Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series exploring the pros and cons of third-party water service delivery. See Monday’s edition for part two.

As a part of a regional land use strategy, the City of Calgary is discussing options for the delivery of water in municipalities surrounding Calgary.

After articles that ran in Metro on Tuesday and Wednesday, there is considerable debate over third-party water service providers. There are benefits to having a third-party service provider like

EPCOR, who provides water services in the greater Edmonton area and Okotoks, according to the vice-president of water development.

“We’re part of a large and growing movement around Canada where municipalities are looking at alternate sources,” Joe Gysel told Metro.

And that is because they provide clean, efficient and affordable water, he added.

“In fact, the municipalities that we’ve been dealing with have found a large decrease in costs, especially on the capital construction component of delivering the assets,” he said.

Furthermore, the Sierra Legal Defence Fund said Edmonton was a “city renowned for the high quality of its water treatment system.”

Okotoks town council signed a 20-year deal with EPCOR to run a public-private water service, according to town councillor Ed Sands, and he said it’s been a wonderful partnership.

“We still own the utility and we decide the rates. It’s been a very good relationship,” he said.

Sands said one of the biggest benefits is the depth of having a larger corporation run a utility like water services, especially for smaller municipalities like Okotoks.

He pointed out that when a flood hit Okotoks in 2005, EPCOR was much more suited to handle such unexpected surprises.

“I think, without being overly oblivious, as long as they turn the tap on and clean water comes out, people haven’t really noticed the switch in service,” Sands said, adding prices have remained very good.

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