Ground Water Canada

COVID-19 Updates Water Issues
Ontario’s municipal infrastructure backlog was $52B in 2020


August 24, 2021
By Ground Water Canada

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Toronto – The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario has released a report that reviews the infrastructure assets owned by Ontario’s municipalities, estimates their current replacement value and condition, and the costs to bring these assets into a state of good repair in 2020.

Ontario’s 444 municipalities own and manage the majority of public infrastructure in the province, more than both the federal and provincial governments combined. Municipal infrastructure assets include roads and bridges, water systems, transit, and buildings and facilities. The FAO estimates that the current replacement value of municipal infrastructure assessed in this report was $484 billion in 2020.

Despite the importance of municipal infrastructure to facilitate the day-to-day operation of the economy and society, a comprehensive municipal asset dataset does not exist. To undertake its analysis, the FAO compiled data from currently available sources to develop a comprehensive municipal infrastructure dataset.

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Municipal roads represent the largest share of the infrastructure backlog at $21.1 billion. . . Potable water represents $5.3 billion.

Based on this dataset, the FAO estimates that 55 per cent of municipal assets are in a state of good repair. The remaining 45 per cent of assets are estimated to be not in a state of good repair.

The current cost to bring municipal assets into a state of good repair (in other words, to eliminate the municipal infrastructure backlog) is about $52 billion, according to the FAO. Municipal roads represent the largest share of the infrastructure backlog at $21.1 billion, followed by ‘other’ buildings and facilities ($9.5 billion), wastewater ($7.3 billion), potable water ($5.3 billion), and bridges and culverts ($4.3 billion).

Maintaining public infrastructure in a state of good repair is generally the most cost-effective strategy over an asset’s life cycle, although it is not the only consideration of municipal asset managers and may conflict with other budgetary priorities. Postponing repairs raises the risk of service disruption and increases the costs associated with municipal infrastructure over time.

The report highlighted several other points:

  • Municipal water infrastructure, including potable water, storm water and wastewater, has a current replacement value of $229 billion (47 per cent of the municipal total).
  • Due to uncertainty about asset condition estimates, the municipal infrastructure backlog could range between $45 billion and $59 billion.
  • There are $47 billion of municipal assets whose condition is unknown and not included in the FAO’s infrastructure backlog estimates. If these assets were included, the size of the backlog would be larger.

To learn more, read the full report.