Are fees collected in my community subsidizing water and wastewater systems in another community?
No. Fees and charges in your community’s financial system are ONLY used to fund water and wastewater services in your system. For example, Woodstock water revenues exclusively fund operating and capital requirements for the Woodstock system. Any surpluses (unspent funds) remain within the Woodstock water reserve.
Why are some reserves higher than expected?
Reserves give financial stability to municipalities and prepare them for the unexpected. For this reason, long-term financial sustainability is a focus when we are setting rates.
Water and wastewater assets are expensive to replace and have long and varying life cycles. An upgrade project taking place right now to a Woodstock wastewater treatment plant will cost more than $10 million over eight years.
Sometimes a reserve is higher because projects are delayed (money is earmarked but hasn’t been spent yet), and sometimes projects come in under budget. Any interest earned on reserves is reinvested in your community’s water and wastewater system.
Municipalities are required by legislation to have an asset management strategy in place specifically to deal with aging infrastructure as well as projected population growth in their communities.
Why do customers pay for wastewater fees to water their lawns and gardens when the water isn’t going down the drain (through the wastewater system)?
Basing wastewater usage on water usage is a tool the County uses to reasonably calculate a rate that is fair among users and covers the costs of the system. Water and wastewater services are not run at a profit: rates and charges are designed to cover the overall current and future costs of the system. For this reason, eliminating charges in one area means this share will need to be redistributed among customers in some way.
We can’t measure wastewater usage without investing significant dollars in new technology (which must ultimately be paid for through fees and charges). We do want to reassure residents that it is common practice for municipalities to adjust wastewater rates based on water flows and that, ultimately, rates are set to only cover the net costs of operating and maintaining the wastewater system.
To reduce billing charges and also conserve water, we do recommend that residents use a rain barrel to water their lawns and gardens. To purchase one from Oxford County ($45), please contact Customer Service at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-755-0394.
The taste or appearance (colour) of my drinking water is different from other places I've lived or been to. Should I be concerned?
Oxford County’s municipal drinking water is safe: it is tested 24/7, and the County’s annual drinking water inspection reports by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation & Parks were all rated between 95 and 100% (with 15 out of 17 systems rated at 100%).
Colour and taste are aesthetic issues and can occur with groundwater as there is mineral content. However, all municipal water in Oxford County is operated, treated, and monitored according to Provincial regulation for safety. Residents who find the chlorine residual unpleasant can put their drinking water in an open jug in the fridge for a day or two to reduce the chlorine, as it will naturally vent from the water.
Why are you raising the rates now when so many people are struggling?
COVID-19 has caused financial hardship for many in Oxford County: we know there are people and businesses that are really struggling. Oxford County’s Human Services department continues to serve the needs of individuals and families who need income, child care or housing support. We are also actively partnering on initiatives that support our local economy through the effects of COVID-19.
Water and wastewater rates are set every four years, with 2021 marking the start of a new four-year period. As with many services, when the costs of delivering a service increases, those costs are passed on to “customers,” especially for municipal governments that do not operate at a profit.
If a family or individual has exceptional circumstances preventing them from paying their utilities, we encourage them to call their billing provider.