Ground Water Canada

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Canadians must spend more on water to maintain high-quality systems: report


April 3, 2018
By Ground Water Canada

Waterloo, Ont. – A new report by the Canadian Water Network highlights the mounting financial pressures facing Canadian water utilities and suggests Canada must spend more on water to maintain high-quality systems.

“Balancing the Books: Financial Sustainability for Canadian Water Systems” acknowledges the widening gap between customer expectations and water system revenue to fully recover costs, and provides customizable approaches for municipalities to achieve sustainable water systems for the long term, the CWN said in a news release.

The report found that Canadians expect consistent, high-quality water services, but due to rising challenges, existing financial practices may not be adequate to meet future needs. To achieve sustainability, the report suggests that water utilities must secure sufficient revenue to recover operational costs and required upkeep, buffer against unexpected circumstances, while also planning for future needs.

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As the costs of managing drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems increase, CWN cautions that affordability must also remain a priority in the search for sustainable solutions.

“Finding solutions to sustainable financing of Canada’s municipal water services is fundamentally about deciding and delivering on what we want and need from our systems, both now and in the future,” said Bernadette Conant, chief executive officer of the Canadian Water Network. “This report provides strategies that municipalities can adopt to create sound financial plans — geared to recover costs associated with water system delivery, upkeep and infrastructure — and achieve their water system goals.”

The detailed report analyzed data collected from participating municipalities by the National Water and Wastewater Benchmarking Initiative over a 17-year period (1999-2016). The data highlight a number of key challenges facing our nation’s municipalities, including changing water use, underinvestment in existing and new infrastructure, rising energy costs, the impact of climate change-related events and public resistance to rate increases. A key takeaway of the report is that a nation-wide culture shift is happening in water management, with municipalities moving from a reactive operational model towards a more proactive, customer-focused and fiscally sound management approach.

The report stresses that while there are commonalities among municipalities, there are also unique challenges and realities being faced. It is this diversity, more so than the commonalities, that will drive the solutions each municipality decides to pursue. What will be key for the success of any strategy is clear and consistent communication with Canadian consumers.

“Canada is comprised of thousands of municipal water systems, each in various states of repair and experiencing its unique socioeconomic realities,” Conant said. “Awareness of the urgent need to adequately fund Canadian water systems is growing. Utilities, various levels of the government, industry and the public each play a role in responding. The opportunities for municipalities to select and implement the options best suited to their situation will shape and support a fiscally sound network of systems across thecountry.”

Read the full report.