PVWC requests big rate increase for projects

Pembina Valley Water Co-op Distribution Map.

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Four new projects totalling $16.2 million are the reason for a 10 per cent bulk water rate increase request issued by the Pembina Valley Water Co-op to the Public Utilities Board.
The water co-op requested the rate hike from $8.16 per 1,000 gallons to $8.98 for 2019 in the first of a five year request.
They have asked for two per cent increases in 2020 and 2021 and asked for a 0 to 2 per cent increase in 2022 and 2023.
Pembina Valley Water Co-op services 14 customers including the cities of Morden and Winkler, Towns of Morris, Carman, and Altona and rural municipalities of Emerson – Franklin, Thompson, Stanley, Roland, Rhineland, Morris, Montcalm, Grey and Dufferin. They also supply water to the Altona Rural Water Co-op, Blumengart Colony, Halbstadt Marais Water Co-op, and Roseau River First Nation.
CEO Greg Archibald said growth in the region and regulatory changes have prompted the need for the four projects which include new pipelines, reservoir, an upgraded plant and a new filter.
“We hired Associated Engineering out of Winnipeg to help us do a rate study of what we would need to be able to operate the water co-op for the next five years,” he said. “That rate study was submitted to PUB.”
The water co-op also consulted with member municipalities to assess their needs.
“There’s quite extensive growth going on in the Winkler/Morden corridor, both in those two communities and the R.M. of Stanley,” Archibald said. “We looked at growth, we looked at some drought disaster planning and we looked at regulatory requirements with Health Canada Drinking Water office and out of that whole assessment and discussion with our municipal owners we came up with four major projects that we will need to do over the next four years just to be able to operate and supply water as required.”
Pipeline – Morris to St. Jean
On the list of projects is a new pipeline between Morris and St. Jean as well as upgrading the plant at Morris to be able to provide additional water and deal with a regulatory issue regarding manganese.
“About a year ago last June we had a voluntary water restriction at the Letellier plant and that was just because we were close to the edge there at that plant capacity,” he said.
A warm spring, coupled with growth in the region, and the timing of people filling their pools and agricultural spraying, stressed water supplies.
“One of the things to help mitigate that was to tie Morris to St. Jean and allow us to use Morris water to supplement either down through Letellier and over to Winkler/Morden or from Morris to Roland and down into Winkler/Morden,” Archibald said.
This project, which will cost $5.75 million will allow PVWC to upgrade from 67 litres per second to 100 litres per second. Included in that cost is the installation of a manganese filter to address a new regulation from Health Canada.
“We’re beginning that work aggressively in January,” he said.
Water reservoir – Letellier
A treated water reservoir will also be built at Letellier. “What this helps us do is to have some backup support, have some volume to provide to our Letellier customers over to Winkler/Morden,” he said.
The new reservoir and the addressing of new regulatory issues at Letellier is expected to cost $6.3 million.
Stephenfield plant upgrade
The Stephenfield plant was recently upgraded from 20 to 40 litres per second. However, Archibald said more changes are needed.
“Carman is working on potentially building a new reservoir and has talked to us about switching over so we could supply them full time with 100 per cent of their water,” Archibald said. “If they switched over we would be just a tad above 40.”
“We need to take that 40 litres per second up to 60,” he added.
The cost of that project is estimated at $1.6 million.
Pipeline – Roland to Winkler
The fourth project will cost about $2.7 million and will involve twinning the line between Roland and Winkler.
Archibald said that allows them to bring water in to the area from two different directions.
Projects will be funded through water rate increases and a loan.
Increased loan payments require rate increases. That doesn’t mean PVWC wants their ratepayers to shoulder the whole burden.
“We are trying to find some funding through federal/provincial… and in fact have applied for some,” he said.
However he added that a decision on federal funding has been delayed until late 2019. “Unfortunately we’re going to have to be on the hook for $6 million to $7 million right now in 2019,” he said. “Maybe at some point in time one of those (projected 2 per cent increases) could be zero if the government would come through with some help.”
“We’re still hopeful on that, and that could help us long term,” he added.
There aren’t many options when it comes to paying for projects such as those required.
“Because we don’t have the ability to tax or raise money any other way, we’re required to pay for it through bank loans and through the drinking water rates,” he said. “(Municipalities) tell us what they need and we have to go and find a way to deliver it.”
Archibald said they’ve done due diligence on their rate increase request.
“We spent a lot of time over the past year with our municipal customers to make sure we understood what their growth patterns would be and what they would be needing,” he said adding they also spent time with regulators from Health Canada.
“We tried to put everything in there that would kind of lay us out for what we need for at least the next five years.”