Who does this water rate change affect?
The Township of Oro-Medonte operates several water systems across the municipality. This rate change only applies to those residents on municipal water systems.
Our municipal water systems are user-pay, full cost-recovery systems. This means that only system users pay for the service, not the general taxpayer.
What are the new rates?
Will my water bills go up?
Water bills will increase for most of our customers. Given the continued use of a variable rate in the new structure, the increase will vary in amount from customer to customer and is dependent on how much water you use.
The per-user cost of operating a system tends to be lower when there are more users on a system. In Oro-Medonte, each system – regardless of consumption – requires regular testing, maintenance, repair, and upgrades to the infrastructure. With so many systems requiring all of this work and the relatively low number of users, the overall program costs in Oro-Medonte may be higher when compared to other municipalities.
When are the new rates being implemented?
The new rates are effective July 1st, 2017 and phased in over 18 months. This means that the new combined rate structure will first appear on third quarter water bills, which are issued near the end of October.
I live in Horseshoe Valley, but pay $800 per year as a flat fee for water? Will this rate change affect me? Why am I billed differently?
The water supply in Horseshoe Valley is provided by the municipality for those residents who live in Zone 2 (Horseshoe Highlands). Skyline Horseshoe Resort (Skyline), a private service, provides water services for those residents living in Zone 1, which are predominantly those on the north side of Horseshoe Valley Road.
The Township does not set the water rates for residents in Zone 1, but does act in a collection capacity for those homes with water service provided within Zone 1. Any rate changes for Skyline customers would be at the discretion of Skyline.
What triggered the change in the water rate structure? Why change the structure?
Due to the large geographic area served, the number of systems in operation, the MOECC classification of each municipal water system, and corresponding legislative requirements for each system, economies of scale for water delivery in Oro-Medonte is very challenging. Our municipal water systems are user-pay, full cost-recovery systems. This means that only system users pay for the service, not the general taxpayer.
The previous rate structure was not sustainable. The changes ensure the Township's water systems have a stable, sustainable funding mechanism in place to provide customers with a safe, reliable water supply.
Like many municipalities in the province, Oro-Medonte is faced with a significant infrastructure funding shortfall. The Township's water infrastructure renewal requirements are currently $1.3-million per year, but the past fees charged to users only generated $530,000 in funding. This means that the systems are currently underfunded from a capital perspective.
Likewise, the operational deficit as reported demonstrated that the past rate structure did not adequately support realized operational costs.
As a result of the Walkerton inquiry, the municipality (including members of Council, licensed operators, and senior staff) have a legislated and highly regulated responsibility to supply and deliver a safe, reliable water supply and provide for sustainable services.
Why include a fixed rate operating component to the rate structure?
All users are afforded equal access to the system. Under the new rate model all users pay an equal amount for this service as a portion of their water bill. The fixed operating charge covers a portion of the costs of operating the system on a day-to-day basis. Approximately 80% of the operating costs are incurred regardless of consumption.
The use of a fixed operating component better enables operating expenses to be met. The use of a fixed operating component also reduces our customers' risk to cover future operating shortfalls due to low consumption levels.
I like to conserve water. How does the rate structure support my conservation efforts?
The rate structure includes a variable consumption rate, which means customers will continue to pay for what they use. The variable rate charge supports conservation, fiscal sustainability and is in accordance with the recommendations by KPMG and industry best practice.
A water rate premium for consumption greater than 75 m3 per quarter will take effect January 1st, 2018. This premium is designed to encourage conservation and support those users who already do so by providing an incentive to stay below 75 m3 of usage per quarter.
Why are operational costs increasing? Is the Township doing anything to monitor and control costs?
All municipal water systems operate in accordance with the Standard of Care, provincial legislation, and drinking water licensing and permits. Together, these documents and regulations provide the environmental governance for all systems and operations, and distinctly control the operational requirements.
Independent of provincial legislative requirements, Environmental Services has made a number of improvements. These include:
- Submission of grant applications;
- An external assessment of efficiency opportunities;
- Utilizing technology for efficiencies, such as:
- Increased use of remote system monitoring to reduce staff costs.
- Implementing operational improvements:
- the installation of variable speed pumps;
- improved procurement strategies to manage the efficiency and environmental sustainability of the services we provide and the use of outside laboratory services; and
- Continuous monitoring of costs.
- The funding of new development though development charges and agreements.
What kind of maintenance activities do the operators perform? What are the provincial legislations around water operations?
The operation of the municipal drinking water systems is highly regulated by several Acts & Regulations. The main documents governing operations for water systems are as follows:
• Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002, S.O. 2002, c.32 (‘SDWA’)
• Ontario Regulation 188/07: Licensing of Municipal Drinking Water Systems
• Ontario Regulation 169/03: Water Quality Standards
• Ontario Regulation 170/03: Drinking Water Systems
• Drinking Water Quality Management Standard
Regardless of consumption, Township licensed water operators are responsible for the several monitoring operational responsibilities, including but not limited to:
• Chlorine Residuals – bi-weekly
• Bacteriological Testing – weekly
• SCADA Equipment Calibration - every 72 hours
• Chemical Testing – quarterly
• Alkalinity and Lead Testing – bi-annually
• Alarms – weekly
• Well Head Inspections – bi-weekly
• Turbidity – monthly
• Flushing programs
• Hydrant and Valve Maintenance programs
• Flow Meter Calibration program
• Generator Maintenance program
• Reservoir Maintenance
• Standpipe Maintenance
• Pressure Gauge Checks and Control Valves
Are the Township water systems inspected by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC)? How do our systems rate?
Yes, all systems are inspected annually at a minimum. We proudly report that Township systems received a 100% inspection rating in 2016 from the MOECC, who strictly govern operational legislation. To date, the Township has never received any Director or Provincial Orders to Comply, been prosecuted or investigated for any drinking water infractions, or received monetary fines.
We will continue to remain diligent in providing safe and reliable drinking water to our customers in an environmentally conscious and sustainable manner.
I understand part of the rate structure includes payment of an operational deficit. Will you please explain what this deficit is related to, how much it is, and how long will it take to recover?
The existing operational shortfall of $350,000 is mainly attributed to wetter than anticipated summers, commodity and utility price increases, increased legislative requirements, and a suspension of water rate increases between 2011 and 2014.
After five years, the current $350,000 operational deficit will be recovered. Given that the municipal water systems are user-pay, full cost-recovery systems, the rates for our customers are defined by operational costs and capital funding/asset management requirements. Any future operating deficits would need to be recovered by users. This is why a fixed operating component is important.
By utilizing a fixed operating component, the revenue risk associated with operational shortfalls are reduced, thus reducing the possibility for additional deficits to be incurred.
Will the Water System Financial Plan be updated? Customers would like to see the longer-term vision for water rates.
Yes, it will. An updated financial plan is a prudent step to a long-term vision for our Municipal water systems. Once completed, the plan will be placed on our website and will illustrate the longer-term financial plan for municipal water systems.