Drink a glass of tap water, flush the toilet, wash clothes: these mundane everyday gestures weigh heavily on the finances of municipalities. They must pay annually $ 5 billion to keep afloat their water services, evaluates the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Regions and Land Occupancy (MAMROT). Despite some progress in recent years, Quebecers always use 200 liters of water per day more Ontarians.
The cost of water services 67% higher
Until this summer, MAMROT had never calculated the costs of supply and distribution of drinking water and collection and treatment of wastewater. Yet Quebec committed to do 13 years ago. Based on 2012 data collected from 575 municipalities, the unit cost of water services has been estimated at $ 2.26 / m, or $ 0.00226 per liter of water. This is 67% higher than the previous estimate, made in 2011 from the 2008 data, reveals the report on the cost and revenue streams of water services.
2.75 billion for the maintenance of infrastructure
Extrapolating these data for 2012, the total annual cost of water services was estimated at 5 billion. In reaching this significant sum, MAMROT launched the assumption that municipalities will not endetteraient to replace end of life infrastructure. Thus, to “ensure the sustainability of water infrastructure”, municipalities should pay 2.75 billion a year just to save enough money for the replacement of infrastructure, as well as to catch up with the accumulated investment deficit. The operating costs of water services therefore account for 45% of the bill 5 billion. Almost half of this amount is devoted to financing costs and repayment of debt.
Insufficient annual revenues
Municipalities use three ways to pay for their drinking water systems and wastewater treatment: property tax, flat rate pricing and volumetric pricing (using a water meter). However, these annual revenues cover only about 35% of the total cost of water services, while their operating costs alone account for 45% of costs. In other words, municipalities accumulate a significant shortfall every year in sub-financing water infrastructure. “Municipalities do not include in their expenses related to water services, the financial needs required to fund future investments to infrastructure maintenance,” says spokesman MAMROT Annie Bérubé.
Leakage rate of 28%
The drinking water saving MAMROT Strategy, adopted in 2011, two national goals for 2016: reduce the rate of leakage from water systems in 20% of the distributed water volume and a 20% reduction water consumption compared to 2001. Already, Quebec can boast to have melted by 23% the amount of water distributed. For cons, the proportion of water loss increased slightly in 2013 to reach 28%, says the annual report of the use of drinking water in 2013, published this year. If these national goals are not achieved on 1 April 2017, municipalities do not meet certain criteria must establish “adequate pricing of water services” for financial aid from Quebec related to water infrastructure.
Quebecers consume more water than Canadians
The amount of water distributed per person per day in Quebec increased from 596 liters in to 777 12 years, fulfilling one of the goals MAMROT. Yet this success must be put into perspective taking into account the Canadian average decreased to 483 liters in 622 the same period. The gap is even wider with our Ontario neighbors, who only distribute 407 liters of water per capita. The scenario is even considering only the water consumed by individuals. In 2009, Quebec households used 386 liters of water per day, against 225 liters of water for Ontarians, according to Environment Canada.
Towards a new pricing?
This report’s objectives is to allow municipalities to include the actual cost of water services in their financial planning. “Where necessary, adjustments may be made to the pricing of municipal water services in order to make visible the real cost of the water,” the document says. The office of Minister Pierre Moreau, it remains unclear on the issue of pricing. “The Government will agree with the municipalities of the coming into force of the number 4 commitment to what constitutes adequate pricing,” maintains his press secretary Jean-Félix Lévesque. The Union of Quebec Municipalities also continuing “discussions with MAMROT on this issue.”
Domestically, Quebec is an exception about residential water meters: 72% of Canadian households own one against only 10% of Quebec homes. However, the volumetric water pricing decreases so “significant” water consumption per capita, show all Environment Canada investigations since 1991. Residents of Canadian municipalities have adopted a volumetric pricing consume 229 liters, compared 376 liters for other cities. According to Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Montreal Marcel Boyer, volumetric pricing would reduce consumption as much water as the invoice of Quebecers. “It’s the pricing that sends the signal to the proper use of water resources. If there is no link between the amount you pay, of course, people tend to over-consume the resource. ”