+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 4-20S

Water and Wastewater – Laws, Regulations and Funding

Date:
April 24, 2020
Expiry Date:
April 1, 2023
Active Status:
Active
Sponsors:
County of Grande Prairie
District:
4 - Northern
Year:
2020
Convention:
Spring
Category:
Environment
Status:
Intent Not Met
Vote Results:
Carried as Amended
Preamble:

WHEREAS the Government of Canada and Government of Alberta draft and implement laws and regulations to protect the environment and public health, including the production and distribution of potable water and the collection, treatment, and release of wastewater; and

WHEREAS the production and distribution of potable water and the collection, treatment, and release of wastewater are essential services crucial to safe, healthy communities; and

WHEREAS the production and distribution of potable water and the collection, treatment, and release of wastewater are often provided by municipalities, municipal commissions, or municipally-owned utility companies; and

WHEREAS the laws and regulations governing the production and distribution of potable water and the collection, treatment, and release of wastewater can have both direct and indirect effects on the cost of providing these services; and

WHEREAS many water and wastewater service providers are challenged to fund the infrastructure deficits under the current laws and regulations governing the production and distribution of potable water and the collection, treatment, and release of effluent;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) advocate that the governments of Canada and Alberta consider and evaluate the financial impacts that all existing and proposed laws and regulations governing the production and distribution of potable water and the collection, treatment and release of wastewater will have on municipalities, municipal commissions, or municipally-owned utility companies, and share this information with RMA; and

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that RMA advocate to the governments of Canada and Alberta to recognize water commissions and cooperatives and deem them eligible for funding programs; and

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the governments of Canada and Alberta establish adequate, stable, long-term funding for all affected water and wastewater service providers which considers the rising costs of providing these services due to federal and provincial laws and regulations.

Member Background:

Located in northern Alberta, the Water North Coalition’s membership is comprised of 93 communities, service providers and organizations including cities, towns, counties and municipal districts, hamlets, Metis Settlements, and commissions. The Water North Coalition sent out a survey to its 93 members to gather input on the water and wastewater issues.

One significant concern which showed itself in the results was the rising cost of water and wastewater service delivery. The average water/wastewater infrastructure deficit reported among the respondents was $36.4 million, with a lack of adequate, consistent and sustainable funding being cited as the largest challenge. Aging infrastructure and small customer bases in rural areas also add urgency and challenges, as service providers struggle to fund critical projects whose costs will be spread among relatively few customers, which can make the services cost prohibitive.

These challenges are often amplified in small and rural areas as funding criteria can exclude the water and wastewater service delivery models often found in these communities. These funding programs exclude commissions and water cooperatives from applying for funding as the process does not recognize these organizations as service providers. The commissions and water cooperatives, however, are expected to follow the same regulations. The funding programs often lack a formal application process, and have tight timelines when funding does become available, which often poses a disproportionate challenge for smaller and rural communities that lack the resources required to engineer shovel-ready plans, especially in the face of changing laws and regulations.

RMA Background:

RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.

Government Response:

Alberta Environment and Parks

Reliable access to safe, secure drinking water for all Albertans is our government’s priority. The department is aware of the resourcing challenges smaller municipalities face in delivering safe, reliable drinking water and wastewater services. To support financing of infrastructure for small municipalities, the Government of Alberta administers two funds through the Alberta Municipal Wastewater Partnership and the Water for Life program. These programs have committed a combined $207 million to municipal works over the next three years.

Given Alberta’s current fiscal reality, there are no immediate plans to change the funding model for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. As part of our red tape reduction activities over the coming year, we will be examining aspects of the challenges you have identified, including opportunities to right-size regulations for smaller water treatment system managers.

Development:

The Government of Alberta’s response acknowledges the resource challenges rural municipalities face in delivering safe, reliable drinking water and wastewater services. Currently, the Government of Alberta administers two programs: Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Partnership and the Water for Life program to help finance water and wastewater infrastructure in smaller municipalities and has committed to a combined $207 million to municipal works over the next three years.

RMA is participating on Alberta Municipalities’ Wastewater Innovation Task Force to share the rural municipal perspective on the following concerns:

  • Increasingly stringent environmental regulations
  • Increasing capital costs for wastewater infrastructure
  • Financial burden of operating these facilities

The purpose of the taskforce is to develop innovative technologies to address these concerns that will be shared with Alberta Environment and Parks and Alberta Transportation. The taskforce is currently developing a white paper and RMA will update members on the outcomes from the taskforce.

This resolution is requesting that the Government of Alberta and Canada to recognize water commissions and cooperatives and deem them eligible for funding programs and to establish adequate, stable, long-term funding that considers the rising costs of providing water and wastewater service providers.

The Government of Alberta response indicates that due to the current fiscal reality, there are no immediate plans to change the funding model for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. This resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met and RMA will continue to advocate for the Government of Alberta and Canada to establish adequate, stable, long-term funding for water and wastewater service providers that considers the rising costs of providing services.

Provincial Ministries:
Environment and Parks
Federal Ministries and Bodies:
Environment
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