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Understanding your bill

Understanding your water utility bill

The City's water billing staff manages over 240,000 water accounts. Water meter reading information is obtained from radio frequency (RF) transmitters that are located on the exterior of each home, business and facility within municipal boundaries. This information is transmitted through our RF network and used to produce bills, ensuring you are billed based on your actual water usage.

Reading your water utility bill

Your water utility bill has been designed to be user-friendly, easier to read, and easier to understand. It is also issued in your preferred language, English or French. It includes:

  • 15-digit customer account number
  • Current balance
  • Payment due date
  • A breakdown of current charges, rates and property information
  • Graphs showing current consumption and usage history over the past two years
  • A dedicated section for special announcements and customer messages.

Choose your language

You can select and change the preferred official language on your water utility bill.

Please go online to My Settings at My ServiceOttawa or call Revenue Services at 613-580-2444 (TTY 613-580-2401) to choose your preferred language.

If you already have a My ServiceOttawa account, your bill will be sent in the official language you have selected for your account. If you would like to receive your bill in the other official language, please go online to My ServiceOttawa or call Revenue Services.

Accessible format

To receive an accessible format (e-text, large print or Braille) of your billing documents, please contact Revenue Services at 613-580-2444, (TTY: 613-580-2401).

How often is my water utility bill issued?

Each customer’s tier allowance resets every 30 days. However, water utility bills are issued once every two months.

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?

  • Residential water and sewer bills are sent every two months. Every effort is made to obtain a meter reading for each billing, but you may not always receive bills based on an actual read. Bills based on estimates are calculated on the previous year's consumption 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 consumption 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 is my water bill suddenly very high?

There are a number of possible explanations.  It could be due to higher water consumption as a result of:

  • A change in the household (such as new tenants, new owners, more people, visitors);
  • New appliances (such as a water-cooled air conditioner, humidifier, dishwasher, hot water tank, heating system, lawn sprinkler system)
  • You may have some plumbing problems or leaks. To check for leaks, locate the 'trickle indicator'  — a small red or black triangle — on your water meter. Make sure no water is running, and then check to see if the indicator is turning, moving or shaking. If it is, water is flowing through the meter indicating a leak somewhere. The homeowner is responsible for all plumbing repairs and maintenance. The City is not responsible for internal plumbing leaks.
  • Toilets seep. Lift the lid off of the water tank, drop in some food colouring or brewed tea or coffee, and come back in 20 minutes. If colour appears in the toilet bowl the rod-and-ball assembly or flapper need adjustment or replacement (Don’t flush the toilet while you are waiting). The homeowner is responsible for all plumbing repairs and maintenance. The City is not responsible for internal plumbing leaks.
  • It could be a catch-up bill, which can occur when an actual meter reading is missed, an outside remote is not working, or after a change in occupancy.
  • It could be a result of higher seasonal demands.

Water, Wastewater, and Stormwater rate structure

The City of Ottawa has improved how it bills for water, wastewater and stormwater to create a fairer and more sustainable system for its residents.

On October 26, 2016, City Council approved a new Water Rate Structure. The new rate structure was developed after an extensive public consultation process PDF opens in a new tab or window during which over 800 residents provided feedback, and is based on research and municipal best practices.

The new structure increases fairness, is more flexible, and more reflective of the many different kinds of properties in Ottawa. It 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.

The new structure identifies four components: water, wastewater, stormwater and fire supply. The water and wastewater charges will have a fixed rate prorated over the year, and a variable component, based on monthly consumption. Water billing rates are dictated by the annual rate-supported budget approved by City Council.

One of the key outcomes of the new rate structure is the implementation of a new charge for stormwater services for properties that did not pay this fee. Stormwater will be charged through a fixed rate fee to all applicable properties that benefit from stormwater service. Previously this fee was included in the sewer surcharge rate for connected properties. Properties that do not receive a water utility bill see the stormwater fee on their property tax bill instead.

Fire supply will remain as a fixed fee, based on the property’s water meter size.

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.

When did the rate structure change?

Properties that do not receive a water utility bill saw the stormwater fee introduced on their property tax bill in 2017. For connected properties – those that receive a water utility bill – the new water rate structure came into effect on April 1, 2019.

I receive a water utility bill. What does the new rate structure look like?

The new structure continues to include water and wastewater charges based on consumption. However, it also includes fixed charges to reflect the costs of supporting and maintaining our water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure. Fire supply charges remain unchanged.  For more information on new rate structure, please review the new rate structure report.

Are there any changes when I pay my water utility bill?

As of March 2019, you were assigned a new 15-digit customer account number. This means that you are no longer able to use your old account number to pay your water utility bill. Please refer to our “How to pay your bill” section for more details.

How are the fixed charges on my water utility bill determined?

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. 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.

What about consumption charges for connected properties?

Your monthly drinking water and wastewater rates are based on four tiers of water consumption:

  • 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

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.

My property includes a municipal drain. Will the changes to the rate structure affect my municipal drain fees?

Municipal drains are part of a separate provincial regime. The changes to the City’s rate structure have no impact on municipal drains.

My utilities are included in my rent. Will these changes affect me?

Changes in utility costs to your property owner may have an impact on your rent. Ask your property owner for more details.

For most multi-residential properties, the impact of the new rate structure is minimal and may actually reduce monthly charges due to the economies of sharing one fixed cost for one meter for multiple units, and the fact that the stormwater charge would be half that of the single and semi-detached homes.

