Kingston City Council to debate bulk water usage and wastewater disposal rates

On Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, Kingston City Council will debate the implementation of new bulk water usage and wastewater disposal charges. Kingstonist file photo.

On Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, Kingston City Council will debate a staff report outlining Utilities Kingston’s implementation of deferred 2023 charges for bulk water usage and wastewater (septage) disposal. The report comes after Council voted back in April to defer new bulk water usage and wastewater disposal charges in order to give Utilities Kingston additional time to review the charges and the implementation timeline. 

The new charges were initially approved during the March 21, 2023, Council meeting, when councillors voted in favour of amendments to the bylaw governing water usage and wastewater disposal rates. In terms of bulk water usage, councillors approved an increase from $2.27 to $3.73 per cubic metre of water taken on a bulk basis, including “commercial water hauling operations.” At the same meeting, councillors approved similar increases for wastewater removal, as the cost to remove non-industrial waste went from $13.07 per cubic metre to $20, while industrial waste removal rose from $17.04 to $26.07 per cubic metre. 

After approving the rate increases, councillors eventually voted in April to defer the implementation of the new charges, after complaints were brought forward about a perceived lack of communication from Utilities Kingston to residents. Following direction from Council, Utilities Kingston hired Elenchus Research Associates Inc. (Elenchus) to perform a cost-of-service review for the new charges. 

According to the report, Elenchus’s review supports the increases as initially approved by Council. The report explains that the annual cost for Utilities Kingston to provide bulk water distribution is $366,993, adding that “relative to a five-year average of water dispensing volumes, this results in a rate charge of $3.65 [per cubic metre].” Despite a difference of $0.08 between the rate charge calculated by Elenchus and the increase approved by Council, the review describes the $3.73 fee as “just and reasonable.” 

Meanwhile, the report notes a cost of just over $1.1 million for non-industrial wastewater removal, resulting in a charge of $28.80 per cubic metre, based on a five-year average. As for industrial wastewater, the report indicates the service costs $91,461, or $37.29 per cubic metre, based on the same five-year average. 

Where bulk water usage and non-industrial wastewater are concerned, the report notes the approved charges are in keeping with rates charged by an unidentified “neighbouring municipality.” If approved, the new charges will go into effect on January 1, 2024.

While the Elenchus review supports the rate increases, it does identify that residential and commercial wastewater rate classes are subsidizing the cost of delivering wastewater disposal services. As such, the report notes that Utilities Kingston will provide recommendations to move toward cost recovery in 2024, as part of the standard water and wastewater rate study. 

The report adds, “The results of that future study will be used for long-term operating and capital budgeting purposes and to seek approval for water and wastewater rates, as well as Bulk Water Usage and Wastewater Disposal charges.” Staff also note that another rate increase for wastewater disposal will likely be recommended for 2025, “to move towards full cost recovery to deliver that program.” 

The staff report will be presented to Council for debate during its meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, at 7 p.m. inside Council Chambers. Full meeting agendas are available on the City of Kingston website. Meetings are open to the public and can be streamed live (or viewed after) on the Kingston City Council YouTube page.

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