‘Increases can no longer be avoided’: Halifax Water seeks rate hike

Costs are going up in every direction, and for people in Halifax, the next increase might be their water bill.

Halifax Water is seeking permission from the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board for a water, wastewater and stormwater rate hike this September and once again in April 2023.

It would mean a typical residence in HRM that currently pays about $78.31 quarterly for water and $125.27 quarterly for wastewater would pay an additional $1.65 on water and $4.64 for wastewater in September. In April 2023, rates would increase another $4.13 for water and $2.16 for wastewater.

Halifax water is also asking for a hike to stormwater rates between $2 and $15 and once again in April 2023, for an increase of between $3 and $19 — depending on the impervious area.

“Rate increases can no longer be avoided. Costs resulting from aging infrastructure, growth pressures, and ongoing environmental compliance are increasing,” said Cathie O’Toole, general manager of Halifax Water. “As are expenses such as electricity, chemicals and wages.”

They’re pressures consumers know all too well as the cost of gas, food and energy go up.

“In such circumstances, a utility needs to be especially diligent in keeping costs to a minimum amount possible,” said William Mahody, a consumer advocate.

“Utilities need to take the lead from their customers and learn to do more with less.”

The utility is also going to waive some of the fees charged to overdue accounts and is requesting to lower the interest rate charged to outstanding accounts from 19 per cent to 14 per cent.

Lil MacPherson, co-owner of the Wooden Monkey restaurant, said her business’ water bill is already about $500 a month.

To conserve costs and energy, the restaurant has started only serving water by request instead of automatically pouring it for every table.

Otherwise, MacPherson says too much is wasted.

“You can drink as much water as you want here, you just have to ask for it,” she said.

Add up the amount of water it takes to wash a glass of water, make the ice for it and fill it with water, Macpherson estimates it takes about three glasses of water to serve one. She’s encouraging other restaurants to also conserve.

“Something really small that we all do together makes a huge impact on water conservation which I hope HRM are talking about that,” MacPherson said.

As for the decision about if and when rates might go up, the NS Utility and Review Board is still reviewing evidence.

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