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Water utility rates - frequently asked questions

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



What is The City of Calgary doing to recognize the economic downturn?

Given the downturn in the economy, The City of Calgary Water Utility brought forward options to provide rate relief for customers in 2017 and 2018 to City Council.

City Council approved the rate relief for water, wastewater and stormwater (drainage) on November 22, 2016. Below are the Water, Wastewater and Stormwater annual rate increase comparisons.


Approved
rate increases

Revised rate
increases

2017 2018 2017 2018
Water 2.0% 2.0% 0% 0%
Wastewater 14.9% 14.2% 5.1% 4.9%
Stormwater 19.1% 19.1% 7.4% 7.4%

How much are rates going up?

Effective January 1, 2018, a typical monthly residential water, wastewater and stormwater bill of $114 (based on a 19 m3 usage for a household of three to four people) will increase by approximately $1.88 per month.

Council did approved indicative rates for 2019-22 in June 2018. Final rates for 2019-22 will be determined by Council as part of the four-year budget process this November.

How are rate increases determined?

A cost of service study, undertaken ever four years, determines the revenue The City requires to deliver water utility services, and allocates costs to customer classes that have similar patterns of water and wastewater usage. Customer classes range from residential metered to large general service customers, including industrial, commercial and institutional accounts.

The Cost of Service Study presented to Council in 2018 was completed by a third-party. It is part of The City of Calgary’s preparation for 2019-22 service plans and budgets.

What is the rate increase used for?

In providing Water, Wastewater and Stormwater services to customers, The City incurs ongoing operating and capital expenses, which are impacted by growth, inflation, and the need to maintain, upgrade and extend existing infrastructure to continue to deliver services to customers, and meet regulatory requirements. In general, rates are increasing to pay for the investments needed to expand our largest wastewater treatment plant and upgrades to stormwater systems to manage heavy rainfall events.

What do the wastewater usage rate and basic service charge pay for, and how are they calculated?

The wastewater basic service charge is a fixed charge, and pays for wastewater collection pipes, wastewater treatment facilities and billing. The wastewater usage rate pays for the costs to treat wastewater produced from flushing toilets, and draining sinks and bathtubs.

The rate calculation takes into consideration that wastewater produced is estimated to be 90 per cent of water usage over a year, reflecting that some water (mostly from outdoor watering during the summer months) is not returned to the treatment plants. All customers pay only the 90% return factor in the winter months, even when the return factor will be at or close to 100%.

The 2018 Cost of Service Study reviewed and confirmed that the 90% return factor accurately reflects water and wastewater usage patterns for residential customers.

What does the stormwater (drainage) service charge pay for?

The City of Calgary is making significant capital investments to upgrade overland drainage service in older neighborhoods that are experiencing localized flooding due to extreme rain events.

Why are the stormwater (drainage) rates high?

The increased stormwater service charge is used for improvements to stormwater drainage in older communities, continued work on flood recovery, storm pond cleaning and to continue to meet regulatory requirements.

What is happening to rates across major cities?

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 six percent per year. Even with the increase to Calgary’s water rates we will continue to pay less than a penny a liter for water and wastewater service.

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 can deliver high quality drinking water, treat our waste safely and protect the river – our source of drinking water.

The City of Calgary's 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.

Do my property taxes pay for this?

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

What about citizens on a fixed income?

With over 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.

Contact 211 or visit ab.211.ca for assistance in finding community and social services that can help.

How can I save money on my bill?

When it comes to water, there are actions all of us can take to save money and conserve. If you see any changes, you may have a leak or meter issue. 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.