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Water rates — use-what-you-pay structure coming?

The city's water rates were being reviewed by Urban Systems in order to incorporate the water meter usage information.

The waterfall free-for-all that has comprised residential water use in the city will be coming to an end as the city is contemplating a use-what-you-pay structure.

The city's water rates were being reviewed by Urban Systems in order to incorporate the water meter usage information.

Currently the city charges a flat rate for any amount of water used for residential use. Commercial and industrial customers have been on a fixed charge since the 2007 commercial meter program.

Additional options presented to city council included a minimum charge and an inclining block rate.

John Weninger of Urban Systems said a revenue neutral type of approach was used in designing the options, meaning every rate structure option will need to collect the same amount of revenue.

“What the rate structure does is it allocates the costs to the various customer groups,” he said, in an equitable manner that meets the objectives of council.

Although there were five rate setting objectives, conservation was the main one, Weninger said, so prices need to be set high enough to encourage people to conserve water.

Equity, revenue stability, affordability and simplicity were the other objectives.

Coun. Beverley Tripp said she would not be happy with anything other than a universal rate, or a flat rate.

“Water is … a right,” she said. “It is a community resource. So I do believe a universal rate is the one that would satisfactorily meet that ideal.”

An inclined rate would unfairly put a burden on the poorer people of the community, she felt.

Weninger said if there is a more conservation-attitude from the city, the idea is there that there would be enough funding to keep the system operating.

“Definitely that is something you want to consider in the rate structure, no matter what the weather, is that you don’t have a shortfall,” he said.

But if conservation measures and rate structures were favoured, the only people who are going to conserve are the people who are tight on money, said Coun. Julia Butler. The people who can afford it won’t conserve.

“So that’s why this is a tax on the poor,” said Butler. “If I’m at a lower income I would be concerned about conserving water.”

She supported a flat rate.

The city's water rates feedback will now be used to develop three draft rate structure options for review.