Stormwater

What is stormwater?

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.

Is the stormwater charge new for connected properties?

No. Connected properties were already paying for stormwater services through the sewer surcharge on their water utility bill.

Why is there a stormwater fee for non-connected properties?

Previously, 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 are now contributing to stormwater services as well.

I don’t receive a water bill from the City. How will I be billed for stormwater?

The stormwater charge is added to the property tax bill of those properties that do not receive a water utility bill.

How is the stormwater charge calculated?

The stormwater rate varies, 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 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.

The stormwater rates for ICI is a flat fee based on assessment ranges.

Rural ICI properties not connected to City wastewater services receive a 30% discount on their stormwater charge.

How is the stormwater fee charged?

Non-connected: Properties that do not receive a water utility bill and are not connected to wastewater services have the stormwater fee included on their property tax bill. The fee for non-connected properties is being phased in over four years to allow time to adjust:

2017 - 25% 2018 – 50% 2019 – 75% 2020 – 100%

Connected: Properties that receive a water bill will see the stormwater fee on their water utility bills as of April 2019.

Can I appeal the stormwater fee charged by the City?

Assessment code and value are used as a “proxy” for impervious land; this is captured once a year and is used to determine the property’s stormwater charge. Stormwater fees charged by the City cannot be appealed, however will be adjusted going forward if assessment and/or property types are corrected by MPAC.

I believe I have an incorrect property type. Can I appeal?

You may apply directly to MPAC for a correction.

Video Transcript - How to read your bill

The How to Read Your Bill video opens with a screenshot of the City of Ottawa logo.  Non-vocalized music plays in the background, with a digital keyboard and 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 view of the Parliament building and pans to a nearby neighbourhood, zooming in on a specific building with an elevator door opening.

A character stands in front of a wall of mounted mailboxes and is seen pulling an envelop out of his mailbox and looking at it.  The character image ends.

While these screenshots are quickly panning, the narrator’s voice speaks “The City of Ottawa has improved our water, wastewater and stormwater bill to make it easier to find the information you need.”

The onscreen title reads: “How to read your bill”, along with a drawing of two water droplets.   The title drops and ends.

The screen zooms to the character’s hand holding the envelop which spins in the air and opens as the bill flies out. The narrator speaks “When you receive your bill, check the top right corner to find your new 15-digit account number.”

A magnifying glass appears on the front of the bill and zooms to the Customer number and Account number. The character image ends.

The Customer number and Account number are highlighted in yellow as the narrator continues “Make sure to use this new number when you pay your bill.”

While the magnifying glass quickly pans to the activity and new charges summary section of the bill, the narrator’s voice states, “Next, you’ll see all your essential information including your activity since your last statement new charges, balance and due date.”

The activity since last bill and amount due section are highlighted.     

The magnifying glass twirls to the right of the bill to the My ServiceOttawa section. The narrator’s voice explains “The redesigned bill also includes the latest news from the City of Ottawa - be sure to check this section often for important updates!” The Narrator pauses and the front of the bill ends.

The screen quickly cuts to the back of the bill’s detailed breakdown of consumption and charges section.  It zooms into the how the new charges were calculated section, while the narrator’s voice speaks “You’ll also find detailed breakdowns of consumption and charges and can compare your usage history over the past two years.”   

Then the magnifying glass quickly scans to the consumption history chart. The bill and screen images end.

A new screen appears showing the Ottawa.ca/wws contact information and the narrator’s voice suggests “Have questions?  Call or visit us online for more information.”  The image ends.

To close, the narrator’s voice announces, “It’s just one of the ways we are serving you better.”  The image and narrator’s voice ends.

The City Logo appears on the last screen.  The music and the How To Read Your Bill video finishes.

Video Transcript - Select your language

Upbeat instrumental music with a strong, fast beat plays in the background. The scene opens with an animated, panoramic view of the Ottawa downtown, with the Parliament Buildings in the middle.

The Canada flag is waving in the wind on top of the Peace Tower. A female narrator with a cheerful voice says, “The City of Ottawa is making improvements to our water, wastewater and stormwater bill.” The scene pans to a nearby neighborhood and zooms into a specific building and on a character inside it who is holding a water bill. He has a smile on his face.

The narrator says, “It’s more accessible, detailed and user-friendly than ever.” A logo with the caption, “Choose your preferred language” appears on the screen. The logo incorporates the blue and aqua-marine colours found in the City of Ottawa’s logo.

The narrator says, “Soon, you’ll receive your bill in the official language of your choice”. A quick snapshot of a City of new Ottawa Water, Wastewater and Stormwater bill appears on the screen, followed by a screenshot of the log-in page of the My ServiceOttawa website.

The address of the website – myservice.ottawa.ca - hangs on the top of the screen while two lines – “Language Preference” and “Water and Sewer Billing” appear on the screen with checkboxes beside them.

The narrator says, “Simply go online to the My ServiceOttawa website to select your preferred language and register for water and sewer billing, or call Revenue Services. The Revenue Services phone number - 613-580-2444 – appears on a smartphone, and the TTY number - 613-580-2401 – is displayed underneath.

The narrator says, “It’s just one of the ways we’re building a better future together. The video ends with the image of the City of Ottawa logo. The music fades away.

Video Transcript - Water, Wastewater, and Stormwater rate structure

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.