Published on Brock University (http://brocku.ca)
May 11, 2010
A Brock professor who is one of Canada’s leading water economists has published a report outlining possible water pricing reforms in Canada.
Steve Renzetti co-authored the report, Worth Every Penny: A Primer on Conservation-Oriented Water Pricing, with fellow researchers at the University of Victoria. The document, published by the University of Victoria’s POLIS Water Sustainability Project, looks at water pricing as part of a sustainable approach to management.
The report is aimed at water managers and municipal leaders across Canada and makes the economic case for water conservation and sustainable water service infrastructure in Canada as a way to increase water security for communities.
The report provides practical economic and technical information about how to implement conservation-oriented water pricing — starting with setting water rates sufficiently high to encourage conservation. Successful examples are cited from Vancouver Island, Halifax and Guelph. These communities have reduced water demand and improved the environmental performance of water utilities, without any negative impacts on low-income families.
“Canada has one of the lowest prices for water use and the highest consumption levels in the world,” says Renzetti. “With little financial incentive to conserve, we over-consume, and our overconsumption is threatening water supplies and the sustainability of our water service infrastructure. One key step is the implementation of metering across the board.”
According to the most recent data (2006), more than one-third of Canadian homes still do not have a water meter, and the implementation of metering varies considerably from province to province (e.g., 32.6 per cent of residential customers are metered in BC, 6.5 per cent in Quebec, and less than 1 per cent in Newfoundland).
“This work with the POLIS Institute is part of a bigger project that is headed by my colleague, Diane Dupont here at Brock,” says Renzetti. “With funding from the Canadian Water Network, we are investigating issues related to the economics of water resources in Canada — including municipal water pricing, assessing households' perceptions of risks of tap water, and water reuse and recycling in the manufacturing sector.”
Renzetti and Dupont are also supervising a graduate student who is working to estimate the cost of water supply in Ontario. These results will eventually be used to design municipal water prices that better reflect the costs of supplying water.