Advocacy efforts continue for water, wastewater improvements
Water is not an infinite resource and as the city’s population continues to grow, the process to provide water and wastewater services to residents and businesses becomes a more pressing issue.
Advocacy efforts for sustainable long-term water and wastewater infrastructure have been in conversation at last week’s Alberta Municipalities conference in Edmonton, at last month’s Economic Standing Policy Committee meeting and at Lethbridge City Council’s meeting on Tuesday.
It was at Tuesday’s meeting members of Council voted unanimously in favour for the Mayor to provide a letter of support, on behalf of Council, to the Town of Coaldale and to the Town of Taber for two Alberta Community Partnership (ACP) grant applications. They are seeking funding for high-level servicing analyses of potable water and wastewater infrastructure along the Highway 3 corridor.
There is a shared desire at the Provincial and Municipal levels to develop the corridor along Highway 3 between Lethbridge and Medicine Hat as a global hub for agri-food processing facilities. The City of Lethbridge is prepared to act as the technical lead on both applications regarding analysis of the Lethbridge region and existing regional customers.
“We are committed to regional collaboration and recognize that it is in the mutual interests of all communities to work together in the pursuit of regional economic development,” says Mayor Blaine Hyggen, who introduced the motion to Council. “It is fiscally responsible to invest in the maintenance and expansion of existing Municipal infrastructure to meet the growing needs of the communities and industries. Advocacy efforts are happening at multiple levels, including meaningful conversations between Provincial ministries and Council members at the Alberta Municipalities conference last week.”
Lethbridge is a regional hub for water and wastewater treatment, providing these essential services to more than 133,064 southern Albertans in the city and surrounding region, including Lethbridge County, Coalhurst, Coaldale, Diamond City, Monarch, Picture Butte, Iron Springs, Turin and Chin as well as commercial, industrial and agri-food processing customers.
Doug Kaupp, the City’s General Manager of Water and Wastewater Services, made a presentation at the September 13 Economic SPC meeting regarding coming changes to Water and Wastewater rates.
“Lethbridge’s municipal water and wastewater treatment systems require substantial capital upgrades and expansion to meet anticipated near-term and long-term growth in regional and industrial demands, which would facilitate economic development in the city and region,” says Kaupp.
At that September 13 meeting, members of Economic SPC directed City Administration to:
- Refer the Water and Wastewater 2022-2031 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) amendments back to Administration to investigate more options and report back to an Economic Standing Policy Committee in Q2 2024, or earlier
- Refer Bylaws 6415 – 2024 Water Rates, and 6416 – 2024 Wastewater Rates, back to Administration to revise them based on the approved budget to hold the rates to those approved in the 2023-2026 Operating Budget, without any additional increases, and return to the City Council meeting of October 3, 2023
- Direct the Mayor to send a letter to the appropriate provincial and federal ministries as well as the Premier, advocating on behalf of the community for the needs of Water and Wastewater in Lethbridge
At Tuesday’s Council meeting, first readings passed for both Bylaws 6415 and 6416 as the next step to setting the 2024 water rates and 2024 wastewater rates.
In 2024, Water rates are set to increase by two per cent for all customers and Wastewater Rates are set to increase by three per cent for all customers. These increases were approved by City Council in late 2022 as part of the 2023-2026 Operating Budget.
The Water and Wastewater Utilities are funded through utility rates. The rates are set to provide the revenue required to balance the expenses detailed in the operating budget. These expenses include the costs associated with water and wastewater treatment; pumping and storage; maintenance and life-cycle renewal of underground infrastructure; and payments on debt that funds approved CIP projects.
Second and third readings on the rate increase Bylaws will come to Council at or before December 12 and the new rates would come into effect January 1, 2024.
Representatives from the Water and Wastewater Department will be at the City’s Community Conversation on October 23 at the ENMAX Centre to talk with residents about the changes and need for infrastructure upgrades.