The Region of Durham`s Asset Management Strategy: Meeting the Challenge of a New Regulatory Enviroment in Ontrario

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ABSTRACT
The Province of Ontario, Canada has introduced significant new legislation in its continuing effort to ensure residents access to safe, secure and sustainable water and wastewater services. Bill 175, the Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act, which became law in 2002, now requires Ontario municipalities to assess the full cost of providing water and wastewater services and to develop a plan describing how the municipality intends to pay the full cost of providing these services. The Region therefore has proactively moved forward and developed an asset management strategy that provides Regional staff at all levels with the required asset information and meaningful decision-making tools needed to comply with the new regulatory requirements. Through key findings to-date identified under the program, the Joint Finance and Administration and Works Committee in November of 2005 was able to recommend to Regional Council that water and sewer rates be increased by 2% and 1% respectively in order to provide an additional $2.31 million to the Asset Management Reserve Fund, which will be applied to correct critical asset deficiencies. A key success factor to achieving the support of the public and Council included the development of effective public education and communications programs to ensure that Regional stakeholders understand and recognize the need for higher levels of investment (and the corresponding rate increases).

INTRODUCTION
In May 2000, contaminated drinking water in the Town of Walkerton, Ontario, Canada resulted in the death of 7 people and over 2,300 becoming ill. Following the release of recommendations developed under Commissioner Dennis O’Connor’s Inquiry into the tragedy, the Province of Ontario has introduced significant new legislation in its continuing effort to ensure residents access to safe, secure and sustainable water and wastewater services. The Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act, which became law in 2002, now requires Ontario municipalities to assess the full cost of providing water and wastewater services and to develop a plan describing how the municipality intends to pay the full cost of providing these services. Significant other legislation including the Safe Drinking Water Act (2002) and the Clean Water Act (2005) have also been recently introduced to ensure that communities identify potential risks to their supply of drinking water and take appropriate action to reduce or eliminate these risks. In response to this new regulatory environment in Ontario, the Regional Municipality of Durham has recognized that more effective tools and processes were needed to better manage their water and wastewater infrastructure. The Region therefore has proactively moved forward and developed an asset management strategy that provides Regional staff at all levels with the required asset information and meaningful decision-making tools needed to comply with the new regulatory requirements.

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