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Water main breaks plague city system

Water main and service breaks were three and a half times greater than the city bargained for last year and wasted precious drinking water.

The city has 290 kilometres of water main and sets a target of no more than 28 main or service breaks per year.

Last year, the city went largely over that goal, experiencing 15 main breaks and 81 service breaks, according to the 2010 annual water report that evaluates the city’s progress. The city cannot accurately measure the amount of leakage in the distribution system but considering the age and materials used, and based on national research, it’s estimated 10-15 per cent of total water consumption was lost.

A premature failure in the city’s infrastructure is the culprit.

“Ongoing increases in the number of service and main breaks indicated that aging infrastructure requires replacement,” said Jenny Brun, city water supervisor, in a report to council.

The water report states that the number of service breaks has been increasing for the past five years due to corrosion on aging copper service lines.

The cost of replacing the aging water infrastructure was not being recovered under last year’s rate/user fee which was only sufficient to fund operations, maintenance and treatment expenditures. Last month, council voted to increase its water rates. This year metered water customers will be charged $.40 per cubic metre, a difference of $.4 from 2010 and unmetered customers will play an annual flat fee of $156, a $12 increase over last year.

“Although 2010 revenues were below required amounts, the actual operating costs came in under budget and were significantly lower than other similar sized communities,” said Brunn.

Maintenance costs were under budget by $44,353 and in comparison to other similar sized communities, was 30 per cent lower than the average operation costs. In 2010, it cost the city an average of 59 cents to treat and deliver each cubic metre of water, which is above the current billed rate of 36 cents per cubic metre.

Residential water consumption per capita was up last year, at 496 litres per person per day from 2009’s figure of 444 litres per person per day, although the water report notes 2009’s water ban is likely to have made last year’s figures artificially low.

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