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Understand your water utility bill

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.

Variable charges

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.

Fixed charges

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.

Stormwater rates

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.

Non-connected properties

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.

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 613-580-2424 x:22224.

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.

Video Transcript: Water, Wastewater and Stormwater

The video opens up with a screenshot of the City of Ottawa logo. Upbeat non-vocalized music is in the background, with a digital keyboard playing, complimented by an upscale beat. The music is in a loop and repeats itself every few seconds. As the City logo disappears, a new screen appears with an animated single family home with a lone tree on the large front lawn. The tree is full of leaves. The narrator’s voice speaks: “Whether it’s from the city or from a personal well, water is something we all use every day”. The narrator’s voice ends. The front outside wall of the home is removed to reveal the inside of the house, and the basement is also exposed. Some plumbing fixtures and pipes are shown. The screenshot of the single family house zooms out, and a new image reveals a lone person watering a lawn in front of two three-story multi-residential properties. The inside of the two buildings shows a network of fixtures. The narrator’s voice speaks: “Even when we’re not using it to cook, shower, or drink, water still has an impact on our environment, streets and properties”. The narrator’s voice ends. The multi-residential properties fade away, and are replaced by a city skyline, showing a residential neighbourhood beside a downtown area. An assortment of large buildings appear, and the Peace Tower is shown with the Canada Flag being the highest point in the skyline. Underneath this downtown area, a very complex network of pipes and sewers appears. The narrator’s voice speaks: “The City of Ottawa understands how important water services are to everyone — and we’re changing how we bill to reflect that. This video will help you understand these changes and how they’ll affect you”. The narrator’s voice ends. An image flashes on the screen with the City of Ottawa logo beside two water droplets with the title: “Changes to our rate structure”. This is quickly replaced with the image of an Ottawa water, wastewater and stormwater bill. The image of the water bill closes. The new screen switches to a series of buildings, ranging from an industrial building, some multi-residential buildings, and a large building labelled “Market”. The infrastructure under the ground is shown and a series of pipes, drains and culverts is revealed. This complex underground network appears to be connected to the various buildings. A text bubble at the top of the screen appears with the words: “Connected Properties: Properties that are connected to the City of Ottawa’s sewer system”. The narrator’s voice speaks: “Most properties in Ottawa are “connected” properties. They pay for water, wastewater and stormwater services in their water and sewer bill based on their consumption”. The narrator’s voice ends. Water is shown flowing from one set of underground pipes to the inside of the properties to represent “water”, and water flowing away from the inside of the properties to another series of underground pipes to represent “wastewater”. The screen slowly pans out and it starts to rain on the same properties. The narrator’s voice speaks: “This is not very efficient, however, since the cost of stormwater services isn’t driven by water usage”. The narrator’s voice ends. It stops raining, and the same buildings are replaced by a farm with a barn and a fence. The farm is shown to have a well and septic system, and there is a culvert that appears to run from the farm property into a creek or river. The narrator’s voice speaks: “The rest of the properties use personal wells and septic tanks”. The narrator’s voice ends. It starts to rain on the farm. A text bubble at the top of the screen appears with the words: “Non-Connected Properties: Properties that are not connected to the City of Ottawa’s sewer system”. The narrator’s voice speaks: “These “non-connected” properties don’t receive a water bill, though they benefit from stormwater services as much as the others. The City of Ottawa is fixing these issues with the changes we’re making to our billing”. The narrator’s voice ends. The image of an Ottawa water, wastewater and stormwater bill appears on the screen. The narrator’s voice speaks: “So, what do these changes look like?”