21 Nov, 2017

IMFG Paper 35: Paying for Water in Ontario’s Cities: Past, Present, and Future

New paper from the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance evaluates how best to price water for efficiency and conservation.

Toronto, November 21, 2017 – Throughout much of the 20th century in Ontario, water was seen as a plentiful resource and water rates did not promote conservation. Today, the Province and more and more municipalities treat water as a scarce resource and are concerned about how to finance new and rehabilitated infrastructure.
In a new paper released by the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG), Paying for Water in Ontario’s Cities: Past, Present, and Future, IMFG Visiting Scholar Harry Kitchen evaluates the history of water pricing in Ontario. He reviews how municipalities charge for water today and makes recommendations for both municipalities and the Province moving forward.

While we have come a long way, Kitchen argues, there are still shortfalls and inefficiencies in the way we pay for water, sewer, and stormwater runoff. For example, although meters are in place almost everywhere and users generally pay volumetric rates, most municipalities still do not set prices at levels that would encourage conservation. This allows for the overconsumption of water and leads to increased demand for expensive infrastructure.

As Kitchen writes, it is imperative that pricing structures be designed with efficiency criteria and conservation goals in mind.

Read the paper

Paying for Water in Ontario’s Cities: Past, Present, and Future is excerpted from the new book, Financing Infrastructure: Who Should Pay? Join IMFG on December 7th at 4:00pm for a roundtable discussion led by Enid Slack, Richard M. Bird, and Matti Siemiatycki on the themes covered in the book. A reception and book signing will follow the discussion.

Buy the book

About the Author

Harry Kitchen is a Visiting Scholar at the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance and Professor Emeritus in the Economics Department at Trent University. Over the past twenty years, he has completed more than 100 articles, reports, studies and books on issues relating to local government expenditures, finance, structure, and governance in Canada. In 2013, he was awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for policy analysis and research contributions to municipal finance, structure, and governance in Canada.

About the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG)

The Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance is a research hub and think tank that focuses on the fiscal and governance challenges facing large cities and city-regions. It is located within the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

For more information, please contact:
Selena Zhang | Manager, Programs and Research
Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
selena.zhang@utoronto.ca | www.munkschool.utoronto.ca/imfg