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Water and wastewater rates - FAQ

With the economic downturn and its impact on many citizens, the Water Utility presented options to City Council to reduce the approved rate increases planned for 2017 and 2018. City Council will make a decision about the water, wastewater and drainage revised rates in November 2016.

Below you will find answers to common City of Calgary water rates questions, such as what factors determine Calgary water rates, how water services are funded, what are the reasons for increasing rates, water conservation tips and how to save money on water bills.

How much are rates going up?

Effective Jan. 1, 2016, the average monthly residential water and wastewater and drainage bill in Calgary will be increasing by approximately $6.75 per month.

What is the rate increase used for?

Rates are increasing to pay for the significant investments that have been made in the water system to keep pace with unprecedented population growth, increasingly stringent water quality regulations, on-going maintenance of the plants, pipes and water infrastructure and compliance with our financial plan and targets.

One of the significant capital investments is the expansion of the City’s largest wastewater treatment plant to meet the requirements of a growing population.

Water and sewer charges are calculated using the following principles:

Fairness and equity to our customers
Rates reflect each customer's fair share of the costs to provide them with water and wastewater services. This means that customer pay for what they use.

Financial sustainability
The water utility receives no funding from property taxes, so rates fund all necessary investments in the water utility including treatment plants, undeground pipes and storage reservoirs. These investments allow The City of Calgary to expand, operate and mantain reliable water and wastewater service to meet the needs of a growing population.

Water resource management
Water is a precious resource and the supply is limited. Water rates are structured to encourage all customers to conserve water, to protect the river and the watershed, and meet all environmental regulatory water requirements. This ensures that we will continue to protect public health by ensuring a high quality supply of water today and in the future.

What is the increase in drainage fees being used for?

The increased drainage fees are being used to accelerate improvements to drainage in older communities, continued work on flood recovery, increased storm pond cleaning and in order to continue to meet regulatory requirements.

How do Calgary’s rates compare to other cities?

Calgary’s water rates are in the middle of the pack compared with other Canadian cities. When it comes to water and wastewater treatment, it is important that Calgary continues to make the necessary investments to keep pace with growth, meet increasingly stringent regulations and maintain assets.

This protects public health by ensuring the continued delivery of clean drinking water and the safe treatment of wastewater. Underfunding the water system will undermine the overall performance and long term health of a water utility.

Rates and the price of water are going up across North America. A recent study of large North American cities found that water rates were increasing approximately 6% per year.

Even with the increase to Calgary’s water rates we will continue to pay less than a penny a litre for water and wastewater service.

What about citizens on a fixed income?

With over more than a million people counting on the water system we need to make decisions that ensure the continued delivery of high quality drinking water and safe treatment of wastewater for today and tomorrow.

When it comes to water, there are actions all of us can take to save water and money. In fact, water conservation actions like fixing a leaky toilet, installing a low flow toilet and adopting outdoor water wise tips can save you hundreds of dollars a year.

Are we investing our water rates wisely in Calgary?

Yes. The City of Calgary continues to invest in the water system to ensure that we are able to deliver high quality drinking water, treat our waste safely and protect the river – our source of drinking water.

The City of Calgary water system has been internationally recognized as one of the best in the world. We are also ensuring that we stay in compliance with our financial targets to ensure the long-term financial health of the water utility.

Why are we seeing such large increases?

The demands on the water utility are unprecedented. The strong population growth continues to require significant investments to expand and upgrade our water and waste water treatment plants, and our distribution and collection network.

For perspective, the combined populations of Red Deer and Lethbridge have moved to Calgary in the past ten years and population growth continues to accelerate.

Don’t my property taxes pay for this?

No. The utility is completely self funded through water rates and receives no support from property taxes.

When will things return to normal (smaller increases)?

Given the demands of population growth, increasing regulations and on-going maintenance, we see continued upward pressure on rates in the foreseeable future. Long-term investments and the associated debt take time to pay off.

The City of Calgary will continue to make the essential investments to comply with all regulations and meet the demands of a growing population. We will conduct zero based business reviews to find and implement efficiency and enhanced effectiveness opportunities.

How can I save money on my bill?

Keep an eye on your monthly water bill.
Your utility bill shows how much water your household uses on a monthly basis. It tracks water consumption from month to month so you can monitor your household trends. Read your bill, monitor your consumption and make water conservation a priority at home. You will save money if you use less water.

Install high-efficiency WaterSense™ toilets.
By switching out older, water guzzling toilets with new, high-efficiency WaterSense™ models, you’ll flush less water, and money down the drain – as much as 40 percent less.

Find and fix leaky toilets – every six months.
Drop food colouring in your toilet tank and wait 20 minutes. Peek into the bowl. If the water is coloured, you’ve got a leak. Repair your leak and you could save up to $100 a year.

Go low flow.
Install low-flow shower heads and aerators on your faucets. These water-saving devices ensure ample water pressure. You’ll be using less water and saving money.

Wash full loads of laundry, every time.
On average, washing clothes accounts for 20 per cent of indoor water consumption. Wash full loads of laundry and clean up in savings. And when you are shopping for a new washing machine, consider buying a front-load washer; they use up to 50 per cent less water than the traditional top-load models.