1. In 2017, how much will the average household bill increase?
  2. How does Hamilton compare to other municipalities?
  3. Why does the fixed charge not include a minimum volume of water?
  4. Why do rates keep increasing, even with water conservation efforts?
  5. Why is my wastewater/storm bill higher than my water bill?
  6. Why is the wastewater charge based on metered water consumption?
  7. Who is responsible for the water meter?
  8. How can I check my water meter?
  9. How do I read my water meter?
  10. Who do I call if there are problems with my water meter?
  11. Why is my metered water bill suddenly very high?
  12. How will I be billed if the City advises that my home is to be connected to a temporary water bypass system?

1. In 2017, how much will the average household bill increase?

An average household consuming 200 cubic metres of water annually will pay an additional $31 per year or 59 cents each week. This represents a 4.85% increase from 2016. Hamilton customers pay less than a penny for a litre for water.

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2. How does Hamilton compare to other municipalities?

Hamilton's water and wastewater/storm rates are among the lowest in Ontario as shown below with a

 

The following chart provides 2016 fixed charges restated on monthly basis for comparison purposes with other Ontario municipalities:

 

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3. Why does the fixed charge not include a minimum volume of water?

If the fixed charge were to provide an allowance for a minimum amount of water the fixed charge would have had to be higher to cover the related fixed costs. This would penalize those individuals who practice conservation and do not use the minimum amount of water each month.

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4. Why do rates keep increasing, even with water conservation efforts?

Water and wastewater budgets contain fixed costs that do not change in direct proportion to water consumption. The cost to distribute, collect and treat municipal water and wastewater throughout the City remains relatively constant, regardless of the volume actually consumed by all residents. The largest portion of your bill is used for capital renewal and expansion of the City's overall water/wastewater/storm infrastructure that has a replacement value of $10.0 billion. Aging City infrastructure becomes more costly to operate, maintain and replace with nearly 20% of the City's water and sewer mains being more than 80 years old.

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5. Why is my wastewater/storm bill higher than my water bill?

In a way, water is a lot like a two-way toll bridge… it costs us coming and going. Turning lake or ground water into safe drinking water has a cost. Cleansing the resulting wastewater for its return to the environment has another cost. Fortunately, the Hamilton residents pay lower rates than much of Ontario for both drinking water and wastewater treatment service.

Customers are sometimes surprised to find their wastewater/storm bill to be as much as, or even more than their water bill. How can this be?

Actually, it is not unusual across the country for a wastewater/storm bill to be higher than the corresponding water bill. As environmental regulations have become more and more stringent over the past few decades, the costs of treating wastewater and managing stormwater to required levels have risen substantially.

Wastewater/storm charges are higher than water costs for many reasons:

  • More costly construction costs for wastewater lines due to the differences between the systems for water distribution and wastewater collection. Drinking water flows through pressurized pipelines. It can move uphill as well as downhill. This means that water pipelines can be constructed at minimum depth below the ground surface, often above the rock layers. On the other hand, wastewater must flow by gravity – downhill the whole way. In rolling terrain, sewer lines must sometimes be built deep beneath the ground, well into hard rock. Trench excavation – especially in rock - is the largest part of the cost of building a pipeline. The deeper the pipe, the higher the cost of construction.
  • The sizes of drinking water distribution and wastewater collection systems also affect costs. Similar to many other municipalities, Hamilton serves more of its citizens with public drinking water than with sewer service. Many water customers are on septic tanks instead of sewers. The water utility has a larger customer base to support its operating costs, lowering the cost to individual customers. Hamilton has approximately 3,300 more water customers than those with both water and wastewater service.
  • The complexity of wastewater treatment has increased dramatically over the years. Over the last couple of decades, treatment has evolved to include sophisticated biological systems for removing organic materials, complicated filters, and modern disinfection methods. The water released by the treatment facility has become increasingly cleaner. The advanced systems are costly to build and operate, increasing the overall cost of wastewater treatment, in most cases. For example, Hamilton will be investing over $340 million in 2016 – 2020 to implement tertiary wastewater treatment beyond the current primary and secondary treatment processes.

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6. Why is the wastewater charge based on metered water consumption?

The City recognizes that the best means of charging for wastewater would be to have separate meters for sewage and water. Unfortunately, the market currently does not have maintenance free sewage meters for private residences. To install separate meters and maintain them would dramatically increase capital and operating costs. Thus, most municipalities in Ontario base the wastewater charge on the metered water consumption.

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7. Who is responsible for the water meter?

The City is responsible for the initial installation, replacement and repair of the meter. All newly constructed or renovated properties must install water meters at their own expense. Property owners, however, are responsible for protecting the water meter, ensuring it is not damaged by freezing or negligence. Property owners may also be responsible for replacement of the meter if it is lost, stolen or damaged.

