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StatsCan World Water Day Report
A LOOK AT WHAT CITIES SPEND ON DRINKING WATER
By Cori Marshall
Statistics Canada data shows that in 2013 "just over $1 billion in capital expenditures were made to upgrade existing infrastructure and commission new components of water treatment plants." It also shows that in the same year $977 million was spent on operations and maintenance, $388 million of which was spent on labour. These are national totals and don't give you the cost of the city where you live. We looked at a few cities across the country to get a picture of what is being spent on potable water.
The City of St. John's operates 2 water treatment facilities at Windsor Lake and Bay Bulls Big Pond. A third treatment plant has been under construction for some time now, the city website lists its expected completion for 2014. The city highlights the fact that water taxes and usage rates will go down in the 2017 budget.
The city has set aside $11,482,782 for its treatment plants, $12,534,804 for the regional distribution system, and $10,312,671 for water and wastewater distribution. When the administration and the city's share of the regional water are factored in, $40,942,811 has been budgeted for the Water Department. The Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) of St. John's had a population of 217,454 in 2016. For every person living in the CMA, $188.28 will be spent bringing safe, drinkable water to homes and businesses.
The Nova Scotia capital has an integrated water and wastewater system, and it is operated like a business. Halifax Water operates two large treatment plants and seven large wastewater plants. The system serves a population of 425,900.
Under the 2016/17 budget that was proposed in February of last year the utility would turn a profit of $33,404 million. The total operating expenses were budgeted at $102,425 million, while non-operational costs were at $36,386 million. When we look at capital spending water receives $21,398 million.
Halifax Water will put $160,209 million towards delivering safe water to homes and industry. In the end, this works out to $376.17 per person. There was also a Capital budget point of $1,697,473.
Frederictonians' drinking water source is an aquifer located "under its downtown area." The water is naturally filtered and treated for manganese. According to the city website, "the system serves 98% of the population."
Fredericton budgeted $4,874,586 for water supply and delivery in 2016. They also set aside $1,697,473 for infrastructure renewal on the distribution system.
The New Brunswick capital had a modest population of 58,220 last year. The total amount in the budget for the delivery system was $6,572,059. Fredericton spent $112.88 per person on the water system in 2016.
The roots of the Montreal Water supply can be traced back to the early nineteenth century. The metropolitan centre operates seven treatment plants that service the island. The plants were constructed between 1911 and 1978. Montreal's water goes through five stages of treatment before it is distributed to homes and businesses.
Montreal has three budget points that address the city's drinking water. There is $118,539,300 going to the water service, and $90,431,400 for the water supply. Nothing has been put into the reserve for 2017.
The water distribution system in Montreal supplies a population of 1,942,044. The total amount destined for potable water is $208,970,700. Montreal spends $107.60 per person on drinking water.
Toronto has over 511,000 connections on its water system. The city highlights that its system treats, stores, and distributes more than 1 billion litres a day. The Queen City operates 4 treatment facilities to accomplish the daunting task.
The total 2017 operating budget for Toronto to acquire, treat and distribute safe drinking water is set at $443.226 million. That number becomes more manageable when you take into consideration that the Greater Toronto Area has a population of 6,242,300. Toronto spends $71 per person on its water system.
The City of Winnipeg's drinking water is supplied from Shoal Lake, and water is carried through the aqueduct that was built between 1915 and 1919 for $17 million at the time. The city commissioned a new $300 million water treatment plant in 2009, to which Winnipeg budgeted $133 million over 14 years to pay for it. The city "financed [the remainder] through long-term debt”. The city operated one plant for 203,607 service connections in 2015. At the plant water goes through a lengthy, six step treatment process.
The preliminary budget for 2017 shows that the city has budgeted $64.179 million to water supply and treatment, and $64.323 million for distribution. Salaries and benefits count for $31.459 million in 2017, while services and materials combined $36.354 million. Winnipeg has set aside $6.212 million in its Watermain Renewal Reserve and has placed $49.383 million on reserve for capital purchases.
The total operating budget for Winnipeg's water distribution system, reserves, and capital expenses is $184.097 million this year to provide residents with potable water. Population forecasts published last year estimate that there will be 814,600 people living in Winnipeg this year. The city has budgeted $225.99 per person on its drinking water distribution system.
Calgary's water is supplied from the Bow and Elbow Rivers. The city operates two water treatment plants. The water goes through clarification, disinfection, residuals treatment, and filtration before it is distributed to homes and commerces.
According to the City of Calgary, $34.5 million on water treatment plants alone. Within that amount, $14.8 million goes to labour, $2.2 on chemicals, and $1.5 on parts. This does not give the complete picture of potable water spending in the city but provides a look at what it takes to treat the water. The city spends $23.48 per person on water treatment.
The amount spent on potable water systems appears to depend on the size of the city. Larger cities can draw tax dollars from larger populations. Halifax spends the largest amount per capita of the cities we looked at, $376.17 per person. The largest numbers are attributed to labour costs across the country, which echoes the Statistics Canada findings. The numbers may fluctuate but each city has to provide the money to be able to distribute potable water to its citizens.