There will be a special meeting of Council on Monday the 6th at 7:00 PM open to the public that will feature a Water and Wastewater User Rate Study Presentation. The report that underlies the presentation is available by contacting Parry Sound town hall.

I’ve had a chance to review the report, and outside of a few typos, it seems to do a nice job of reviewing the current situation with respect to the delivery of water and the management of waste water. It’s a longer report, 112 pages, and includes many tables summarizing the situation and offering projections of costs and pricing options for the next ten years.

There are a few things that jump out of the report and which are worth thinking about. I’m sure some of my thoughts will be revised after attending the presentation, but here are some of the key points as I understand them from reading the report:

1. The town needs to increase its investments related to capital costs. The current thinking about municipal services is that you don’t just buy something when you need it and pay it off, you save for the purchase before you actually buy it. This will be a financial challenge for the town as we are still paying off earlier water and waste water capital investments while saving for future replacement.

2. The waste water expenses are higher than the water expenses. Strange as that may seem it’s real, and largely related to the cost of the capital infrastructure related to waste water. It’s not just the waste water collection systems, it’s the pumps and all the energy required to move the waste water to the treatment facility. In the case of fresh water delivery, gravity does much of the work and the pipes are smaller.

3. We have a relatively low ratio with respect to population versus service needs. Much of our infrastructure could possibly support a greater population. That would reduce the per capita cost of capital investments. Parry Sound is built on hills of granite and gneiss. This makes the cost of construction and maintenance higher than it would be if we were in Southern Ontario (even though the weather may make us feel as though we were).

4. Looking at the report it seems the cost of our water services will go up about 80% by 2020. That’s a much higher rate of increase than inflation and due in large part to the capital investments that will need to be made on the water and waste water side of the business. It’s not the human costs that are driving this increase.

It turns out that the cost of our water service is not related to the availability or cost of the water as it is with gas prices. It’s delivering the water and disposing of it that makes it expensive. Imagine what a liter of gas would cost if the price included a disposal or environmental impact charge.

I’m sure there will be much to learn at the meeting on the 6th. I hope to see you there.