An expert panel has estimated that Ontario needs to spend $34 billion over the next 15 years on improving the province’s water infrastructure.
Following yearlong consultations with municipalities and others, the expert panel released, "Watertight: the Case for Change in Ontario’s Water and Wastewater Sector," on July 22, 2005. The panel had been commissioned by David Caplan, the Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal, to determine the best ways to organize water and wastewater systems while ensuring continued public ownership of these systems and services at an affordable price.
Panel Chair Harry Swain noted that decades of neglect coupled with burgeoning populations were creating a dire need for action and investment: "The fact is that governments, both municipally and provincially, have neglected essential investments in the province’s water systems for the past 30 years. For example, there are systems in this province that actually contain pipes over a hundred years old," said "That, combined with our growing population and economy, means we’re going to have some serious catching up to do over the coming years, if we want to maintain the level of safe, accessible, affordable water we all take for granted."
Among the key recommendations were for the province to consolidate smaller systems into larger regional utilities. They found that water systems that serve populations of more than 100,000 provide lower cost water and safer water.
"Larger water systems will provide the scale to make the large capital investments that are necessary, and do so at a cost that’s much more affordable," said Dr. Swain. "In fact, studies show that water systems that serve populations of more than 100,000 provide not only lower cost water, but greater quality control and therefore consistently safer water than smaller systems. That’s a key factor in recommending larger scale systems in parts of the province that currently are served by a plethora of small networks."
They said municipally owned utilities should be responsible for providing the services and that the Ontario Clean Water Agency should be revitalized by having an arm’s-length relationship with the province and establishing a business-oriented board of directors.