Are our Water Systems at Risk?

The findings of the B.C. Water and Wastewater Association/Urban Systems report were presented to a full house by John Weninger, BCWWA Chair of Infrastructure Management at a clinic Wednesday. The session’s attendance clearly signified the importance of the issue of financial sustainability of water and wastewater systems for local governments in BC.

Released last February, the report Are Our Water Systems At Risk? looked at 162 local governments’ audited financial statements and a selection of community asset management plans. It assessed how financially well-positioned BC municipalities are to sustain their water and wastewater infrastructure at a time when many systems are in need of renewal and replacement.

The report identified several key findings, including that water and wastewater fees are not covering the full cost of service delivery in many communities and that many local governments are vulnerable, as they have not set aside sufficient reserve savings to buffer unexpected changes.

The report estimates that at least $13 billion of additional investment will be required to renew and replace water and wastewater infrastructure in B.C.

Mr. Weninger pointed to communities’ reliance on provincial and federal grant funding, a lack of asset management planning, deferrals of maintenance investments, urban sprawl, and a perception of a lack of public support for paying the full cost of the system as obstacles to local governments being well positioned to address water and wastewater system needs.

Mr. Weninger suggested that local governments address financial impact of aging water and wastewater infrastructure by adjusting water and wastewater rates to cover the full cost of the services; develop an integrated asset management process; rank water and wastewater renewal as a top priority; adopt ‘smart growth principles’ and foster collaboration among all levels of government to support communities to become fiscally self-reliant.

Mr. Weninger concluded the clinic by saying, “renewal should be a top priority for this generation but also for generations to follow.”

The full report can be found at the BCWWA website www.bcwwa.org.

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