Water talk

firehose

This is exactly how I felt as I collected all this utility rate data.

There has been lots of talk lately; talk about water, talk about the cost. I heard it said, “the Town of Black Diamond is the most expensive municipality in Alberta when it comes to water and sewer utilities.”

Surely this is not our claim to fame. Say it ain’t so.

Well, it isn’t.

For the past month, I’ve been collecting utility bills from my friends who live in other towns and cities around Alberta. I’ve also been on the phone to those towns and cities, checking and double checking their rate schedules and fees.

Know this: if I’ve included a municipality but no bill in the comparison that follows, I called to make sure the rates I publish here are correct.

I decided to compare all the services our town offers; water, sewer, recycling and garbage. I then used 10m³ as the consumption rate per month. Why? Because it’s so easy to use 10 as a multiplier and that’s apparently about what the average utility account uses per month; at least in Black Diamond.

That per month bit is important because Black Diamond’s bills come out every two months.

I’ll just get right into the data for you:

Black Diamond pop. 2,700 (2016)

Garbage, recycling and the flat rate are charged BI-MONTHLY, so I divided by 2 to get a monthly tally:

  • $10.22 for garbage
  • $4.68 for recycling
  • $21.50 flat rate for water
  • $21.50 flat rate for sewer
  • $23.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $2.35/m³)
  • $23.50 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.35/m³)

Total: $104.90/month @ 10m³ based on both water and sewer consumption.

BDBill

Calgary pop 1,239,000 (2016)

The bill I have for the City of Calgary does not include a solid waste cost; this utility user pays condo fees towards garbage pick up. According to the city’s website, for 2019, garbage collection cost is $24.30 per month. The City of Calgary also bills sewer consumption at 90% of water consumption. There was a rate change during the billing cycle so the utility bill I have is a bit confusing. I accounted for it in my calculations by dropping the sewer consumption to 9m³ for the month.

  • $24.30 for garbage
  • $15.87 water service charge
  • $27.48 waste water service charge
  • $15.94 storm water service charge
  • $15.99 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.5997/m³)
  • $13.19 sewer consumption (9m³ @ $1.456/m³)

Total: $112.77/month @ 10m³ water consumption and 9m³ sewer consumption

Document

Chestermere pop 19,887 (2016)

I do not have a bill from the City of Chestermere but I did call CUI to make sure the rates were correct. Best guess for the lifecycle fee is it goes to future upgrades and maintenance.

  • $23.03 garbage
  • $4.09 recycling
  • $28.01 water service fee
  • $40.89 sewer service fee
  • $16.03 storm sewer fee
  • $3.56 lifecycle fee
  • $13.30 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.30/m³)
  • $12.50 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $1.25/m³)

Total: $141.41/month @ 10m³ water and sewer consumption

Cochrane pop 25,853 (2016)

The way Cochrane charges utility fees is similar to Black Diamond. They break down the recycling and garbage fees a bit more and have a fee dedicated to storm sewer.

  • $21.55 waste/recycling
  • $5.00 Eco Centre fee
  • $5.70 water base charge
  • $5.70 sewer base charge
  • $4.16 storm sewer fee
  • $11.16 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.16/m³)
  • $22.60 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.26/m³)

Total: $75.87/month @ 10m³ water and sewer consumption

Cochranebill

Didsbury pop 5,268 (2016)

  • $21.00 solid waste collection fee
  • $ 15.00 wastewater collection fee
  • $14.00 water distribution fee
  • $23.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $2.35/m³)
  • $20.00 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.00/m³)

Total: $93.50/month @ 10m³ water and sewer consumption.

Didsburybill

Drumheller pop 7,982 (2016)

Drumheller does not include solid waste fees on their bill. They use an outside contractor for solid waste services and the cost for that is attached to their property taxes. I called the Town of Drumheller and tried to get an average per month for garbage pick up, but since it’s rolled in with their property taxes, that information is hard to come by. I’m including Drumheller as it illustrates nicely that there are many ways to provide town services.

  • $2.50 recycling association
  • $14.74 water base rate
  • $13.34 sewer base rate
  • $18.77 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.8775/m³)
  • $21.45 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.1453/m³)

Total: without accounting for garbage $70.80/month @ 10m³ of use.

DrumhellerBill

Jasper pop 4,590 (2016)

Jasper bills bi-monthly as well, so I divided their fees by two. They do not pay a flat fee for water or sewer connections. They just pay for consumption.

  • $22.33 garbage services
  • $10.90 recycling fee
  • $13.70 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.37m³)
  • $20.50 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.05m³)

Total: $67.43/month @ 10m³ of water and sewer use.

