WHEREAS municipalities are required to fund any new water or wastewater systems or new extensions to existing water or wastewater systems; and
WHEREAS water and wastewater systems in Alberta must be extended and/or built in order to ensure the health and safety of residents; and
WHEREAS the 2013 provincial budget included no funding for a number of grant programs essential to development or maintenance of infrastructure in rural municipalities; and
WHEREAS the Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Program – Water for Life grant funding to municipalities was insufficient and underfunded, and failed to meet the current needs of municipalities in Alberta;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties lobby the Government of Alberta to reinstate and enhance funding for the Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Program – Water for Life in the 2015 provincial budget.
In the 2013 budget, the Government of Alberta announced that the Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Program – Water for Life will be zero-funded, a decision that has had a significant impact on municipalities across the province.
In the past, the Government of Alberta has assisted municipalities by providing funding through the Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Program – Water for Life. The program was funded at $75 million for 2014/15 for previously submitted applications. However, the program is not currently accepting any new applications. The program is now un-funded and municipalities are left with the responsibility to fund any new water and wastewater developments. Consequently, the infrastructure deficit continues to grow.
Many water and wastewater systems across Alberta are at the end of their lifespan and, without funding, the only choice for municipalities will be to substantially increase taxes, as needed, in order to fund the development of new water and/or wastewater systems. Municipalities do not have sufficient funding available to extend existing water/wastewater systems or develop new water/wastewater systems. The removal of the $75 million of Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Program – Water for Life funding will result in further growth in infrastructure deficits and will have detrimental impacts for years to come.
ER1-13S: Funding of Approved Water for Life Projects Based on Actual Total Costs
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties advocate on the behalf of municipalities for the Government of Alberta to continue to fund “projects” through the Water for Life Program at the approved percentage of the estimate rather than to the amount indicated in the approval letter to reflect actual cost; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of Alberta ensures that current approved projects are funded based on actual total costs prior to the approval of new projects under the Water for Life Program.
DEVELOPMENTS: The AAMDC deems the government response to this resolution as Unsatisfactory. Though the Government of Alberta has indicated that projects approved under the Water for Life Program that have not started construction may not receive full funding in 2013-14, there is no intent indicated to fund existing projects based on actual total cost. In addition, there is no indication that changes will be made to the approval process to accommodate actual project costs instead of estimated costs moving forward. The funding levels for the Water for Life program were increased slightly (1%) in the 2014-15 provincial budget, but no indication was made that funding for Water for Life projects would be based on actual project costs. The AAMDC will continue to advocate on this issue and advise members of funding or approval process changes as applicable.
6-11F: Water for Life Program Funding for Rural Water Co-ops
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC urge the Government of Alberta to provide capital grant funding for rural water supply through the Water for Life Program to connect as many rural residents as possible to regional water lines for the provision of safe potable drinking water.
DEVELOPMENTS: The 2013-14 provincial budget included Water for Life funding was decreased nearly 50 per cent to $74.5 million and was increased minimally in the 2014-15 budget. At previous meetings with the Ministers of Transportation and Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD), the AAMDC highlighted this resolution and the issue of changes to potable water funding for small hamlets and existing small growth areas. Earlier this year, ESRD hosted a series of “water conversations” where guided discussions on key issues regarding water in Alberta took place. Rural residential access was discussed and it is anticipated that the Government will release a “What We Heard” document later this year highlighting those discussions, the last of which is scheduled to take place in April 2014. The AAMDC will continue to advocate on the need for increased funding for the Water for Life Program.
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development: Environment and Sustainable Resource Development is working with Municipal Affairs and Transportation on the Municipal Water Project, which will assess current and future options for water infrastructure funding. This includes consideration of roles and responsibilities, mechanisms for financing infrastructure development, and forecasting innovative and sustainable solutions.
Transportation: Alberta Treasury Board and Finance will be in the best position to decide where funding should go based on the current fiscal restraints and the upcoming Budget 2015.
Treasury Board and Finance: Alberta Treasury Board and Finance will continue to work in partnership with our government colleagues and stakeholders to determine sustainable funding solutions. Requests for additional funding, at this time, will not be approved.
In the 2015-16 provincial budget, the Government of Alberta decreased capital funding for Water for Life significantly while operational funding was zero-funded. However, the 2016-17 provincial budget increased funding to both Water for Life and the AMWWP by $75 million: from a combined $55 million to a combined $130 million. Budget 2017-18 funding levels for both programs decreased from last year to $55 million for Water for Life and $50 million for AMWWP. Though this funding has decreased, the AAMDC is pleased that funding for the AMWWP remains in place as requested in the original resolution. Due to the specific nature of this resolution requesting these increases in the 2015 budget, this resolution cannot be assigned a status of Accepted as the intent was not fully met. It is instead assigned a status of Accepted in Principle.