The City of Winnipeg needs to find $1.2 billion for upgrades to its sewage treatment facilities. In order to fund Provincially mandated upgrades, the City’s Public Service has recommended an increase in the sewer rate of $.13 per cubic metre, and an increase to the Block 1 water rate of one cent per cubic metre.
In 2003, the Province ordered the City of Winnipeg to undertake upgrades to remove nitrogen and phosphorous. According to the City, it only contributes five per cent of the nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into Lake Winnipeg. Nevertheless, the planning work is under way.
Construction is expected to take five to seven years. “When these upgrades are complete, Winnipeg will have state-of-the-art sewage treatment facilities that will help us do more to protect the environment,” said Diane Sacher, director of the City’s Water and Waste Department, in a release.
The Public Service says the sewer rate increase is necessary to keep up with inflationary increases and to move towards a uniform rate for all classes of customers. In a release, the City made sure to remind users that, with the new rates, the cost of Winnipeg’s water and sewer services would still be a third of a penny per litre.
“Even with these increases, our residential water and sewer rates remain competitive and are the third-lowest among comparable Canadian cities,” said Sacher. “Other cities are faced with similar regulatory challenges in maintaining and upgrading aging systems, and are recommending comparable or higher rate increases.”
The City has a 30-year deal with Veolia Water (signed last year) to receive advice on the design, construction, and operation of its sewage treatment facilities. But this doesn’t guarantee the city any private investment in its facilities, an arrangement that executive director of Environment Probe, Elizabeth Brubaker, calls a “bad deal.”