The Public Utilities Board has approved a rate increase for the City of Selkirk’s water and wastewater, effective immediately, and introduced gradually over the next three years.
The city applied for the increase to fund construction of the new Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) as well as ongoing operating costs.
Changes to provincial legislation that require treated wastewater, or effluent, to contain no more than 1mg/L of phosphorus and 15 mg/L of nitrogen necessitated the replacement of the city’s current treatment plant, built in 1976. The current plant is non-compliant and has reached the end of its lifecycle.
Less than a penny per flush
The increase required to fund the new facility will amount to less than a penny per flush and is an affordable solution to a non-compliant plant that will be replaced by one that will be kinder to the environment and contribute to a healthy Red River and Lake Winnipeg.
Selkirk Mayor Larry Johannson said the new plant, currently under construction beside the old plant, is an important step forward for the city in its role as environmental leaders.
“This new wastewater treatment plant is a project that is absolutely necessary. The old plant can’t do what current regulations require in regards to wastewater treatment and it’s important to us to be good global citizens – we can’t, in good conscience, contribute unnecessarily to pollution of the Red River and Lake Winnipeg,” Johannson said.
“Selkirk Council takes its role as community leaders and environmental stewards very seriously, but we also know we wanted this solution to be affordable. Our team has worked hard and we’ve come up with a formula that is affordable and literally costs residents less than a penny per flush. It’s a penny well spent to safeguard the river and lake that are so important to all of us.”
Protecting the Red River and Lake Winnipeg
The city’s Strategic Plan calls for environmental stewardship to be a priority in all council decisions and the state-of-the-art WWTP continues Selkirk’s push to be an environmental leader in the province and the country. It will protect the Red River and Lake Winnipeg, both vital components of the area’s ecosystem.
In 2019 residents receiving water and wastewater services will pay an additional $1.02 a cubic meter of water. A cubic meter of water is equal to 208 flushes (based on 4.8 L per flush) or 2,000, 500ml bottles of water. Rates will increase by 51 and 52 cents in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
Chief Administrative Officer Duane Nicol said this gradual increase to the rates was designed by the city to reduce the sudden impact to customers and to give them time to reduce their water consumption and therefore reduce the impact of the new treatment plant on their water bill.
“Over three years the rate increases amount to $2.05 per cubic meter, which is reasonable, but still an increase. Our model gives residents time to find ways to reduce their water use and therefore reduce the impact of the increases,” Nicol said.
Nicol said two-thirds of the increases are necessary just to fund the construction of the new plant. Nicol indicated that the remainder of the increases will cover significant investments into system renewal and upkeep.
“Through our capital asset management, we have a far better understanding of the condition of our water collection and distribution systems. They are quite old. Some of our oldest water mains were installed in 1908. The replacement cost of the pipes alone is estimated to be over $58.9 million. These increases will also fund major investments into system renewal and projects like repainting our water tower.”
Nicol said affordability was a critical concern for council and administration. Environmental stewardship and financial responsibility can, and in this case do, go hand in hand.
“To keep rates as low as we could in light of the new plant construction, we applied for and received major grants from other levels of government and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. We’ve also taken a hard look at our operating practices and looked to find efficiencies where we could,” Nicol said.
Reduce your impact by conserving water
Nicol said the city’s focus on affordability also extends to how citizens could reduce their water consumption and reduce the impact on their own wallets.
“We rolled out our water conservation pilot project in 2016 offering the installation of low-flow toilets, shower heads and faucets. This year we’ll be focused on a public awareness campaign, offering helpful suggestions on how citizens can be even more water-wise and keep their utilities bills lower. Working together with our citizens we will reduce our ecological footprint and help keep their water and wastewater charges down.”
The city once again turns to its Strategic Plan when encouraging reduced water usage – the plan calls specifically for water conservation and for the city to help citizens make good choices.
There are many easy and practical ways you can reduce your water usage and therefore limit the impact of the rate increases at your home or business. Here are seven tips to less water usage:
- Use a low-flow shower head;
- Install a low-flow toilet;
- Ensure all leaky faucets and toilets are repaired;
- Use a front-load or water conscious washer;
- Collect rainwater for use in the lawn and garden;
- Fix all leaky hoses; and
- Maintain all dishwashers and washing machines to ensure they don’t leak
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