. The narrator’s voice ends. The image of the City of Ottawa skyline appears once again. At the top is the title: “Water and Wastewater”. The narrator’s voice speaks: “Your new water bill isn’t just easier to read — it’s easier to understand, too”. The narrator’s voice ends. The City of Ottawa skyline is replaced by three separate images of water meters. The narrator’s voice speaks: “Instead of being based entirely on your property’s water use, it will include a fixed rate based on the size of your water meter”. The narrator’s voice ends. A chart shows that 20-35% of costs are recovered from fixed charge and 65-80% of costs recovered from consumption charges. The chart is dynamic, so that when the fixed portion is at 20%, the consumption charge is at 80% and when the fixed portion is changed to 35%, the consumption portion is changed to 65%. The narrator’s voice speaks: “20-35% of the overall water and wastewater costs will be recovered from this fixed charge and the rest from consumption charges”. The narrator’s voice ends. A diagram shows four tiers of water and how much each costs per cubic meter. The first tier is a basic home, last tier is industrial. The narrator’s voice speaks: “To reward conservation, we’ve created a four-tier model for water rates, ranging from the most basic monthly requirement, to over 30 times that amount”. The narrator’s voice ends. The image of the City of Ottawa skyline appears once again. At the top is the title: “Stormwater”. The narrator’s voice speaks: “You’ll also notice another new item on your bill: stormwater”. The narrator’s voice ends. The image of an Ottawa water, wastewater and stormwater bill appears on the screen. The narrator’s voice speaks: “For connected properties, there has always been a stormwater charge, which varied based on your water usage. We’ve now changed it to a fixed charge based on three factors, starting with ‘property type’”. The narrator’s voice ends. The title “property type” appears at the top of the screen. A series of different properties appears. The screen stops on a three-story row home. A tag is attached to the row home with the number “50%” written on the tag. The narrator’s voice speaks: “All residential properties will pay this fixed rate, while apartments and townhomes will receive a 50% discount. Non-residential properties will have a tiered flat rate based on their property value”. The narrator’s voice ends. A new screen is split into two, showing a farmhouse on the right and an apartment building on the left. A series of pipes runs from the apartment building to the City’s water and wastewater infrastructure, while there is no City infrastructure in the ground in front of the farmhouse. A well, septic tank and septic field begin to appear in front of the farmhouse and are attached to the house through interior plumbing in the basement. The caption at the top of the screen is: “Connected vs Non-Connected”, and a tag is attached to the farm house with the number “30%” written on the tag. The narrator’s voice speaks: “The second factor is whether your property is connected to the City of Ottawa’s wastewater services. Residential properties that don’t pay a water bill will now pay for stormwater services with their property tax — with a 30% discount on the fixed rate”. The narrator’s voice ends. The title “location” appears at the top of the screen. A series of different properties appears, showing both rural and urban properties of various shapes and sizes. The screen stops on a single family home in the country. The home is fenced and appears in a field by itself, surrounded by a few trees. A tag is attached to this rural home with the number “20%” written on the tag. The narrator’s voice speaks: “The third factor is location. Residential properties in rural areas will receive a 20% discount, since they create less runoff and use fewer services. Non-residential, non-connected properties in rural areas will receive a 30% discount”. The narrator’s voice ends. The screen shifts to a commercial property with no other properties around it. The sign on the building reads “Hardware”. There are trees surrounding the property, and it shows it’s own septic system and well that is hooked-up to the property through the basement. A tag around this hardware store has the number “30%” written on it. The narrator’s voice speaks: “All other non-residential properties will pay the fixed base rate. And don’t worry, if it’s the first time you’re paying the new fee, you’ll have time to adjust”. The narrator’s voice ends. The image of the hardware store is replaced by a line graph that shows “25%”, “50%”, “75%” and “100%” on the vertical axis, and “2017”, “2018”, “2019” and “2020” along the horizontal axis. A line starts at the bottom left corner of the graph and runs in a 45 degree angle upwards and to the right, showing a direct relationship between the percentage and the year. The narrator’s voice speaks: “We’re phasing in the stormwater fee for non-connected properties at a rate of 25% per year, so you won’t pay the full amount until 2020”. The narrator’s voice ends. The scene shifts to a mirage of various building types in both rural and urban settings, some of which are connected and others not connected to the City’s wastewater infrastructure. The narrator’s voice speaks: “Overall, the changes in how we bill will help you better understand your water consumption and charges — making it easier to make more efficient and environmentally-friendly choices”. The narrator’s voice ends. The City of Ottawa logo appears on the screen. The narrator’s voice speaks: “For the City of Ottawa, it’s another way we’re building a better, more sustainable future together”. The narrator’s voice and the video ends.