Lake Country council was poised Tuesday night to give final approval to an $80 million, 20-year plan to improve water quality throughout the municipality.
New treatment systems, reservoirs, and distribution lines are key features of the upgrade, which will see the typical homeowner's water bill rise to at least $735 annually within five years.
"The plan provides a 20 year infrastructure vision that comes with a cost, but a necessary one," says Lake Country administrator Alberto De Feo.
"For years we have lived ignoring the reality that water, like everything else, is not endless, (and) is subject to possible contamination," de Feo says.
The water improvement plan has been in the works for the past two years. Its final adoption was on the agenda for Tuesday night's town council meeting.
Earlier this year, Lake Country Mayor James Baker warned that delaying implementation of the improvement plan would only increase costs down the road. "Our new master plan will save us money in the long run, but only if we start to invest in our water system now," Baker said.
Council has already approved increases in the residential water levy of $50 annually in each of the next four years. Agricultural water rates will rise to $120 an acre in 10 years.
Actual increases could be even higher, because the plan assumes the provincial and federal governments will contribute half the cost of a new water treatment plant, and also partly fund other parts of the upgrade.
In a report to council, town staff say the water improvement plan has been generally well-received by residents, although they also include this comment from one person obviously upset by the rate increases:
"For consumers to accept a 25 per cent increase in cost in not just one but two consecutive years is absolutely mind-boggling! I feel district staff should rein in their enthusiasm to spend taxpayers' money by rethinking projects and their respective timelines, and using a more measured and fair approach."