The cost to flush a toilet in the City of Selkirk will remain the same in 2022 thanks to strong asset management going all the way back to the months leading up to the construction of the new environmentally responsible, Selkirk Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Mayor Larry Johannson said being able to inform residents that there will be no increase to their water bills is great news, especially in light of the dramatic increase in policing costs resulting from a collective bargaining process the city was not invited to participate in. The City is developing its budget negotiations now and struggling to reduce what amounts to more than a 4 per cent hit due to the policing costs alone.
“Anytime we can hold the line on rates, while still delivering high-quality service, dramatically improving our environmental performance and investing in infrastructure renewal is fantastic,” Johannson said.
“We’ve all been through a tough couple years here and if the city can help citizens keep more money in their pockets, that’s what we want to do. I’m proud of our city staff, who have done a great job with the wastewater treatment plant and our finance team that knew the numbers and planned appropriately. It’s a win for our residents and the new plant is environmentally friendly for our waterways as well. Council is currently looking at a variety of options to minimize financial impact on citizens going into 2022 – the fact that water rates are staying status quo is more great news.”
Working hard to reduce costs
CAO Duane Nicol said the city submitted a one-year rate review to the Public Utilities Board in 2021. The city conducted a detailed financial analysis of the utilities operation and projected costs for the coming year. The numbers revealed that no increase to water rates was required. Since the plant hasn’t been operational for a year yet, Nicol said they don’t have enough information about the full cost of the operation, which is why the city applied for just a one-year extension.
“We submitted a simplified rate application into the Public Utilities Board (PUB) and when we worked through everything and did the math, at this time we don’t need a rate increase to cover operating costs. The utility is run as a non-profit really. The rates we charge are set to cover costs of operation and to maintain the necessary infrastructure. One hundred per cent of those dollars stay with the utility,” Nicol said.
“Keeping the rates steady this year allows us to evaluate the operating costs of the new wastewater treatment plant over a full year. In 2022 we should have enough information to do a multi-year submission.”
In 2019 the PUB approved a three-year increase to water rates in the city, which saw residents receiving water and wastewater services paying an additional $1.02 a cubic meter of water in Year 1. 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 increased by 51 and 52 cents in 2020 and 2021 respectively. These increases were necessary to fund the construction of the city’s new wastewater treatment plant after new provincial regulations rendered the old plant obsolete.
The increase amounted to less than a penny per flush.
Nicol said that despite the provincial government closing Selkirk Linen, the city’s largest water customer, and moving the jobs and operations into Winnipeg, the city was able to keep rates status quo due to improving asset management practices and reducing the cost of operations.
“While we’ve seen some good residential growth, the loss of our single largest commercial water user was a big hit to the utility and created the potential for driving up rates for the remaining customers. That said however, we have been working hard to reduce input costs. The conversion of the water plant to geo-thermal heating is reducing costs today and will insulate us from rising natural gas costs in the future. The team also changed how we handle lime, which is also reducing our costs. In the 2022 budget we are proposing some additional projects that help us be more efficient in the future as well,” Nicol said.
Reduce water consumption and reduce the impact on your wallet
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.
The city’s focus on affordability also extends to how citizens can reduce their water consumption and reduce the impact on their own wallets.
“We always want to encourage citizens to conserve water and offer helpful suggestions on how they 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,” Nicol said.
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 lessen 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