Water and wastewater billing has undergone a couple changes this year:

  1. The billing moved from quarterly to monthly in June / July depending on your address.
  2. Wastewater charges have moved from being a combination of a fixed charge and water volume charge, to being 100% fixed.

The average user in the City uses 150 cubic meters of water per year. This will have the following monthly bill impact in 2021 compared to 2020: 

Impact Comparison
 20202021$
Water (fixed)  $32.92 $31.64 -$1.27
Wastewater (fixed) $44.64 $83.53 $38.89
  $77.55 $115.17 $37.62
       
Water (volume) $17.06 $16.34 -$0.72
Wastewater (volume) $17.28     NA  -$17.28
  $34.34 $16.34 -$17.99
       
Total  $111.89 $131.52 $19.63

Frequently Asked Questions

 Why did the City move to a monthly water and wastewater bill in 2021?
Port Colborne water and wastewater bills were previously distributed on a quarterly basis. At the request of many residents and to mirror other utility models, like hydro and gas, the City has now spread payments out over 12 months instead of four. Residents will now receive a water bill each month. 
 When did the transition to monthly water and wastewater billing occur?
 As of July 2021, all residents will move to a monthly water and wastewater billing cycle. 
 Did water rates increase this year?
No, water rates did not increase this year. In fact, as of April 1, 2021, the annual fixed charge for water decreased $15.29 and the annualized volume rate change decreased by approximately $8.64 for the average water user.  For the average user with 150 cubic meters of water usage, this will result in a net savings of $23.93. 
 Why did water rates decrease? 
 In recent years the City has been working to tackling water loss, also known as unbilled water. Water loss occurs for a variety of reasons which can include leaks, aging infrastructure, and hydrant use.    

This improvement has helped offset the increasing cost to purchase water from the Niagara Region to distribute to Port Colborne properties, and has contributed to the reduction in 2021 rates.

 When I pay my water bill, where does that money go?

 

* Costs not controlled by the City of Port Colborne.  This represents the clean water purchased from the Niagara Region water plant.

  Can the City lower water rates? 

It is possible for water rates to be lower in the future, however the City of Port Colborne will need to invest and upgrade infrastructure. In the meantime, this could still require rates to increase. Improving infrastructure is a priority for Council and an infrastructure needs assessment is currently underway. A preliminary report will be presented in August to provide key insights into what infrastructure needs to be updated first. 
Why did the fixed / volume wastewater billing model change to an all fixed model this year? 

Since the City first installed water meters in the 1990s, wastewater has been billed the same way as water, with an annualized fixed charge and a volume rate per cubic meter. With no reliable way to meter (or monitor) the wastewater leaving a property, the water meter read was used to calculate the volume-based wastewater portion of each wastewater bill. The City has heard from residents over the years voicing their concern with this billing structure, stating that water is used for variety of purposes that never reaches the wastewater (sewer) system.  For example, it is used to water the garden, lawn or wash a car and even fill up a pool.  

Just for greater clarity, the City’s water is obtained from the Niagara Region water plant and all wastewater is sent to the Niagara Region wastewater plant to be cleaned.  The Niagara Region charges the City for the water used and wastewater cleaned.

After reviewing water data, the City discovered it was sending 73% more wastewater back to the Niagara Region wastewater plant then clean water it was purchasing from the Niagara Region water plant.  Said another way, for every 1 cubic meter of water the City of Port Colborne purchases from the Niagara Region to distribute through our water system, the City sends back 1.73 cubic meters of wastewater to the Niagara Region to be cleaned.

The culprit is water, known as inflow and infiltration, entering the City’s aged wastewater system. The net result is the City found that approximately 15% of the wastewater charge in the historical billing model that included a fixed rate and volume component was due to water usage.  As a result, a decision was made to move to a 100% fixed rate access model on residential properties with a ¾” meter or less. 

Going forward this will mean that users of water will not be penalized based on usage to pay for the wastewater system when the costs of the system are currently not driven by usage.

 Did wastewater charges increase this year? 
Yes, wastewater rates increased this year. The average Port Colborne resident will pay approximately $21.60 more per month for wastewater on a fixed rate system.

When the water and wastewater budgets are combined the average monthly increase is $19.67.

For residents on Guaranteed Income Supplement (see Q&A below) there is a credit that can be applied to that will effectively eliminate this increase.  There is also a credit available for signing up for pre-authorized payment.

When will wastewater rates increase? 

Wastewater rates will increase effective April 1, 2021. From January 1, 2021 to April 1, 2021 Port Colborne residents paid the 2020 wastewater rate. From April 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021, residents will pay the new fixed wastewater rate.

The change is effective as of April 1.  Historically water and wastewater rates have been back dated to January 1.  This means effectively there are two rates this year.  When 2020 rate is used for the first 3 months and the new rates are used for the next 9 months the blended change for the average user using 150 cubic meters in 2021 is $14.75 per month.

Why did wastewater rates increase?

  1. On average, the wastewater budget increases approximately 12.9% year over year. Wastewater budgets in all municipalities increase yearly. The main drivers were increased charges from the Niagara Region, and funding for the new Guaranteed Income Supplement credit. 
  2. The second is due to a structural deficit in the wastewater system. Since 2017, only $245,000 of improvements have been made to the current infrastructure because previous budgets overestimated the volume-based wastewater billings that never materialized year after year.  The following graph highlights the annual budget and actual revenue in the wastewater system.  Effectively, the City had lower rates then required in those years. To bridge this annual deficit the City was forced to cut almost all capital work related to wastewater.  While progress has been made on water a renew emphasis on the wastewater system is now taking place. 

 

 

When I pay my wastewater bill, where does the money go?

The wastewater budget funds the following:

* Costs not controlled by the City of Port Colborne.  This represents the wastewater cleaned by the Niagara Region wastewater plant.

What is the City doing to lower wastewater costs in the future? 

It is possible for wastewater rates to be lower in the future, however the City of Port Colborne will need to invest and upgrade infrastructure. In the medium term this could still require rates to increase.  Improving the infrastructure is a priority for Council and an infrastructure needs assessment is currently underway. A preliminary report will be presented in August to provide key insights into what infrastructure needs to be updated first.

In addition to upgrading the infrastructure, growth within the City of Port Colborne, whether it be residential, commercial, or industrial can also be very impactful as it shares the cost of the system over more users.        

Are there any water or wastewater grants/credits that a resident can apply for?

Yes, a new credit for residents on guaranteed income supplement (GIS) in the amount of $244 was introduced along with a new one-time credit of $25 for anyone that is registered or registers for pre-authorized payment (PAP) in 2021.

Please call City Hall at 905-835-2900 for assistance in applying.  We can even send you a paper application.

When does the GIS credit come into effect and how do I apply?

The GIS credit is effective immediately.  A resident can learn more about applying online. For anyone receiving the GIS credit their year over year change in their water and wastewater bill will effectively be zero and in many cases will result in a savings. 

Please call City Hall at 905-835-2900 for assistance in applying.  We can even send you a paper application.

How does a resident apply for the pre-authorized payment credit?

These will be applied automatically to the October bill.  A resident can apply for pre-authorized payment online.

Port Colborne residents that sign up for the water and wastewater pre-authorized monthly payment will receive a one-time credit of $25.

Please call City Hall at 905-835-2900 for assistance in applying.  We can even send you a paper application.

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