How proposed changes to city water rates will affect Ottawa businesses

Proposed changes to how the city charges for water are coming to council for the first time in 15 years that, if passed, will have an impact on the bottom line of businesses.

Under the current system, residents and businesses pay based on how much water and wastewater they use.

This will continue, except that individuals and companies will also pay a fixed fee for the services on top of the usage rates.

Additionally, commercial property owners will pay a flat fee for stormwater collection.

Will your bill go up? According to the city, it depends. In documents published Monday, city officials said some businesses will be paying more while others will actually pay less for municipal services.

A typical gas station would see its monthly bill go up $9, or 18 per cent, according to a city example. A large hotel, however, could see its bill go down by $4,159 or nearly 10 per cent.

Here are the key changes:

- Currently, the city charges $1.80 for each cubic metre of drinking water used and $2.11 per cubic metre of wastewater;

- Your new rate will depend on how much you use. Businesses will be divided into four categories. At the lowest tier, properties consuming less than six cubic metres of water per month would be charged $1.345 per cubic metre. At the highest tier, properties consuming more than 180 cubic metres of water per month would be charged $3.313 per cubic metre;

- There will also be a fixed fee based on the size of their water meter that ranges from $17 to $1,984 per month;

- Similarly, wastewater rates will now range from $0.624 per cubic metre for small users and up to $1.545 per cubic metre for larger consumers;

- The fixed wastewater fee will range from $8.11 to $932.62;

- A stormwater fee would be applied to industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) buildings based on a property value assessment and whether or not the building is connected to the city’s water services. Connected properties valued below $300,000 would pay a flat fee of $5, while unconnected properties would pay $3.50. On the higher end, properties valued at more than $200 million would pay a flat fee of $8,333.30, with six payment tiers between the top and bottom property value tiers.

How does that all add up? The city gave several examples that breaks down the changes.

ICI buildings represent 27 per cent of the city’s drinking water usage and make up 33 per cent of Ottawa’s impervious surfaces, as that relates to stormwater fees and maintenance.

The city says the changes are needed because the city incurs fixed costs to maintain the infrastructure that delivers drinking water and removes wastewater, regardless of how much is used.

Before heading to council, the proposed changes will be first presented to the city’s environment committee on Oct. 18.