BARRHEAD – The Town of Barrhead needs to account better for the water it buys from the Barrhead Regional Water Commission (BRWC).
That was the gist of a Utility Rate View and Cost of Service Study the Town of Barrhead commissioned by K. David Campbell.
Councillors accepted the report along with a series of recommendations made by administration for information during their Dec. 14 meeting.
As part of the motion council also instructed administration to work with the BRWC to come up with an agreement that pays the Town of Barrhead for future operational and capital expenses for the water and sewage service and infrastructure.
The study first came to council for consideration in early September, but councillors did not spend much time discussing the document. Instead, they asked administration to prepare a report in response to Campbell's study.
Council commissioned the $31,630 report out of concern the town's water and sewer rates did not reflect the true cost of providing the service.
"The water rates as approved in Bylaw 2018-12 do not allow for recovery of the costs from the BRWC," Campbell states in the study's executive summary.
For example, Campbell suggested that expressing the water rates in dollars per 4.55 cubic metre (which is equivalent to the unit cost of 1,000 Imperial gallons) masked the actual unit cost of water being paid for per cubic metre. The result is declining block rates for volumes over 13.5 m3 per month, which is lower than the actual rate paid to the BRWC.
The study also states that while it is common for municipal water utilities to purchase extra water to provide for system operations as well as account for leakage, measurement slippage and unmetered uses, however, the town is purchasing more than it needs.
Campbell said it is normal for a municipality to have up to 10 per cent of its water volumes used for these purposes. However, in the town’s case, it is double that at 20 per cent.
"The water loss issue was not a great concern when the town was directly operating and managing the water treatment plant, since it did not have to pay for the water being produced," Campbell stated, but that changed when the water treatment plant was built and the transition to the BRWC. "As a result, the town is losing money on each unit of water sold."
He added the town needs to update, renew or renegotiate agreements it has with the County of Barrhead and other users of the town's water and wastewater infrastructure, noting that many of them have expired.
Chief administrative officer Edward LeBlanc noted the study included 14 recommendations to make the municipality's water and sewer system more efficient and get it closer to a cost-recovery model.
He added many of the study's recommendations have been or will soon be completed, in large part due to the work of a newly created utilities ad hoc committee.
"(The committee's) creation has paid a lot of dividends," he said.
Coun. Rod Klumph said many of the changes listed in the report are long overdue.
"It means some people will experience an extra burden, but we can't avoid changes because of that," he said.