City takes next steps with potential water utility acquisition
On Monday 22 June, Mayor and Council directed staff, in principle, to serve notice and initiate expropriation proceedings for the water utility assets in White Rock.
A final decision regarding the potential purchase of the water utility will be considered at a Special Council Meeting on Monday, June 29, 2015 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, 15322 Buena Vista Avenue. Staff will also bring forward possible amendments to the 2015-2019 Financial Plan for Council consideration. Amendments to include revenues and the capital and operating expenditures associated with the acquisition and ongoing costs of the water utility.
If the water utility is acquired, the City would also have control over decisions related to water quality as well as whether or not it wishes to continue to use the aquifer as a water source or to obtain its water supply from Metro Vancouver.
- Water services and infrastructure in White Rock have always been owned and operated by private operators. The terms and conditions are outlined in three agreements dated September 1922, April 1966, and May 1966. The current operator of the water service is EPCOR White Rock Water Inc. (EPCOR), a subsidiary of EPCOR Utilities.
- Due to a contamination issue in 2010, Fraser Health Authority placed operating permit conditions requiring the implementation of permanent chlorination by June 2016.
- City negotiations with EPCOR have been underway for more than two years with slow progress.
- EPCOR serves the entire City of White Rock as well as certain adjacent properties in the City of Surrey as well as Semiahmoo First Nation. The water supply comes from the Sunnyside Uplands Aquifer with all services being metered.
- The City held a Public Information Meeting on June 16 on the potential acquisition of the water utility to give the public the opportunity to see the various options the City could consider.
- The benefits to ownership for the City of White Rock:
- Ensure water utility rates paid stay within the community
- If City owns water utility, rates will be similar as in addition to the work, the City would buy the water utility. Once the City’s’ debt from acquiring the water utility is paid, water rates would be lower than with Epcor as the City will not charge taxpayers for a profit.
- It is estimated that there would be substantial savings for the community.
- The City is eligible for provincial and federal infrastructure grants not available to Epcor
- The City is responsible for operating the water utility and would have control over decision related to water quality and any change to water source
- The City would be in line with majority of other BC municipalities on owning water assets
- Having to deal with one organization, rather than two, more efficient for property owners and developers
- More efficiency is expected for the City when replacing underground services