In late 2014, Chestermere Council approved a new utility fee item called the Lifecycle Fund to proactively address failing infrastructure and the potential for infrastructure deficit. In the face of major unplanned events such as water main breaks, municipalities that have not saved for the cost of replacing aging infrastructure must scramble to pay for the associated damage. In 2007, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimated the total Canadian municipal infrastructure deficit at $123 billion – and growing. Aging water and sewer infrastructure accounted for approximately $31 billion of that deficit.
Through implementation of the Lifecycle Fund, Chestermere Council and CUI are working together to ensure the sustainable future of our community by setting aside for the eventual replacement of infrastructure. Although proactive in nature, this fund is a cost of providing service today. The present user’s day-to-day wear and tear depreciates the useful life of the pipes. If we fail to effectively plan for the future, it will impact the next generation, leaving them to deal with an infrastructure deficit created by us.
Two of our major company principles here at CUI are:
- We will identify and implement best practices which are cost effective in all that we do; and,
- We will be fiscally responsible and transparent to our customers and our shareholders.
The 2015 charge for the Lifecycle Fund will be $3.56 per month for residential properties and $7.18 per month for businesses. Customers will see this new line item on their March utility bills.
Why is it important to properly maintain our water and sewer infrastructure assets?
Water infrastructure is expensive, and the monetary and social costs incurred when infrastructure fails can be large. Therefore, it only makes sense to ensure that our infrastructure assets are properly managed. If a system is well maintained, it can operate safely over a long time period. CUI will need to carry out an ongoing process of oversight, evaluation, maintenance and replacement of our assets to maximize the useful life of infrastructure. The newly implemented Lifecycle Fund will allow us to have the funds set aside so that we can proactively plan for and manage our infrastructure—by understanding its condition and making risk-based decisions on maintaining and improving infrastructure.
What is the role of infrastructure planning?
Planning is essential for water and wastewater infrastructure sustainability. The infrastructure we build today will be with us for a long time and, therefore, must be efficient to operate, offer the best solution in meeting the needs of a community, and be coordinated with infrastructure investments in other sectors such as transportation and housing. It is both important and challenging to ensure that a plan is in place to renew and replace it at the right time, which may be years away. Part of this plan is the implementation of the Lifecycle Fund. Replacing an infrastructure asset too soon means not benefiting from the remaining useful life of that asset. Replacing an asset too late can lead to expensive, emergency repairs that are significantly more expensive than those which are planned.