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New Water Rate Structure

New 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  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 change?

Historically, all properties were paying for stormwater either on their water bill or as a tax levy, or a combination of the two. In 2001, 100% of the fee was moved to the water utility bill as part of the sewer surcharge. That meant that only connected properties that received a water bill contributed to stormwater management funding.

This fee was charged based on water consumption, but stormwater services are not affected by how much water you consume, rather by the runoff from hard surfaces including building rooftops, driveways, parking lots and other paved surfaces, such as roads and sidewalks.  

Implementation schedule

The implementation of the new rate structure has two phases:

Phase I – May 2017 – Non-connected properties first saw a new stormwater charge on their final tax bills.

The stormwater charge is being phased in over four years to allow non-connected property owners time to adjust:

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

Phase II – April 2019 - Connected properties will see 4 components — water, wastewater, stormwater and fire supply — identified on their water bills where previously there were three. This category is approximately 85% of properties in the City of Ottawa.

Definitions

Water:  Water is defined as drinking water services that ensure that over 225,000 households and businesses in the serviced areas of the City have clean, high-quality drinking water on demand. It’s a 24/7 operation, with many safeguards and quality assurance processes.

Wastewater:  Wastewater services take care of the city’s sanitary sewers and  ensure that wastewater is properly cleaned and treated before it’s discharged into the Ottawa River.

Stormwater:  All properties contribute to stormwater runoff as a result of hard surface areas that are impervious to rainwater (e.g. roof tops, driveways, parking lots), as well as inadequate drainage or permeability to keep up with precipitation and melting. Roadways also contribute to runoff, particularly in areas where the stormwater infrastructure is primarily comprised of ditches and culverts, but also in serviced areas where runoff flows to in-ground storm sewers.

All properties in Ottawa benefit from stormwater management, which keeps basements dry, protects roads from erosion, keeps local waterways healthy and keeps drinking water sources clean.

Fixed rate component: The fixed part of the water and wastewater charges are needed to reflect the fixed costs the City incurs when it delivers clean water to your home or business and treats the water that leaves your home or business – these are costs that don’t change, no matter how much water is used.

Variable rate component: The variable portion of the water and wastewater charges are based on consumption that varies with water use – there is a minimal rate for minimal use, and increasing rates for heavier use. This encourages water conservation and allows people to control their bill by reducing the amount of water they use.

Connected Properties: Connected properties currently pay a sewer surcharge and are connected to the City’s wastewater service.

Non-Connected Properties: Non-connected properties typically have a private septic system and are not connected to the City’s wastewater service.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Why is the rate structure changing?

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 is the rate structure changing?

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 will come into effect on April 1, 2019.

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

The new structure will continue to include water and wastewater charges based on consumption. However, it will also include fixed charges to reflect the costs of supporting and maintaining our water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure. Fire supply charges remain unchanged.

Will there be any changes when I pay my water utility bill?

In addition to the new water rate structure, there are some significant improvements coming to your water utility bill. One of those changes is the assignment of a new 15-digit customer account number starting in March 2019. This means that you will no longer be 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 will the fixed charges on my water utility bill be determined?

Annual flat fees for water, wastewater and fire supply will be based on a property’s meter size. Stormwater fees will be based on property type, determined by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation. These annual fixed charges will be prorated on each bill based on the number of days in the billing period. That means every bill will have 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 will be 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 will be lowest for Tier 1 and will 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.

How often will my water utility bill be issued?

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

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 starting in April 2019.

How are properties classified?

All property types are assigned a property code (type) by MPAC.

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

You may apply directly to  MPAC  for a correction. 

I believe I have an incorrect assessed property value.  Can I appeal?

You may apply directly to MPAC for a correction. 

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. 

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.