Most Halifax Water customers can expect a drop in their water bill this year, following a decision by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to approve restructured stormwater charges.
"It's very important since 88 per cent of residential customers will see their bill go down," said James Campbell, a spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Water Commission.
Since 2013, Halifax Water has been charging its customers for the cost of collecting stormwater run-off.
Regulators approved new stormwater charges Wednesday that replace an annual flat rate of $33.39 with an annual tiered rate for homes.
Properties with more impervious surface area, such as roofs and driveways, will pay more than those with less impervious area generating water run-off.
Yearly tiered rates for homeowners
Under the new system, 2,326 residential properties with less than 50 square metres of impervious area will see their stormwater charge eliminated entirely.
The yearly rate for residential properties with impervious areas bigger than 50 square metres is as follows:
- 50 to 200 square metres: $14. (This is also the rate charged to customers who have culvert service only.)
- 200 to 400 square metres: $27.
- More than 400 square metres: $54.
Credits up to 50 per cent for business
Regulators also approved a 10 per cent reduction for non-residential customers to $0.135 from $0.149 per square metre.
The charge could be lowered by up to 50 per cent if they create their own stormwater management system, like holding ponds, under a new credit system approved by the UARB.
Halifax Water originally proposed a 30 per cent credit but raised it to 50 per cent after owners of the Dartmouth Crossing real estate development complained.
Dartmouth Crossing was built with its own stormwater collection system, which developers argued should result in a bigger discount.
Commission can charge municipality: UARB
Regulators also weighed in on a simmering dispute between the Halifax Regional Water Commission and the municipality.
Halifax has objected to paying the commission a separate right of way stormwater charge of $3.8 million and claimed the board had no authority to impose the charge.
In its decision, the UARB panel brushed the claim aside, noting its jurisdiction to regulate Halifax Water and its customers was granted by the Nova Scotia legislature in 2007.
"The board is satisfied that it has the legal authority to order that HRWC [the Halifax Regional Water Commission] charge HRM [the municipality] the stormwater rate charge and has an obligation to see that happens," the decision said.
The municipality also argued it deserved "consideration" for its infrastructure that aids in the collection, storage and distribution of stormwater.
However. the board said it was unable to calculate how that consideration would be factored into the right of way charge and neither could the municipality.
"HRM has not provided any evidence," the board said in rejecting the argument.
Board blames Halifax for bill 'confusion'
The board also rebuked the municipality for passing responsibility for stormwater charges back and forth between its property tax bill and the water commission.
"HRM pointed to the significant confusion in relation to stormwater charges," the decision said.
"With respect, that confusion is a consequence of the various decisions HRM has made to fund the charge."