Municipal Water Supply Infrastructure Governance in Canada:

Uptake of water conservation technologies in the context of utility restructuring.

Project Data Phase 1

In Phase 1 we developed a framework for analyzing the interrelationship between governance and infrastructure in Canada’s water sector. The work drew on preliminary research by the principal investigator, and added an Ontario-wide survey as well as case research from seven Ontario municipalities with new, distinctive governance structures and/or innovative approaches to infrastructure management. These case studies included: Hamilton, Kingston, Peterborough, Peel, Toronto, Waterloo and York. Ontario was appropriate for this pilot phase of the research because it has experienced dramatic changes in water governance over the past number of years, and exhibits a high level of diversity of governance models. This first phase of the research formed the co-researcher’s doctoral thesis.

Comparative Municipal Data Tables
Table 1: Business Model Features for the Case Municipalities and Efficiency Level
Table 2: Some Physical Features & Management Features in the Case Municipalities

Hamilton initiated a 10-year P3 contract in 1994. The contract came up for renewal in 2004 and although city councilors voted to renew the private contract that January, the decision was reversed and the water and wastewater services have been returned to public operation. The P3 governance arrangement has been rife with controversy (Grosskurth, 2003). In terms of infrastructure, Hamilton has instigated a progressive local environmental management plan called Vision 2020 that has yet to be fully pursued (Bakker & Cameron, 2002). As a city with one of the highest per capita domestic water demands, Hamilton also has much that it can accomplish in terms of DSM (Brandes & Ferguson, 2003).

Partially instigated by municipal amalgamation in 1998, Kingston now operates a corporatized municipal multi-utility (Utilities Kingston) that provides four different services to all of the former municipalities in the amalgamated district, including water, wastewater, natural gas and electricity (Bakker & Cameron, 2002). Kingston has successfully completed a universal water-metering program for households begun in 1994 and is now pursuing the same program for commercial properties. The city is also undergoing service extensions, and is upgrading its wastewater treatment facilities to improve source water quality.

Includes the municipalities of Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon west of Toronto. Peel is facing significant projected population growth over the next decades (Region of Peel, 2005a). This will put pressure on its water and wastewater services. Peel selected OCWA as it delegated operator through a competitive bidding process for which several private sector companies also submitted tenders (see Bakker & Cameron, 2002 for more information). OCWA’s win is interesting in light of complaints that OCWA as a public operator has a competitive advantage (as it is not subject to the same taxes) over private sector operators. OCWA has been charged with driving out private sector competition from Ontario’s water ‘market’ (Sancton & Janik, 2002: 42). Peel is also interesting in that it has recently engaged in a contractual relationship with York to provide water for it (Region of Peel, 2005b). In terms of technique, Peel has a ‘water-smart Peel’ use reduction program which includes rain barrel and education programs, but is also undergoing major infrastructural extension of its water services. There is an apartment retrofit program in Mississauga (Canadian Water and Wastewater Association, 2004).

Peterborough has a hybrid governance structure that is a combined municipal commission and municipal corporation (Bakker & Cameron, 2002). In terms of infrastructure, Peterborough is demonstrating interest in adopting water reduction technologies through its “Complete Home Check-Up”. This is described as a ‘comprehensive environmental assessment of private residences (including inspection of water-saving devices)’ (Canadian Water and Wastewater Association, 2004). Peterborough had a PUC from 1914 to 2000, but restructured in 2000. At that time, it underwent significant changes as a result of restructuring in the energy sector. The Peterborough Utilities Commission has now been incorporated under the Ontario Business Corporations Act as a not-for-profit corporation owned solely by the City of Peterborough.’ (O’Connor 2002b: 288) Its water and wastewater are operated by a for-profit subsidiary, Peterborough Utilities Inc., of the municipally owned for-profit corporation Peterborough Holdings Inc, while the PUC maintain ownership of the infrastructure (Bakker & Cameron 2002: 69-70).

Toronto has adopted a municipal ‘business unit’ governance model following public rejection of a P3 proposal. Renewals of aging infrastructure have been slowed by budget constraints. To reduce operating costs and to stave off major infrastructural investments, Toronto has engaged in programs including the ‘Toronto Healthy House’ demonstration project, a fixture replacement program, and metering and leak detection programs (Waller, 1998). In addition, the province of Ontario has implemented major building code changes (the only province to do so) that require all new buildings to be fitted with water-saving plumbing (Mass, 2003).

The Regional Municipality of Waterloo is comprised of the cities of Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge and the townships of North Dumfries, Wilmot, Wellesley and Woolwich. Eighty-eight per cent of the region’s population resides in Kitchener-Waterloo. The water services are operated by the regional Transportation and Environmental Services Department that is overseen by a regional Planning and Works Committee. The Water Services Group operates the water infrastructure and produces the water, which it sells to each of the municipalities in the region who then distribute it to their residents setting their own prices. Waterloo’s water supply comes from groundwater. Its resources are therefore more limited, which has instigated the development of an extensive water efficiency program. In fact, Waterloo has won awards for its source protection (American Water Works Association), water efficiency programs (Ontario Water Works Association) and its water quality (Federation of Canadian Municipalities).

The Regional Municipality of York is comprised of the cities of Vaughan, Aurora, Markham, New Market, Richmond Hill, Georgina, the towns of East Gwillimbury and Witchurch Stouffville and the township of King. Sixty-eight per cent of the region’s population resides in Vaughan, Markham and Richmond Hill. The regional is land-locked and has several water sources including ground water and Lake Simcoe. The majority of the water supply however is Lake Ontario water purchased from Toronto Water. York has also recently begun a project to purchase water from the Regional Municipality of Peel as well. Due to its dependence on external sources and rapid population growth, water demand is a concern (Bakker, 2003a: 25). York has extensive water efficiency measures through its program “Water For Tomorrow”. It also investigated restructuring options in the looking at both a PPP and direct municipal management through a municipal utility, opting for the latter (Cameron, 2002; Bakker, 2003a).

Project status:
This project is now concluded
For more information about this program, please contact:
Kathryn Furlong