2017 Q3 Water and Sewer Charges
We are aware that some residents are expressing concerns about their September water and sewer bill being much higher than what they expected.
As you know, we experienced one of the driest summers in 130 years. This following one of the wettest years we have had in many years in 2016. For the July – September 2017 quarter, the Town provided more water to residents than it ever has. Consumption of water was up more than 42% from 2016 and 23% from 2015.
The increase in the average water and sewer charges for residents was also a result of 5 percent increase in rates effective January 2017. Our rates increased primarily because of an increase in the price of our treated water supplied by SaskWater. SaskWater provides high quality, treated water to the Town and determines the rate at which the Town will purchase treated water based on SaskWater's cost and capital recovery model.
In 2015 and 2016, SaskWater completed a significant expansion to the Town's water treatment and storage capacity with an investment of over $7.0 million in the water treatment plant. The Town also upgraded the electrical, distribution and pumping systems to improve water flows throughout Town. For this, the Town invested over $600K. These system upgrades were necessary to continue to supply high-quality water to residents , with proper water pressure and expand the capacity of the plant to sustain a population of 5,500 people.
The Town operates its Water and Sewer Utility on a full cost recovery basis. As such, the water and sewer utility does not subsidize the Town's operating expenses nor do property taxes support the utility operations or its rates. Additionally, the Town adopted a policy of fully funding a water and sewer asset renewal fund, which means that when the Town's water or sewer lines, pumps and other systems require replacing, the Town will not use property taxes or borrowing to do so. The Town's long-term strategy will have the asset renewal funds pay for upgrading and replacing the water and sewer system.
We all understand this was one of the driest summers in 130 years and many residents discontinued watering their yards to manage their water and sewer charges. There were also many people who understood they would be paying a higher water and sewer bill in September because they watered more frequently.
For those that feel there is an anomaly in their water consumption, our process is to check past use for the same period in previous years and determine if there is a substantial difference. If there is, we ask residents to check to see if there is a leak in their water system in their residence. Often, a toilet or tap that is slightly leaking can cause consumption to increase dramatically without the resident knowing.
Some people have suggested that their meter may be malfunctioning. The meters we are using have a very high-reliability rate and where there is a problem it is usually a meter that is failing to account for all the water supplied to the home.
The Town is currently reviewing its systems to determine when we can move to a monthly billing cycle. The target date for this is February 1, 2018. The monthly billing cycle will be consistent with other municipalities in the area and assist residents in monitoring water consumption more frequently.
One of the most significant costs we have in generating water and sewer bills is postage. Currently, we produce over 5,000 pieces of mail related to water and sewer billings. Moving to a monthly billing cycle means that we will generate nearly 15,000 pieces of mail. Some residents are receiving their bills via email, and we are encouraging residents to sign up for this service. Our goal is to have 70 -80 percent of residents on the email system and this will assist in reducing our mailing costs.
In addition to the items mentioned, the Town is also reviewing its agreement with SaskWater to assess whether purchasing the water treatment process from SaskWater can produce a positive effect on water and sewer rates without compromising the Town’s water quality and supply. This report is expected to be reviewed by Council in December 2017.
We appreciate resident’s efforts to enhance the unique qualities of our community. It is through your efforts that our Town continues to be known for its wide-open spaces, well-maintained parks and yards and friendliness.