In order to maintain a sustainable level of delivery of water and wastewater services, local governments must ensure that revenues are sufficient for long term operation and replacement of infrastructure. Yet In Canada’s Infrastructure Deficit: a Sad Legacy for Future Generations, Saeed Mirza, McGill Civil Engineering Emeritus Professor describes the growing deficit in water and wastewater infrastructure investment in Canada.

Local governments are grappling with this fact and responding by pursuing better practices in asset management and long term financial planning. Revenue requirements are on the rise leading to increases in rates, fees and charges.

Will these anticipated rate increases disproportionately impact lower income households?

Carl Bodimeade and Steven Renzetti tell us that affordable, sustainable water services in Canada is achievable. What is most important to recognize is that: the goal of sustainable water systems and the protection of vulnerable households are not incompatible.

Proposed policy measures that can be implemented to temper the impacts of rate increases for those households at risk include:

1- Focus on volume based charges
2- Use seasonal rates to control excessive irrigation
3- Base fire-protection costs on property values
4- Subsidize low-income households with upper tier surplus revenues

Water Canada’s March 2013 feature article by Bodimeade and Renzetti, Full-Cost Rates for Water and the Chimera of Affordability, explores this issue further.