The City has seen an uptick in complaints about residential water bills after a new fee structure was put into effect, a memo says.

Deputy City Treasurer of Revenue Services Wendy Stephanson told councillors and other staff Thursday the rate increase, which first came into effect April 1, 2019, has led to “an increase in the number of residents making inquiries about their water bills.”

At issue are new fixed rates on each bill.  Annual fixed rates for water, wastewater and fire supply are now applied to every bill. The cost is pro-rated, based on the number of days billed.

As of April 1, a home with a 15mm water meter is charged $120.45 a year for water, $102.20 for wastewater and $47.21 for the fire supply.

There is also a stormwater fee that is based on the type of dwelling (detached homes vs. townhouses and apartments) and whether the unit is connected or not.

These fees are applied to every bill regardless of how much water a home uses. The rate structure for consumption has also changed and is tiered based on how much water is consumed.

Most homeowners are just seeing these new fees on their most recent bill, which covers the months of April and May.

Stephanson admits in the memo that low-consumption users are impacted more by the result of these changes. They’re charged less for the water they use, but still have to pay the same fixed rates as other households. She defends the changes, saying the fixed charge is “more equitable to all users as most of the costs to operate and maintain the water and sewer systems do not vary with consumption.”

There is a cost deferral program for low-income residents, details of which are provided here.

The changes to the water system, while only coming into effect now, were adopted in October of 2016. You can see a breakdown of how the new rates work out here.