Tripling price would cover true cost: Economist

“Prices should go up — they should probably triple. That’s not unreasonable.”

Toronto and other cities in the area should probably triple their water rates to cover the true cost of producing water and to promote conservation, says a Trent University economist.


“Prices should go up — they probably should triple,” Harry Kitchen said in an interview. “That’s not unreasonable.”

And the head of a construction group that commissioned Kitchen’s study of water says cities should consider setting up water and sewer utilities with private sector directors — much like Toronto Hydro — to run their sewer and water operations.

But Toronto Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, who chairs the city’s works committee, said Toronto water rates are rising on a steep enough trend already.

And he said private firms’ calls for a water and sewer utility are just the first step toward privatizing water and sewer operations.

The Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario released a report by Kitchen yesterday. Sewer and water pipes aren’t being replaced fast enough, said Frank Zechner, of the Greater Toronto Sewer and Watermain Contractors Association, a member of the alliance, at a news conference at Toronto City Hall.

Pipes have an average life expectancy of 60 years, but the current rate of replacement means it will take many cities more than 100 years on average to replace every pipe in the system, Zechner said. That means a lot of old pipes in the ground, and frequent breaks.

Low water prices are pushing up demand for water, but are not enabling water authorities to replace all the old pipes, Kitchen said.

There is another drawback to low prices, he said. “If you’re undercharging for water, people over-consume. If you over-consume, you have to have larger treatment plans. Larger treatment plants are very expensive.”

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