to Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview. 

Moncton, which owns the reservoirs, has said the algae have not affected water safety. But the city has incurred added costs as it looks at ways to manage the problem. 

Moncton sells the drinking water to Riverview and Dieppe at a wholesale rate. 

Robert Higson, the town's director of finance, said the wholesale rate of 53.2 cents per cubic metre is projected to increase to 61.4 cents per cubic metre. 

"This increase this year is significantly more than in prior years," he said. 

Staff looking to lessen impact

The increase could be felt on water bills.  

If the full increase is passed on to consumers, residential water bills could go up by $30 to $40 annually, Higson said.

Staff are looking at ways to reduce that impact, such as adjusting plans to replace old cast iron pipes, he said.

"We're going to do everything we can to keep that as low as we possibly can," Higson said.

Tower Road reservoir is Greater Moncton's secondary water source. Blue-green algae were detected there this summer, the second year in a row. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Moncton would not comment on the hike before the city's budget is formally presented to city council. 

"It is too early to say if it will have an impact on our customer rates or what it may be," Julie Albert, a spokesperson for the City of Dieppe, wrote in an email. "Our Finance Department has been made aware of the projected increase in wholesale water rate and are working on the numbers."

The results of that will be presented during budget deliberations set for Nov. 19, Albert said. 

Water sale agreement

Moncton has a water sale agreement with the other two municipalities. Under the agreement, municipal staff meet each year to discuss future water rates. 

The wholesale water rate for Dieppe and Riverview increases based on actual expenses incurred by Moncton in the previous year, according to the staff report to Riverview council. 

Dieppe charges a flat combined water and sewer rate of $928 annually, its website says. ​

Riverview charges $874 a year for combined residential water and sewer service. Higson said the potential impact of the increase is about one-third of that bill. Commercial properties are metered and pay $3.15 per cubic metre for water and sewer service. 

Moncton residential customers are charged based on water and sewer use and pipe connection size.