April 5, 2020

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City council green-lights water, sewage rate increases

The average residential customer will pay about $30 to $35 more annually over the next four years. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

The average residential customer will pay about $30 to $35 more annually over the next four years. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Winnipeg residents will be paying more for their water over the next four years to offset the cost of upgrades to the North End Water Pollution Control Centre.

On Thursday, city council voted 13-2 to approve an increase to water and sewer rates in 2020 through 2023.

The average residential customer will see rates increase by three per cent in both 2020 and 2021, and 2.8 per cent in 2022 and 2023, according to an administrative report, and can expect to pay about $30 to $35 more each year.

The increase is required to fund upgrades of the north end sewage treatment plant ordered to bring it into compliance with its environmental licence.

The first phase of the $1.8-billion project is underway, and is being funded solely by the City of Winnipeg.

The new water rates have been set with the assumption Manitoba will provide the $267 million the city has requested to support the upgrades.

The province has yet to commit funding to the project, nor forward the city’s request for money to the federal government, said Mayor Brian Bowman.

However, a provincially-mandated plan developed by a steering committee co-chaired by the City of Winnipeg and Manitoba Climate and Conservation will be released Friday, he said.

The plan is expected to provide a realistic timeline to complete upgrades to the sewage treatment plant and set out a framework for the implementation of interim phosphorus reduction measures.

"My understanding is they’ve been meeting and working very collaboratively together, and I think one of the things that’s positive right now is the dialogue is a lot more collaborative in terms of how the public servants can work together," the mayor said.

"But the big question for us, is we’ve put forward the request to the province for provincial and federal cost-sharing. That request has not been responded to formally."

Previous concerns about rushed implementation of an interim chemical reduction measure have subsided, Bowman said, and he no longer expects the province will impose immediate changes at the plant Feb. 1.

"I expect I’ll have more to say when I see the written results of the working group," Bowman said.

A portion of the increased water and waste revenue will also be directed to a new water meter renewal reserve to fund future replacement with upgraded meters.

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Reporter

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

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