MONTREAL – The increase in water charges presents a golden opportunity to reinvest in water infrastructure, much of which is in unfortunate condition and at very high or high risk of failure.
Réseau Environnement, which brings together a number of Quebec environmentalists, is not as disappointed as one might think when seeing that a bill aimed at increasing royalties is doomed to die on demand paper.
Bill 42, which was introduced on Wednesday by Environment Minister Benoit Sharett, has no chance of being approved before the end of Parliament’s session on Friday, so the matter will become an electoral issue.
We have a great opportunity with this bill to invite the parties to present their proposals to us this fall during a debate. Let’s take this opportunity to reflect on this issue, President and CEO of the Environment Network, Matthew Linoville, said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
Mr. Linoville, who is himself a water engineer, notes that there is currently an investment gap of $35 billion to fill in terms of water infrastructure. In 2020, the Urban Infrastructure Expertise and Research Center painted a disturbing picture of water infrastructure.
In particular, we learned that more than 4,700 km of drinking water pipes are at high or very high risk of collapse, that 3,265 km of sewage pipes are at a high or very high risk of failure and that nearly 17,000 km of pavement over water pipes is at risk of collapse. . In the same critical position.
In addition, 206 drinking water installations are at a high or very high risk of collapse, as are 224 wastewater treatment facilities.
“Currently, there is an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, i.e. to get more money by increasing water revenue and take that money to pay for our shortfall. Water infrastructures, which are frequently abused and which need love,” says Mr. Linoville.
By introducing the bill on Wednesday, Minister Sharett also specified that the additional amounts collected in royalties would be entirely allocated to the Water Management Fund.
Mathieu Laneuville notes that a study conducted for Réseau Environnement last October shows that every dollar invested in water infrastructure can bring in up to $1.72 for the state. This return is attributable to, among other things, savings on breakage repairs or backflows, insurance and legal costs, as well as gains related to the environment and public health.
Moreover, Matteo Linoville believes that the rehabilitation of infrastructures makes it possible to avoid their complete replacement in the long run.
“With the money from royalties, if we can accommodate the infrastructure shortfall, we are working in the right direction to ensure that our water resources are well managed and costs are distributed over time.
Currently, we can rehabilitate. If we don’t, there will be much higher replacement costs in the future. It’s a matter of intergenerational justice because right now, if we continue like this, it’s not very fair for future generations,” he argues.
Quebec parody royalties
The current water royalty system, which has not been revised since 2010, is under heavy criticism from both environmental groups and opposition parties. The royalties collected in Quebec are absurd compared to what is being done elsewhere.
In 2018, it was reported that two billion liters of bottled water in Quebec produced less than $150,000 in revenue for Quebec’s treasury. That same year, Ontario received $23 million for water taken from its land.
The royalty rate is $2.50 per million liters of water, but $70 per million liters of water, for example, bottled water, beverage manufacturing, certain mineral and chemical products, pesticides, or oil and gas extraction.
By comparison, Italy charges $2,000 per million liters and Denmark $10,000 per million liters.