Sustainable Funding for Water and Wastewater Infrastructure
IT IS THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT the AUMA advocate for the Government of Canada and Government Alberta to consider and evaluate the financial impacts that all existing and proposed laws and regulations governing the production and distribution of potable water and the collection, treatment and release of wastewater will have on municipalities, municipal commissions, or municipally-owned utility companies, and share this information with them; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Government of Canada and Government of Alberta establish adequate, stable, long-term funding for all affected water and wastewater service providers which considers the rising costs of providing these services due to federal and provincial laws and regulations.
WHEREAS the Government of Canada and Government of Alberta draft and implement laws and regulations to protect the environment and public health, including the production and distribution of potable water and the collection, treatment, and release of wastewater;
WHEREAS the production and distribution of potable water and the collection, treatment, and release of wastewater are essential services crucial to safe, healthy communities;
WHEREAS the production and distribution of potable water and the collection, treatment, and release of wastewater are often provided by municipalities, municipal commissions, or municipally owned utility companies;
WHEREAS the laws and regulations governing the production and distribution of potable water and the collection, treatment, and release of wastewater can have both direct and indirect effects on the cost of providing these services; and
WHEREAS many water and wastewater service providers are challenged to fund the infrastructure deficits under the current laws and regulations governing the production and distribution of potable water and the collection, treatment, and release of effluent.
Located in northern Alberta, the Water North Coalition’s membership is comprised of 93 communities, service providers and organizations including cities, towns, counties and municipal districts, hamlets, Metis Settlements, and commissions. The Water North Coalition sent out a survey to its 93 members to gather input on the water and wastewater issues.
One significant concern which showed itself in the results was the rising cost of water and wastewater service delivery. The average water/wastewater infrastructure deficit reported among the respondents was $36.4 million, with a lack of adequate, consistent, and sustainable funding being cited as the largest challenge. Aging infrastructure and small customer bases in rural areas also add urgency and challenges, as service providers struggle to fund critical projects whose costs will be spread among relatively few customers, which can make the services cost prohibitive.
These challenges are often amplified in small and rural areas throughout Alberta as funding criteria can exclude the water and wastewater service delivery models often found in these communities. These funding programs exclude commissions and water cooperatives from applying for funding as the process does not recognize these organizations as service providers. The commissions and water cooperatives, however, are expected to follow the same regulations. The funding programs often lack a formal application process, and have tight timelines when funding does become available, which often poses a disproportionate challenge for smaller and rural communities that lack the resources required to engineer shovel-ready plans, especially in the face of changing laws and regulations.
AUMA received a reply from the Minister of Environment and Parks in December 2020 outlining that the Government of Alberta has two grants – Alberta Municipal Water Wastewater Partnership and Water for Life - to support municipalities with fewer than 45,000 people. However, both programs are oversubscribed, and there are no plans to expand the programs’ criteria to include water co-ops. The Minister did not address the financial impact of provincial legislation and regulations on municipalities.
Intent not met
• Continue to advocate for an Innovative Wastewater Task Force and lead a discussion on encouraging the use of innovative water and wastewater technologies, and
• Task the Sustainability and Environment Committee with updating ABmunis water and wastewater policies to support our advocacy with the Alberta government.