Halifax Water is a municipally-owned utility operating on a cost of service basis in a region with aging infrastructure, increasingly stringent environmental compliance regulations and a growing population. At the same time, we must also manage the increasing demands of customers with expectations that often go beyond our core mandates.
As part of our commitment to ensuring value to the customers and the population we serve, Halifax Water prudently operates and maintains large and complex systems for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater to ensure these meet all public health, safety, and environmental requirements.
Over the past several years, the utility’s rates have not been adjusted to reflect the actual cost of providing the services.
It is not financially prudent for a utility to operate at a deficit. As a result, Halifax Water is now at a critical point, where its financial position compels us to seek approval for rate increases.
As a municipally-owned utility, operating on a cost of service basis, Halifax Water does not have profit built into its rates. The funds collected are the funds required for operations, capital investment and debt financing to provide quality service for our customers.
As its costs rise, Halifax Water is now at that critical point where it must submit a general rate application to the NSUARB.
These rate increases can no longer be deferred.
This will be the first increase in water rates since 2016, and the first increase in stormwater rates since 2017. Wastewater rates were adjusted as part of the rate application filed in 2020. However, the costs of replacing aging infrastructure, more stringent regulatory compliance and population growth have continued to increase. As a result, our ability to recoup these costs has not kept pace.
This financial position was further compounded when Halifax Water made the decision not to proceed with some rate increases that were originally requested as part of a 2020 rate application. This decision was made due to the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic was having on our customers.
Customer Impact (Businesses & Residential Customers)
We appreciate that increased costs for services are unwelcome, but it is a reality of our current financial position.
To minimize the impact on customers, we have looked at numerous financial models to ease the burden and try to increase rates more gradually. While these are all viable financial models, as part of our applications, we will be requesting approval of increases based on the services provided to customers:
As we go through the regulatory process, we are committed to engaging all of our stakeholders in an open and transparent process to find a rate structure that addresses our financial position and allows a more gradual financial impact on our customers.
This is not a request we are making lightly; we are acutely aware of the impact that this has on our customers; however, we are at a critical point that requires the utility to submit a rate application to avoid further operating deficits
We are committed to meeting the demands of our customers by understanding how we can better serve them. That is why we are focused on providing customers with the tools and information they need to manage their accounts more effectively and efficiently.
We have invested in new tools to help customers manage their bills, including Customer Connect. Customers can monitor their consumption, receive customized water saving tips, and be proactively notified about potential leaks or high consumption. There is no cost to enroll for this service.
Halifax Water is continuously focused on providing value to customers. We recognize that there is a cost to assuring quality, but for some, there is a financial concern. Halifax Water conducts an affordability study on a regular basis to look at rates and benchmarks against other cities across Canada. We have some of the lowest rates in the country.
We appreciate that increased costs for services is unwelcome, but for those that struggle with affordability, we have designed programs to help them. These include:
Our H2O Program:
- The H2O (Help to Others) Fund is available to Halifax Water residential customers who are having a hard time making their bill payments. Approved applicants will receive assistance once in a 24-month period to a maximum of $275.00.
Additionally, as part of this rate application we are proposing the following additional measures to help customers, including:
- Lowering the interest rate charged to customers on their outstanding accounts from 19% down to 14%.
- For customers that have overdue accounts, we will be waiving some of the fees we charge.