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Water utility increases approved for 2023

Year-round and part-time homeowners in Sun Peaks will see the cost of water utilities increase by around 10 per cent more per month.
 | January 12, 2023
An aerial view of Sun Peaks in the winter.
SPMRM staff say increases to water utility bills will support future system improvements. Photo Kyle James.

Homeowners can expect to see higher water utility bills by February.

Council has approved a 10 per cent increase in water and wastewater utilities for all homeowners. Part-time resident owners will also see a new minimum usage fee. The increases went into effect Jan. 1.

“The new model will ensure that all users are paying a more equitable share of the ongoing costs [of maintaining utilities],” said Shane Bourke, Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality’s (SPMRM) chief administrative officer.

Bourke said an average three-bedroom home, occupied year-round, will see the cost of water utilities increase by $7.16 and wastewater bills increase by $9.16. That means the average owner’s total bill will increase by around $16.48 each month. 

Minimum charge may impact part-time residents

The average three-bedroom home that is vacant and doesn’t use water in a month will see a 10 per cent increase in its base rate.

The municipality is also introducing a new minimum charge, which will be half of the first-tier usage rate. A tiered system encourages conservation and under a tiered system, the rate increases as usage increases. Part-time residents can expect to pay $18.35 per month for water utilities and $25.32 for wastewater each month when not occupying their property, increasing bills by $43.67.

“Part-time residents would likely be using the minimum usage amount when they are in Sun Peaks, so the larger increase would only apply to months their property is vacant,” Bourke said.

Bourke highlighted properties “occupied part-time will still use less water and have lower bills than a full-time resident.”

“The new minimum usage rate just better reflects the costs … to have the system available at all times,” he added.

A table provided to council by municipality staff. It outlines the current and proposed water and wastewater charges for households in Sun Peaks. The table shows how new charge increases will cost part-time residents more, because vacant residents will be charges a minimum base charge when no utilities are being used.
An example of utility bill increases under the new model. Photo Sun Peaks Municipality.

Municipality transitioning to self-financed utilities

A report to council last year showed that a 10 per cent increase in water and wastewater usage fees will help the municipality transition utilities to a self-financed model. 

The same report showed that the minimum usage charge model will bring water revenues to $161,000 and wastewater revenues to $224,000.

While there are 1,404 permanent residents in Sun Peaks, Bourke noted there can be up to 10,000 people on the mountain at busy times. The water and wastewater systems need to operate for the maximum peak periods.

“Under the previous model, there were periods where non-full-time residents didn’t use much water and wastewater. While we had to provide services for the maximum, we were only getting revenue from the portion of the people that were using the services full time,” Bourke said.

According to Bourke, the previous water and wastewater rates were designed for conservation as the village was facing a significant risk of water shortage. 

The municipality’s new surface water reservoir has reduced some of that risk, but Bourke said low water consumption impacted the municipality’s ability to fund the system.

The December 2022 report found that without an increase in financing, funding for future operations would be at risk. 

The village’s water and wastewater systems are aging. According to the report, the municipality’s Water and Wastewater Master Plan found that upgrading water treatment and distribution will cost $22.4 million and wastewater updates will require $19.2 million.

The report noted SPMRM can apply for grants to cover some of the costs, but there are too many projects for funding by grants alone.

Bourke noted he has not received any specific feedback about the approved fee increases at this time.

“The shift just balances some of [the costs] out so that anytime somebody wants to turn on the water, they’ll have the water and we can fund the system,” Bourke said.

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