Skip to main content

Understanding Your Bill

An introduction to the different charges you’ll see on your water and sewer bill, tips on how to lower those charges and answers to other questions you may have.

Understanding your water and sewer bill

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).

A look at your bill

The City's water billing staff manages about 238,000 water accounts. Water meter reading information is obtained from remote sensors or 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 downloaded into Ottawa's water billing system and used to produce bills. About 30,000 water and sewer bills are generated weekly.

There are three charges on your water and sewer bill that provide the City with the money it needs to transport clean, potable water to your home, and also to carry wastewater and stormwater away from your home for treatment and eventual release into the Ottawa River.

Water use charge

Customers are charged on a 'user pay' basis, meaning you only pay for the water you use - the more you use, the higher your water use charge.

Unlike most municipal services, which residents pay for through property taxes, sewer and water services are self-funded. This means residents are directly billed for the water they use, as well their share of the costs for transporting clean water to their homes and carrying wastewater away from their homes for treatment and release back into the environment. Water use is measured by water meters.

Sewer surcharge

Sewer fees on your water bill pay for the ongoing maintenance and operation of stormwater and sanitary sewer lines, and the treatment and eventual release of wastewater into the Ottawa River. The more water you use, the more wastewater the City has to treat and release. 

The sewer surcharge portion of your water bill covers all the costs associated with the water you discharge, right from the time it leaves your house in a sanitary or stormwater sewer line, to its treatment and eventual release into the Ottawa River. The infrastructure needed to transport and treat wastewater is massive - and costly. Ottawa has more than 2,600 km of sanitary sewers alone. In addition to the pipes, there are two water treatment centres, 14 pumping stations, storage facilities and communal well systems. Since much of this infrastructure was installed shortly after World War II, it requires ongoing rehabilitation or replacement to maintain current standards.

What is a sewer surcharge rate?

Exactly how much residents and businesses pay for sewers is based on the amount of water they consume. That's because the more water used, the more wastewater the City must transport and ultimately treat before it can be released back into the environment. Therefore, the amount of water residents consume is multiplied by a pre-determined sewer surcharge rate to determine the sewer fee that appears on their water bill. The sewer surcharge

rate is a percentage of your water charge that will be needed to cover the costs of operating and maintaining the sewer infrastructure.

YOUR SEWER SURCHARGE ($) = YOUR WATER CHARGE ($) X SEWER SURCHARGE RATE (%)

How much will the rate increase?

The average Ottawa household will see an increase of 83 cents per week. 

Water bill fees are based on how much water you use. The table below illustrates the rate changes for 2018.

Service 2017 Rate 2018 Rate
Water $1.891 (per cubic metre) $1.953 (per cubic metre)
Sewer surcharge 117% of Water Charges 120% of Water Charges
Fire Supply $44.50 (residential annual rate) $46.28 (residential annual rate)

Questions about water and sewer billing

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.