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Water Today Title July 7, 2022

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Update 2017/10/11
Municipal infrastructure


This story is brought to you in part by Proteus Waters

By Ronan O'Doherty

A group of environmental economists who have teamed up to study municipal water in Canada have published a report saying we're not paying enough for our most treasured resource.

The Ecofiscal Commission, which is made up of economists from differing political and geographic backgrounds across the country, published Only the Pipes Should Be Hidden last month. The report includes their ideas for best practices to ensure better infrastructure, a cleaner environment and high quality drinking water for generations to come.

"You've got the leaders but you've also got some laggards," Dave Beugin, Executive Director for Ecofiscal, said when discussing the landscape among municipal water systems, " Some municipalities are still not creating that incentive for conservation."

In the report, the very first best practice suggested is installing water meters for all commercial and residential properties. Although this might be prevalent in many communities in Canada, it's still not the norm for some.

For the savings conscious, who look out their window to see grand lakes or roaring rivers, it might seem ridiculous to pay more than they already do. However, what is missing from the picture are the sophisticated systems that go into turning that water into a quality drinking product and those that convert waste water and return it back into the water table so that it may be used again.

Aging infrastructure is written about at Watertoday.ca on an almost daily basis. Watermains breaking and pipes bursting, consequently resulting in water advisories occur regularly across all the provinces. The regularity will only increase until it's properly addressed in the costs for water and waste water.

"Think of the simple principle, Beugin said, "If you're using less water you should pay less. Better water pricing leads to fair pricing. You're not necessarily paying more, what you're doing is paying more now to avoid paying a lot more later and avoid cleaning up the messes."

One of the top examples found in the report and lauded upon by Beugin is that of Gibsons, British Columbia.

"They've got a great natural water aquifer that they use for drinking water," he said, "And they recently won the best drinking water prize. So they looked at (their natural benefits and asked themselves) if we had to replace this thing it would cost so much, so it makes sense to protect it now."

Gibsons built the value of their aquifer into their accounting structure as it has been giving them real value and real benefits.

Beugin also offered the water pricing system of London, as an example of their best practices at work.

"They have seen this big improvement in per capita use," he said, "Part of it is pricing and part of it is technology getting better. (Their conservation efforts) have allowed them to defer a waste water treatment plant for a few years, which has saved them $80 million. Delaying big spendings like that can be vital for a community.

He went on to mention that often times a story like will be framed in terms of economics but added that the economists at Ecofiscal account for the true value of environmental outcomes.

"It makes economic sense because it makes environmental sense."

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