The Standard (St. Catharines)
Water rates climb; city eyes aging infrastructure
The annual increase to the average household using 170 cubic metres of the wet stuff is $16.14
St. Catharines water rates are going up 1.85 per cent as infrastructure costs for water mains continue to climb.
Council passed the 2021 water and wastewater budget Monday night, which included contributing $4.5 million to fund water main replacements and $2.4 million for sanitary sewer replacements and pollution control projects.
The annual increase to the average household using 170 cubic metres of water is $16.14.
Darrell Smith, director of municipal works, said there were 113 water main breaks in 2020.
Municipal works staff also responded to a similar number of private water connections and various valve issues throughout the city.
“The breaks are distributed across the city and not concentrated in any one part,” he told council.
Smith said, in the past, increasing funding levels for water infrastructure renewal resulted in less water main breaks, but that’s not the case anymore due to the skyrocketing costs of underground works.
Anthony Martuccio, director of engineering, facilities and environmental services, said between 2008 and ’14 the cost per metre of piping installed was in the range of $400 to $800. Today a metre costs $1,100 to $1,600.
“As a result, if budgets are maintained to similar levels to previous years, fewer underground assets will be renewed on an annual basis, which will result in an increase to our infrastructure deficit,” Martuccio said.
The replacement value of the city’s water mains and sanitary sewers is $2.4 billion, or 48 per cent of all city assets.
For the second year in a row, council approved water main and sanitary sewer improvements in the capital budget passed in December. The 2021 capital budget includes $12.1 million for water main and sanitary sewers, of which $6.9 million is funded by water and wastewater rates.
The new rates come into effect March 1.
Besides infrastructure costs, the new rates include regional water service costs, which increased
3.7 per cent this year. Niagara Region is responsible for the treatment and bulk distribution of water through regional trunk mains and the city distributes it to the property line. Wastewater works similarly in reverse.
Stormwater fee idea to be studied
City council has asked staff to explore stormwater fees that have been adopted in several other Canadian cities to recover costs for stormwater management.
St. Patrick’s Coun. Karrie Porter, who made the motion for staff, concluded the issue of stormwater isn’t top of mind.
“We never think about it until we have a problem or a flood,” said Porter, who recently made a Tiktok video to explain stormwater management to residents.
Council passed a motion that asked staff to do a financing study.
However, council has not voted to actually implement any fees by asking for the study, which is expected to take three to five years to complete.
Bylaw extended for cannabis facilities
St. Catharines is extending its interim control bylaw — it was to expire Wednesday — by one year to temporarily prohibit new cannabis production facilities on agricultural land in the city while staff continue to study the issue.
Council passed the initial interim control bylaw Feb. 24, 2020, reversing an earlier decision, after residents raised concerns about possible odours from such facilities.
The idea was to temporarily prohibit the establishment of new facilities for a year while city staff studied the issue and provided recommendations.
A report to council Monday said city staff haven’t had time to complete the study due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other departmental work commitments. It recommended the interim control bylaw be extended for an additional year so the study could be completed and council can consider any recommendations.