Canadians not paying too little for water, says utilities group

Ian Jack
National Post
September 8, 2000

Claims by an international think-tank that Canadians pay too little for the water they consume are untrue, according to, the country’s municipal water utilities.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, in a report released Tuesday, said Canadian water rates are among the lowest in the developed world, while consumption ranks near the top of the international scale.

“To bring about more efficient water use, provincial and territorial governments should therefore implement the principle of ‘economic pricing’ without delay,” said the report.

Environment Canada figures show the average price of 1,000 litres of water is just under 40 cents, while per capita consumption, including industrial use, is 326 litres a day. In comparison, the English pay more than $4 per 1,000 litres and consume less than half as much. In the United States, prices are slightly higher than in Canada and consumption leads the world, at more than 400 litres a day per capita.

Duncan Ellison, executive director of the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association, said the cost of moving water to the end user is generally much lower in North America than in other, more crowded, developed countries.

“Canadians are paying their fair share,” he said. The cost of treating Canadian water is generally less, since it is cleaner to begin with and infrastructure is usually newer and cheaper to build, he said. “The fact that we are paying less doesn’t necessarily mean that we are drinking subsidized water,” he said.

Leaders in the Canadian environmental movement generally support a move to water meters, which only about half of Canadian households have, and to higher prices. They do not believe Canadians are paying the full cost of the water they consume.

Lawrence Solomon, executive director of the Urban Renaissance Institute, said industry and agriculture in particular should pay more.

“Generally they’re misusing it because they get it for so little.”

Mr. Solomon’s group and its sister organization, Environment Probe, advocate market solutions to most environmental problems.

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