Water rates may soon be on the rise in Windsor.
The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board is expected to rule on the Windsor Water Utility’s application for rate increases by early 2013.
The water utility is asking for three consecutive annual rate increases of 2.8 per cent, four per cent and 3.8 per cent for residential utility users on a 5/8 inch metre, starting in the 2012-13 fiscal year.
The town has requested a similar rate hike structure for unmetered customers between 2012 and 2015, but the first increase would be 4.1 per cent, followed by a 3.9 per cent spike in year two and a 3.8 per cent rise in the 2014-15 budget year.
Other metered services could be subjected to rate hikes ranging from 3.3 per cent to 8.7 percent in 2012-13, 3.8 per cent to four per cent in 2013-14 and 3.8 per cent to 3.9 per cent in 2014-15 if the application is approved.
The submission also calls for increases in the quarterly wholesale rates for the Municipality of the District of West Hants and the annual fire protection charge paid by the town and municipality.
Warden Richard Dauphinee and Michael Edgar, the water/wastewater lead systems operator in West Hants, were the only members of the public to question the application at a public hearing held in the Town of Windsor’s council chambers Nov. 6 at 10:30 a.m.
“It’s not to go against the town. They deliver an excellent service to us. As it was said here this morning, a lot of customers are being lost on both ends and it’s hard economic times so we have to look at every penny,” Dauphinee said.
Dauphinee said he attended the hearing to learn the answers to questions that arose from a presentation by the municipality’s public works department.
Edgar asked the questions drafted by representatives of West Hants.
“As the water utility’s largest customer, we’re encouraged to see the utility continue with its main replacement program. Over the last three years several mains have been replaced under this program. Was there a reduction in the nonrevenue water over the last three years with regards to this program?”
Don Beatty, Windsor’s director of public works, said there are a number of other factors to consider before attributing a reduction in nonrevenue water to the main replacement program alone.
“We are taking other steps on water loss.”
Edgar asked Beatty to consider using a formal audit to address issues regarding the quantity of nonrevenue water.
“As a utility ourselves, we feel conducting a formal water audit would be a benefit to the utility and also its customers. In our experience we found that a water audit helped us identify other unknown areas of nonrevenue water and allowed us to direct our resources to those areas. As a customer, we’d like to see the utility engage in a full water audit.”
Beatty said the utility is in the process of implementing a pressure reduction system to make it easier to target problem areas in the distribution system.
“I would see nothing wrong with doing a formal water audit. As we mentioned in our response, we have a fairly good handle on where our water losses are,” he noted.
Beatty explained that low turnover rates and the large pipes used in the distribution system make it difficult to keep nonrevenue water readings at a desirable level.
“The Town of Windsor’s water distribution system and transmission system wasn’t ideally designed. It’s quite interesting; we have very large mains. It was intentionally built for fire protection and very good fire protection but, unfortunately, when you end up with 10-inch mains on dead end streets, with only three or four customers, you end up with a situation that water doesn’t turn over based on consumption for weeks on end so you have to force it or you’re going to have a chlorine residual problem at the dead end.”
The water mains are flushed as often as necessary to ensure the water is of good quality and acceptable standards, Beatty noted.
When asked by moderator Kulvinder Dhillon why a capital project has not been undertaken to deal with the amount of nonrevenue water going through the system, Beatty said it would be difficult to tackle such a feat with the utility’s current customer base.
“Our costs associated with that unaccounted for extra water that we’re now producing is probably between 20 and $40,000 a year spread across the entire utility. The cost of rectifying that is going to be much higher than that.”
Dhillon said a decision on the Windsor Water Utility’s application may be reached by early 2013.