The Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association (OSWCA) says the $1 billion announced by the Ontario government in Tuesday’s budget for the province’s crumbling infrastructure is not enough to erase Ontario’s water infrastructure deficit, which the association estimates at $18 billion.

The OSWCA recommends that the province proceed immediately with regulations under the Sustainable Water and Sewer Systems Act and ensure full cost pricing, mandatory metering and dedicated reserves for all residents and businesses using municipal water systems.

“For smaller and northern municipalities that simply cannot afford to move to full cost pricing, assistance similar to the pilot project announced in the summer of 2007 should be seriously considered”, Frank Zechner, executive director of the OSWCA said in a press release.

The association said virtually all of the new funding is for public transit, roads and bridges, noting that the only measure that will make a “meaningful contribution to the vital sewer and watermain infrastructure” is the portion of the Municipal Infrastructure Investment Initiative of $300 million announced last fall and the additional $150 million announced on Feb. 25.

OSWCA has been urging the province to proclaim Bill 175 (the Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act), which was passed six years ago but never became law. This would go a long way to putting water systems on a firm financial footing as municipalities would be required to move to full cost pricing for these services and create dedicated reserves for their water dollars. This was also a major recommendation of the Walkerton Inquiry.

“Clean water is fundamental to our existence. It’s a necessity of life, and that means that our water delivery systems are not a discretionary item. We really don’t have a choice and we can no longer afford to delay vital repairs and replacements,” Zechner noted.

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