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Homeowners dinged with large increases in water rates

Residents on full municipal services will be shelling out another $50 next year for water and sewer fees, Woolwich councillors decided this week.
For 2012, Waterloo Region has pushed water rates by 6.9 per cent and wastewater 7.9 per cent. In Woolwich, which buys water from the region and runs the distribution systems itself, that translates into a water rate hike of 6.9 per cent, to $1.52 per cubic metre from $1.43 (a jump of $16 to $22 per year for an average household) and wastewater increases of 7.84 per cent, to $1.90 per cubic metre from $1.76 ($25 to $33 per year).

The Woolwich fees reflect the fact regional billing is the single-biggest component of the township’s costs, director of finance Richard Petherick told councillors Dec. 13. Water charges from the region will account for 67 per cent of the water budget in 2012, up from 60 per cent this year. On the wastewater side, the figures are 76 and 68 per cent respectively.

“We’re holding the line. It’s really the region that is driving this,” he said.
Given that the region plans similar increases over the next few years, water and sewage rates are likely to climb accordingly.

Citing figures that show water costs are soaring because conservation measures have reduced regional revenues, Coun. Allan Poffenroth said customers are in effect being punished for good behaviour.

The issue was discussed last week at a meeting of all municipal councils in the region. Saddled with fixed costs and increasing expenditures to meet provincial regulations and future infrastructure needs, the region has seen revenues fall by $11 million over the past two years due to decreased demand.

But Mayor Todd Cowan, the township’s representative on regional council, was quick to point out that conservations measures have helped defer more than $100 million in expansion projects, as well as a proposed Great Lakes pipeline.

“It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than building a pipeline to Lake Erie,” he said of the rate increases.

The Lake Erie project is slated for 2035 and could be pushed back by five or more years because of conservation efforts.

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