Water bill charges
On October 26, 2016, City Council approved a new Water Rate Structure, which identifies a variable and fixed component. For connected properties – those that receive a water utility bill – the new water rate structure came into effect on April 1, 2019.
Your monthly drinking water and wastewater rates are based on four tiers of water usage:
- Tier 1 – up to 6 cubic metres
- Tier 2 – 7 to 25 cubic metres
- Tier 3 – 26 to 180 cubic metres
- Tier 4 – more than 180 cubic metres
The tiers are reset every 30 days. To encourage water conservation, fees are lowest for Tier 1 and increase with each tier. For example, if you consumed 10 cubic metres, the first six cubic metres would be calculated at the Tier 1 rate, and the remaining four cubic metres would be calculated with at the Tier 2 rate.
Water: Pays for water distribution, collection, treatment and infrastructure maintenance and renewal.
Wastewater: Pays for wastewater collection, treatment and infrastructure maintenance and renewal.
Fire supply: Pays for the fire hydrant system to ensure that in the event of a fire there is adequate water flow to fire hydrants.
Stormwater: Pays for services that ensure stormwater is safely transported throughout the City. All properties benefit from stormwater management.
These annual fixed charges are prorated on each bill based on the number of days in the billing period. That means every bill has a minimum charge - even when no water is consumed during the billing period.
Annual flat fees for water, wastewater and fire supply are based on a property’s meter size. Stormwater fees are based on property type, determined by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation.
Stormwater includes rain and melted water runoff, and is collected in culverts, collection pipes, ditches and storm ponds. Stormwater services ensure stormwater is safely transported throughout the City to protect roads, properties and local waterways, to avoid flooding and erosion. All City residents benefit from stormwater management.
Under the previous billing structure, connected properties (those that receive a water bill), were paying for stormwater services through the sewer surcharge on their water utility bill.
The stormwater rates vary, depending on the following:
- Property type - Residential or Non-Residential (Industrial, Commercial, Institutional)
- Service area – Urban or Rural
- Service type - Connected or Non-Connected
To achieve an equitable distribution, the stormwater rates are based on the total estimated hard surface area between residential properties and industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) properties (67% residential and 33% ICI).
Residential & Multi-Residential (6+ units) - Residential and multi-residential properties are discounted from the base rate as follows:
- Townhouse/apartment receive a 50% discount
- Urban non-connected properties receive a 30% discount
- Rural non-connected properties receive a 50% discount
For residential properties with more than one unit, the stormwater fee is charged per dwelling unit.
Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) - ICI properties have a combination of the following characteristics:
- Assessment Range (based on current year assessment value)
- Service Area (Urban or Rural)
- Service Type (Connected or Non-Connected)
The stormwater charge for ICI properties is a flat fee calculated based on current year assessed property value as returned by MPAC annually. Unlike residential properties, the impervious areas of ICI properties are extremely diverse, making it virtually impossible to establish fair averages. Assessment value is considered to be a reasonable proxy for property size.
Rural ICI properties not connected to City wastewater services receive a 30% discount on their stormwater charge.
Can I appeal the stormwater charge?
As stormwater fees are charged based on assessment, they cannot be appealed. However, the fees will be adjusted going forward if assessment and/or property types are corrected by MPAC. If you believe you have the incorrect property code, you must contact MPAC directly.
Under the previous water billing structure, 100% of the stormwater fee was only charged on water bills, which meant that non-connected properties did not pay the fee. Since everyone benefits from stormwater services, this was unfair. Starting in 2017, non-connected properties have been contributing to stormwater services through their property tax bills.
Understanding the difference between stormwater and wastewater
Wastewater is used water discharged from your home’s plumbing system. This water flows through enormous sewage pipes buried into the ground to Ottawa’s treatment plant. Once the water has gone through a series of treatment processes, it is returned to the Ottawa River.
Stormwater begins as rainfall and melting snow/ice and is known as runoff. In rural areas, this runoff will either be absorbed by plants and soils, evaporates or make its way back to ponds and streams. However, in developed areas, hard surfaces like roads, roofs and driveways prevent water from seeping into the ground. Instead, stormwater runoff flows to storm drains while picking up contaminants along the way. Storm sewers then carry the rainwater to stormwater outlets draining to creeks, streams, and rivers.
For further information on the wastewater and stormwater functions and infrastructure, please refer to Drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater.
How do I know how much water I use?
One cubic metre (m³) is equal to 1,000 litres. Check out this short video to see the average household water consumption for every day activities.
Water bill FAQ
Why is my water bill suddenly very high?
There are a number of possible explanations. For further information, please refer to the High water bill and leaks webpage.
Who should I call if there is a water emergency?
Please contact the City of Ottawa at 3-1-1 and give the details of the emergency. City staff will direct your call to the appropriate department.
How often will I receive my residential water and sewer bill?
Water bills are issued bi-monthly. Every effort is made to obtain meter reading data for each bill, but you may not always receive bills based on an actual read. Bills based on estimates are calculated on the previous year's usage for the same period and do not take into account changes in occupancy or weather. The City may correct billing errors at any time.
I am going away for an extended period of time. What can I do about my water bill?
Here is a checklist to follow:
- Check all plumbing fixtures, such as inside and outside taps, and ensure they are completely turned off.
- In the winter, it is essential you maintain some household heat while you are away to prevent your meter from freezing. The City charges to replace a frozen meter. If you are lowering or turning off the heat, you should drain your water system to prevent any damages resulting from freezing. Please contact a plumber for more information.
- You will continue to receive a regular bill every 2 months for any usage recorded and flat fees. See Payment options to ensure your bill is paid on time.
How do I get a billing based on an actual read instead of an estimate?
The City of Ottawa obtains reading information through an automated meter reading wireless network. If you are being billed on an estimate your equipment may not be functioning correctly. Please contact our meter operations unit at 613-580-2444.
Why did the rate structure change?
The new water rate structure was developed to be fair and equitable, and to ensure sustainable funding to keep water delivery assets in good repair. Residents who benefit from water, wastewater and stormwater must contribute to the services that they are using, thus ensuring that infrastructure and water quality are maintained at the highest standards. The new structure recognizes the different types of services received by those in serviced areas of the City and those who rely on private wells in urban and rural Ottawa. For more information on new rate structure, please review the new rate structure report.
In Person Services
Please be advised that the Revenue Services Front Counter is appointment-based only, and appointments are available to book on a first come first serve basis. Please have your property tax roll number or water utility customer-account number available upon booking.
Appointments are available at the following times:
- Monday to Friday, 8:30-4:30 pm (September through May)
- Monday to Friday, 8:30 – 4 pm (June through August)
To book, modify or cancel an appointment online, please visit City of Ottawa Revenue Services (frontdesksuite.ca).
There is no cost to book an appointment with Revenue Services, however, please be advised that fees may apply depending on the type of service requested. For more information please visit Water Utility Rates & Fees or Paying your taxes. Please also be advised that our office is only accepting cheque payments at this time.
For more information or for assistance using the online booking tool, please contact Revenue Services at 613-580-2444.