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8. How can I check my water meter?

Water meters are mechanical devices and most work in a similar manner. They have a measurement device in an 'inner chamber' that is calibrated to record the amount of water that goes through the meter. Most meters in one, two and three family homes record water in cubic metres. A cubic metre of water is equivalent to 1,000 litres of water.

If you question your bills and feel that your meter is recording incorrectly, you may request a 'meter accuracy test' be performed on your meter. This test is not free and the applicable service fee varies with the meter size; the 2017 meter accuracy test fee for residential meters (15 – 16mm) at $291.33 plus HST. Unless the meter is found to be registering more than 2% in error, then the property owner is responsible for the cost of the test and the replacement cost of the water meter; otherwise cost is borne by the City.  Fee includes removal of existing meter and installation of replacement meter. 

The Water Meter Testing Request Form must be completed and returned to Horizon Utilities before the test is performed.

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9. How do I read my water meter?

All water meters approved for use by the City read much like a car odometer. To learn how to read your meter properly, read How to Read a Water Meter.

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10. Who do I call if there are problems with my water meter?

Any problems that occur with your water meter, you should call Hamilton Water Customer Service at 905-546-4426 during business hours (M-F 8:30am to 4:30 pm) to schedule an appointment to have the meter inspected and repaired if necessary.

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11. Why is my metered water bill suddenly very high?

A sudden rise in your metered water bill amount may be due to a number of reasons including:

  • Plumbing leaks in toilets and/or fixtures
  • Consecutive estimated readings followed by an actual reading. (If your actual consumption for previous billing periods was higher than what was estimated, you may see an increase in your current water bill which will reflect the unbilled consumption.)
  • An increase in the number of people living in the house, resulting in greater water usage.
  • A dry, hot summer, resulting in higher water consumption, and
  • An increase in the number of days in the billing period.

Leaks can end up causing extremely high bills. If you are aware of any type of water leak in your house you should repair it immediately because it could save you money. It is important to check for leaks on your property. Leaking toilets and other fixtures waste water and will increase the amount of your water bill. All water consumption, including water consumed by leaks, is the property owner's responsibility and is charged to your water account.

In almost every case, the cause of the high bill can be traced back to the homeowner's plumbing. To check for leaks, locate the "trickle indicator' - a small red or black triangle on your water meter. Ensure water is not running in the house or building, and then check to see if the trickle indicator is turning, moving or shaking. If it is, water is flowing through the meter indication with a leak somewhere. The homeowner is responsible for all plumbing repairs and maintenance. The City is not responsible for internal plumbing leaks.

How do I check for leaks?

Faucets - Check all faucets and piping for leaks by monitoring for drips of water under sinks and from exposed pipes. Perform an inspection with the water on and off, as some leaks only occur when the water is on.

Toilets - Some toilet leaks are intermittent, so you don't always see or hear the water running. To check if your toilet seeps, lift the lid off of the water tank, drop in some food colouring or brewed tea or coffee and come back in 20 minutes. (Don't flush the toilet while you are waiting). If colour appears in the toilet bowl, the rod-and-ball assembly or flapper needs adjustment or replacement.

Other Issues

  • Check plumbing in the basement by monitoring for drips of water coming from exposed pipes.
  • Occasionally, leaks develop behind walls or in areas that are not visible. Read your meter periodically to monitor for drastic changes.

Leaks cost you money as all water passing through the meter shall be charged for whether used or wasted:

  • 1/16" A continuous leak creating a stream of water this size would waste 93 m3 of water.
  • 1/8" A continuous leak creating a stream of water this size would waste 372 m3 of water.
  • 1/4" A continuous leak creating a stream of water this size would waste 1,491 m3 of water.

12. How will I be billed if the City advises that my home is to be connected to a temporary water bypass system?

The City is responsible for water services located between your property line and the municipal water main. It is sometimes necessary to connect homes and businesses to a bypass system to ensure uninterrupted delivery of municipal water, during a water main repair or replacement, when the municipal water main is frozen or for other operational reasons.

The bypass system typically consists of connecting your outdoor water faucet to a hose that is specially designed to carry potable drinking water. It is very important not to disconnect or turn off your outdoor faucet while this bypass system is in place.

Your water consumption will not be metered when receiving water from the bypass system. Your water consumption for billing purposes will be based on your average daily consumption during the same period last year.

Once the construction work has been completed, the bypass system will be discontinued so that your water service will be restored allowing your water consumption to once more be metered. Your billing will return to be based on your measured water consumption at this point in time.

For more information about watermain construction projects, please contact the Public Works Construction Section of the City of Hamilton @ 905-546-4313.

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