Golf courses, cemeteries, City of Edmonton properties need to start paying stormwater bill, Epcor says

Some private golf courses and cemeteries in Edmonton have not been billed stormwater fees, Epcor says. (Craig Ryan/CBC - image credit)

Some private golf courses, private cemeteries and City of Edmonton lots that have not been paying for stormwater services will soon see that charge added to their bill

Epcor told city council's utility committee on Monday that the change would mean it could collect millions of dollars in additional revenue.

City of Edmonton properties, currently not being charged, could generate about $1.2 million, Epcor says.

The stormwater service is one part of Epcor's water bill — the others are water usage and wastewater or sanitary services.

Susan Ancel, a director of water resource planning at Epcor, said the utility started reviewing accounts since it took over drainage services from the city of Edmonton in 2017.

They identified properties that were paying for water and wastewater but not for stormwater.

"This is about an equitable charging of stormwater," she said. "There's a revenue requirement and that gets spread out amongst the customers."

"So [when] we have more customers in billing, that reduces the cost for everybody."

Ancel said they didn't yet know how many properties — and how much revenue may fall under the gap.

Tim Cartmell, councillor for Ward pihêsiwin, said it's a reasonable shift for a more fair and equitable system.

"You might be a golf course that's not paying a drainage bill and now you're gonna get a bill and you're not going to be very happy about that," he said Monday.

"If you're a golf course that has been paying a drainage bill, and your operating costs have been artificially because somebody else isn't paying their part, you have a different perspective."

The stormwater system is important because it helps control the release of rain during downpours, Ancel said.

The stormwater collection system is a complex network of catchbasins, ditches, culverts, pipes and hundreds of strategically placed wet and dry ponds.

It comprises thousands of kilometres of above and underground infrastructure, the report says.

Suggested two years ago

Epcor had planned to begin billing the affected properties in 2022, it says in a report for the utility committee, which also outlines its application for a new rate, called the performance-based regulation, or PBR.

It notified the city of the estimated bill increase for that year and began notifying impacted customers, including privately owned cemeteries, Epcor said in the report.

With the former council's feedback at a public hearing in 2022, it held off.

"Epcor adjusted its approach and postponed bringing these properties into billing until the next PBR term in 2025 to provide more sufficient notification," the report says.

Ward papastew Coun. Michael Janz said he was perplexed when he learned certain properties weren't being charged, even though the city and the utility knew about the gap.

"We all benefit from something, we all should contribute to something," Janz told news media Monday.

It raises some questions about accountability, Janz suggested.

"Golf courses seem to be operating a little bit like the Wild West here."

Properties without accounts

After Epcor identified the gap in stormwater billing, it also found properties that don't have accounts at all.

"For example, a parking lot that does not have a toilet with it — so they would not have a water or sanitary account," Ancel told news media Monday.

Others include vacant properties, she added.

"So if you have a parcel that's sitting empty, that would be an example of a parcel that doesn't have an account."

New proposed rate

The details are outlined in Epcor's recent application to raise wastewater rates by 2.9 per cent starting next April and lasting until the end of 2027.

The current wastewater collection and treatment rates expire at the end of March 2025.

The new proposed rate keeps pace with inflation and interest rates, Epcor said.

The average residential customer currently pays around $72.84 a month for wastewater collection and treatment services, Epcor said.

If approved, the increase means the same customer would pay $1.71 more a month, about $74.55, next year. In 2026, they will need to pay $2.36 more at $76.91 a month, and $2.53 more in 2027 at $79.44 a month.

Before council approves the new rates, Epcor's application must go before a public hearing, scheduled for this October at Edmonton city hall.