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Ontario Municipal Water Association calls on all Ontario provincial parties to ensure safe, clean, affordable drinking water

Wednesday, September 12th 2007 1:00:44pm

Will a new provincial government drive water rates up?

OMWA believes the public has a right to know

As the owners and senior managers of public water departments and utilities, members of the Ontario Municipal Water Association (OMWA) take very seriously our responsibility to deliver clean, safe drinking water at an affordable price to our water customers.

The Ontario government announced last week its implementation of all 121 Walkerton Inquiry recommendations. Over the last seven years, municipal water professionals have worked closely with the Ontario government in implementing the Walkerton Inquiry recommendations, laying the foundation for a sophisticated, multi-barrier safety approach to drinking water delivery envisioned by Justice Dennis O'Connor.

OMWA believes that the new safety standards and rules put in place since 2000 were necessary to restore and maintain the public's confidence in Ontario's public drinking water.

Now that the regulatory landscape has stabilized, municipal water professionals are focusing on meeting these new rules, while upgrading plants, replacing aging pipes, and finding operational efficiencies to keep water rates in check into the future.

However, there is significant concern amongst municipal leaders that a new wave of government regulation is just around the corner, which would have an enormous impact on water rates once again. This time, however, the increased cost of water would not be spent on improving the safety of our drinking water, but rather to pay for an increase in the administrative burden in delivering the water.

Such a direction was outlined in a report called "Watertight: The case for change in Ontario's water and wastewater sector," commissioned by the Ontario government.  The province is currently reviewing the report's recommendations.

The Watertight prescription is to create a provincial oversight board, an Ontario Water Board, modeled on, and possibly run by, the Ontario Energy Board, to scrutinize and approve the administration and rate setting of approximately 700 local water operations. History has proven that similar oversight by the Ontario Energy Board has resulted in approximately a 10-15 % increase in electricity rates. Given successive governments' inability to control the electricity sector's bureaucracy and debt in Ontario, recommending that a similar model be imposed on the water sector is simply baffling and unacceptable.

OMWA believes that the only way to guarantee both the safety and the cost-effective delivery of our drinking water is to maintain the current system of oversight by local municipal government and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

Water customers deserve to know the next Ontario government's vision for maintaining the delivery of safe drinking water at an affordable cost. That is why OMWA has sent a survey to each of the four leading political parties, asking each of them to state clearly their plans for the Ontario water sector, and their response to the Watertight recommendations.

Responses of the political parties to the survey will be posted publicly on the OMWA website in the last week of September at www.omwa.org. Responses to the OMWA survey on the future of the drinking water sector may affect the future water rates of the 80% of Ontario households and thousands of businesses served by municipal drinking water. We encourage all those who depend on public drinking water to check out the results of this important survey.


Signed,

Diane Gagner
President, OMWA, on behalf of the OMWA board of directors


Doug Parker, Executive Director, OMWA
Mayor Anne Krassilowsky, Dryden
Mayor Deb Shewfelt, Goderich
Councillor Peter Veltheer, Greater Napanee
Councillor Rosemary Maclennan, Trent Hills
Jerry Klaus, Markham
Ed Houghton, Collingwood
Max Christie, Napanee
Mike Hick, Cobourg
Rob Walton, Oxford
Douglas James, Perth Municipal Water Board
Mark Howson, Sault Ste. Marie
Ken Graham, Smith Falls
Nick Benkovich, Sudbury