A new report by Canadian Water Network (CWN) highlights the mounting financial pressures facing Canadian water utilities. 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 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.
“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, Canadian Water Network. “This report provides strategies that municipalities can adopt to create sound financial plans.”
CWN’s analysis examines full-cost accounting practices across Canada and the most common costs that are often absent from those accounting practices including inflation, system growth, service enhancements, interest expenses, customer care, and source water protection.
The report analyzed data collected from participating municipalities by the National Water and Wastewater Benchmarking Initiative (NWWBI) 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.
“Canada is comprised of thousands of municipal water systems, each in various states of repair and experiencing its unique socioeconomic realities,” said Conant.
“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 the country.”
To report Balancing the Books: Financial Sustainability for Canadian Water Systems is available online at cwn-rce.ca.