Ottawa water rates will rise 3.9 per cent this year, according to the city's draft water budget.

The increase is the smallest taxpayers have seen since 2003 but some residents say that even small increases will have a profound impact on their daily lives.

"If I raise my price, my business will go down," said carwash owner, Tony Shahrasebi. "I cannot raise the price so I have to swallow the increase in cost."

Shahrasebi runs Minute Carwash on Catherine Street. He fears consistently rising water rates may eventually signal the end of his business.

"There's no future in running a good old-fashioned carwash anymore if the costs of operating it keep going up."

City officials, like Mayor Jim Watson, are "pleased" with the budget despite the extra pinch it will have on the wallets of taxpayers.

Councillor Maria McRae said the rate hikes are necessary to repair Ottawa's aging water infrastructure.

"Everybody would like no increase but we've got to fix that infrastructure," McRae said. "It is irresponsible not to fix it."

McRae said residents can save money through conservation. She referred to water as "the new oil."

In order to avoid increasing water bills, plumber Frank Zito said residents should monitor their toilets and sinks for leaks.

To tell if a toilet is leaking, Zito said to put a few drops of food colouring in the tank, wait 15 to 20 minutes, then open the bowl. If there is colour in the bowl, then the toilet is leaking.

The water budget will be debated at the committee-level before being sent to Council for approval on April 13.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's John Hua