Sunday, October 1, 2023

City looks for ways to increase water capacity without rate increase

Lethbridge’s water and wastewater systems are running near capacity and more money is needed to improve infrastructure. According to water-wastewater general manager Doug Kaupp, the systems exceed 90 per cent of capacity on peak days and there has been no capacity improvement since 1981.

A report to the economic standing policy committee recommended a rate increase of 6.5 per cent for water utility rates and 7.5 per cent for wastewater, starting in the new year—with the increases used to pay off financing for infrastructure improvements.

The committee did not vote to recommend the increase, but rather to send the item back to city staff to look into more options.

“Some of what city council is expecting is for us to revisit our plans and schedule to provide some relief for the ratepayer. There’s definitely recognition that as a regional supplier and an economic engine for the area, that more senior levels of government may be able to make contributions to provide some of that relief, that’s I think the biggest hope,” Kaupp said, adding he and his team were getting ready to design improvements, but the work is now held up without approval. “It’s a bit of a challenge on delivering the projects but until they are approved by city council, we can’t move forward.”

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Without adjustments, the city could need mandatory water restrictions during peak times and there is potential to miss out on industrial investments, according to city staff.

Kaupp pointed to wastewater as being more urgent and noted in his report that without proper capacity, there could be negative environmental consequences, such as sewer backups and untreated water being released.

The committee voted to recommend council get more information from city staff and the mayor write a letter advocating to the provincial and federal governments for funding.

The project is set to come back to the Oct. 3 council meeting. 

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