U_Bills_Form1

Okotoks pop (28,881) 2016

Don’t let the tally on this bill fool you, Okotoks has the lowest cost for water of all the municipalities I surveyed. Also, Okotoks bills bi-monthly so remember to divide by two when you’re checking my math.

  • $22.08 waste services fee
  • $8.75 flat fee for water
  • $8.43 flat fee for sewer
  • $15.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.55m³)
  • $22.50 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $2.25m³)
  • $6.50 storm sewer fee

Total: $64.75/month for 10m³ each of water and sewer, all in.

Okotoksbill

Penhold pop 3,277 (2016)

I don’t have a bill from Penhold but I confirmed the utility charges posted on their website are accurate. The combined water and sewer cost calculator on the same webpage is not. Penhold has no charge for recycling.

  • $23.00 monthly garbage pickup
  • $13.00 fixed charge per water meter
  • $11.00 fixed charge for sewer
  • $13.90 water consumption (10m³ @ $1.39m³)
  • $34.70 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $3.47m³)

Total: $95.60/month for 10m³ each of water and sewer, and of course garbage.

Sundre pop 2,729 (2016)

I do not have a utility bill from the Town of Sundre but I did call them to make sure the information on their website is the same as what is charged. It is.

  • $25.65 garbage fee
  • $21.50 water service fee
  • $5.25 storm service fee
  • $21.50 sewer fee
  • $22.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $2.25m³)
  • $13.50 sewer consumption (10m³ @ $1.35m³)

Total: $109.90/month @ 10m³ of water and sewer consumption

Turner Valley pop 2,559 (2016)

Turner Valley is a pain to calculate. They operate on a graduated scale so cost for using 10m³ is $2.15/m³. After the first 10m³ the rate changes to $2.20/m³ but the first 10m³ are still billed at $2.15/m³ and so on up the line until it tops out at $2.35/m³ for anything at 45m³ or beyond. I’m just doing a rate comparison for 10m³ so the rate will show as $2.15/m³. Turner Valley bills every two months as well so I’ve divided the flat rates by 2.

  • $14.00 garbage base residential
  • $6.00 recycle base residential
  • $16.50 sewer base residential
  • $16.50 water base residential
  • $21.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $2.15m³)
  • $21.50 water consumption (10m³ @ $2.15m³) billed at 100% of water consumption

Total: $96.00/month @10m³ of use for water and sewer

TVbill

So what did I learn? Well, there is a huge variance in how Alberta municipalities bill for utilities. Charges run from $65 to $140 monthly for what can be considered the same services. Why? I can’t say.

I can state as fact that Black Diamond is not the highest in the province and every municipality I looked at charges for both water and sewer consumption, most at 100% for both.

4 thoughts on “Water talk

  1. I must disagree with the statement that these can be considered the same services. In Black Diamond, our garbage fees are for one bin of garbage only, whereas in some of the other cases in the comparison, the municipalities garbage fees also include extra bins for recycling and also for compost materials…..so to me, the level of services offered here in Black Diamond simply do not compare to some of the other municipalities included in this comparison.

    Like

    • You present a very valid point. You’re absolutely right in saying Black Diamond’s waste services do not measure up to the comparison. Hopefully this is something that will come before Black Diamond Council in the near future.

      Like

      • A quick look online has just shown me that all the municipalities I used as comparisons offer at least two bins (recycling and garbage; many offer compost as well). The only towns besides Black Diamond that don’t offer curb-side recycling/compost are Turner Valley and Jasper. Jasper is an interesting case. They don’t offer curb-side pick up at all as the bins would need to be secure from wildlife. According to their website, it was less expensive to install wildlife-proof communal bins throughout the town, so that is what they did. Turner Valley and Black Diamond are just a bit behind the times when it comes to waste management.

        Like

  2. Thank you for your research and reply.

    Unfortunately, if Black Diamond were to expand their garbage collection to include curbside recycling and/or compost, this would just result in yet another increase to our utility bills, which are already high enough.

    I also wanted to mention that Black Diamond is now charging a sewer consumption rate that includes 100% of the water consumption. However, not all water used goes into the sewer system, especially during the warmer months when people use water for many other purposes….so charging people for 100% of the water used seems highly unfair and improper. Some of the communities in the comparison do not charge their residents based on 100% of water usage for this very reason.

    This brings me to the water rate itself. Black Diamond charges $2.35/m3. What makes our water worth more than anyone else’s water? Both Turner Valley and Okotoks get their water from the Sheep River (the same source as Black Diamond), and Turner Valley also obtains their water from SRRUC (the same entity as Black Diamond), yet both communities have much lower water rates than Black Diamond. This simply does not make sense!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s