The City of St. Catharines will invest $8.2 million in its water and wastewater system in 2019 to continue its work improving underground pipes and sewers and enhance water service.

City Council passed the 2019 water and wastewater budget with a rate increase of 5.28 per cent after a public meeting on April 1, 2019. The 2019 water and wastewater budget includes $5.7 million to replace aging water pipes, the first increase in spending for the city’s watermain replacement program in 10 years. The construction program will help reduce the number of watermain breaks the city encounters and replace old cast iron pipes in areas of St. Catharines where residents experience coloured water.

The 2019 water and wastewater budget also earmarks $2.5 million to replace or fix sewers. In addition to this, the city is installing automated water meters in residential properties, which will make meter reading and billing more accurate and efficient. The city began the project in 2014 and have installed 33,586 automated water meters and expects to finish by the end of 2019.

“Providing clean, safe water is one of our most important responsibilities as a city,” said Walter Sendzik, mayor of St. Catharines. “The 2019 water and wastewater budget is a reflection of council’s commitment to protecting our water resources. We are investing in aging infrastructure across the city and building a long-term capital plan with appropriate level of funding to ensure safe and clean water for generations to come.”

The city’s water system is fully-funded by the water and wastewater rates users pay and does not rely on property taxes. Fixed charges cover yearly upgrades to the city’s water system, such as replacing water pipes and sewers and fixed regional charges. Variable rates are charged based on the amount of water customers use.

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The 2019 city fixed rates will be $162 for water and $108 for wastewater. Variable rates will be $1.285 per cubic metre for water and $1.966 per cubic metre for wastewater. The 2019 rates mean water and wastewater bills will increase $41.29 for the average user with an annual consumption of 170 cubic metres of water over last year.

These increases include the amounts the city pays to the Niagara Region for water purchases and wastewater treatment. In 2019, the Niagara Region increased its water and wastewater budgets by 5.15 per cent, which are incorporated into the city’s rates. The regional charges represent 63 per cent of the average customers’ bill.

The new water rates are effective as of April 1, 2019.

“We are committed to keeping our water and wastewater systems at a sustainable level in spite of declining water usage and revenues and other pressures such as rising service and construction costs,” said Kristine Douglas, director for the City of St. Catharines’ Financial Management Services and city treasurer. “We continue that commitment by developing water and wastewater budgets that meet provincial requirements and improve our infrastructure while keeping rates affordable for residents.”

City Council also approved the hiring of a full-time employee for water and wastewater asset management to oversee the maintenance of the underground infrastructure and maximize investments.

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