There is no accounting for about 50 per cent of the water coming out of the treatment centre in Liverpool, according to a recently completed Water Utility Rate Study, presented to the Region of Queens Municipality (RQM) at its council meeting August 10.
The study, conducted by G.A. Isenor Consulting Limited in association with Blaine S. Rooney Consulting Limited, is the first such one the municipality has undertaken since 2002.
“There is no way of knowing how long this has been happening,” RQM Mayor Darlene Norman commented about the water shortfall in an email. “What we are focusing on is investing in our infrastructure to increase the efficiency of the system going forward, to ensure that our water utility continues to provide a consistent supply of quality water to our ratepayers.”
Norman believed the water study should be conducted every three years. “It’s important to know if you are bringing in enough revenue to cover the expenses of the utility,” she said.
Gerry Isenor and Blaine Rooney have been undertaking water rate studies across the province for a number of years. They presented their study of the Liverpool treatment centre to the August 10 council meeting, which included estimates for the next three fiscal years.
The presenters advised that the 50 per cent loss is considerably higher than the norm, and that an expectation for water loss in a system of this age is normally between 20 per cent and 30 per cent.
According to the mayor, some of the loss could be attributed to line flushing, the balancing of water and chemicals at the treatment plant and some of the older meters malfunctioning. However it’s believed that much of the water is being lost as it goes through one of the main water lines, which was built in the 1890s coming down from Roy Turner Drive.
A total of 1,225 residents from the former town of Liverpool and Milton are hooked up to the utility. The treatment plant produces about 290,626 cubic metres of water passed on to consumers.
If the study and its recommendations are approved by the Nova Scotia Utility And Review Board (UARB), work on leak detection and restoration or replacement work will begin during the 2022-23 fiscal year.
A depreciation fund has been in place by the municipality for a number of years for upkeep for the water utility. With $1,059,000 in the account, the municipality is not likely to have to borrow money to have the necessary work done nor is the cost expected to be passed on to the consumers.
Rates going up
However, if the water study is approved, as recommended in the report the rates for the 2022-23 fiscal year will increase 12.8 per cent, followed by hikes of 0.4 per cent in 2023-24 and 3.9 per cent in 2025-26.
For the average household consumer, this will mean an additional $9.60 on their bill next year, followed by an increase of 30 cents in the second year and $3.34 on their bills in the third year.
While Norman conceded the increase may sound like a lot, she noted that Liverpool’s rates are among the lower ones in the province. According to a chart presented with the rate study, Liverpool’s rates are among the 10 lowest of about 50 water utilities that were accounted for throughout the province.
“If people do want to lower their water rates, they can still do so by reducing their consumption,” Norman reminded. Despite efforts to get people to reduce their consumption, there hasn’t been much change in the average consumption of Queens residents since 2004, according to the study.
The municipality is expected to hold a public hearing concerning the proposed rate increases within the next three-to-six months, with the UARB decision on the planned way forward expected about three months after that.
If approved, the new rates likely would come into play before the next fiscal year which begins April 1, 2022.
Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin