Once upon a time, we drove large cars fueled by cheap and plentiful gasoline. In that time we also built poorly insulated homes, simply cranking the heat provided by cheap heating oil, natural gas and, yes, even electricity. It was also then that we ran sprinklers all day, flushed with abundance.
Those days, as we well know, are long gone.
The real costs of scarcity and environmental damage are now showing up in conventional energy prices. And for some years now, water has edged into that territory, no longer simply taken for granted and priced accordingly.
Again this year, rates for water and sewers are soaring. We ignored the deteriorating infrastructure that brought us fresh water and piped away what we had used. We paid scant attention to the ecological system that provided the supply and absorbed our waste. No more. Prices are rising now to make up for years of neglect – the relatively free ride is over.
By now, Woolwich residents are no strangers to large increases in the price of water – the township has been hiking rates to reflect changes in provincial rules. In approving the 2010 budget, Woolwich council endorsed a water-rate increase of 7.3 per cent and boosted wastewater fees by 10.1 per cent.
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The Waterloo Region rates are up 6.9 per cent and 9.9 per cent respectively; with Wellesley provided services by the upper tier government, fees there will rise in accordance with a rolling 10-year plan that will see increases well above today’s inflation rates.
With the region planning for ongoing significant jumps in its rates, you’ll continue to see those expenses appear on your municipal water bill.
Over the next few years, rates could essentially double, the region claiming major work is needed to deal with aging infrastructure and to accommodate population growth.
However, necessary or not, increases do not play well with the public, the people who have been digging deeper into their pockets to pay for water. Part of the problem, of course, stems from a public perception that water is just there for taking.
Because it seems like we’re always paying more, but receiving nothing more in return – at least not much that we can see – the increases rankle.
While we can’t see where our cash is going, Woolwich and all other Ontario municipalities have been incurring increased costs due to government rules, much of it knee-jerk reaction to what happened in Walkerton. For communities with safe drinking water, the extra layer of red tape has served only to boost costs, with no effect on the product that pours out of our taps.
Regulations governing water testing – warranted or not – have helped boost costs, but nothing like the infrastructure upgrades that will be needed in the coming years. Again, some of those are the fault of the province, which has changed the way municipalities must handle water and sewage. The province hands out rules but no money, leaving the municipalities responsible for passing on the costs to its residents.
The bottom line is you’ll be paying more this year and every year for the foreseeable future.
And just wait until growth demands a pipeline to service our water-poor region. Have your chequebooks handy.