Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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Water and wastewater rate review - new LAC & Associates research

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As many know, the City is currently undertaking a review of how it charges for water and stormwater. I sit on the Environment Committee, and am looking forward to hearing how staff will or won't recommend charging for water - which is currently billed strictly according to how much a household uses.

Reviewing how we charge for water and wastewater has become important since water usage is declining while expenditures are generally fixed and predictable.

To deal with this, the City is contemplating a new rate structure that could, for example, fix a fee that everyone pays for water, no matter how much they use, and then charge for any additional water on a consumption basis.

When I was campaigning, I promised to conduct independent research to help me understand possible policy directions. Kitchissippi is a very busy ward, and it won't always be possible to ask my staff to brief me on every policy issue. In the first quarter of next year, City staff will return to Council with a proposal for restructuring water and stormwater rates for our consideration. I've asked LAC & Associates Consulting to preview some of the potential approaches the City might take evaluating those against several criteria that we've established (things like fairness, transparency, "preserving" conservation, and more).

LAC has made several recommendations in its report around stormwater billing that takes into account the permeable area of a property that I welcome. It has also raised some important points around communications in this exercise, as well as development and other fees.

I think there's a healthy caution in the report's conclusion: "In moving forward to implement any changes to the water billing system, Ottawa should first be sure that the changes will provide the desired results. Changing the structure of the system for change sake is not a valuable use of resources and would not be popular with most residents or businesses." In the upcoming discussion, that will be very much on my mind.

I think it's important to say that I have no particular stake in this discussion. I'm open-minded to a number of possibilities, and have no particular outcome in mind. My goal in commissioning this research is to get a jump on understanding the issue. I've distributed it for the information of my colleagues around the Council to the table, as well as to our staff, and hope it's a useful contribution. Over the next couple of months, I'll be tucking into it in greater detail. In the meantime, I hope this is helpful to those following this issue, and I'm happy, of course, to hear your feedback.

View the LAC & Associates report here.

Posted November 2, 2015