Paying for Sewer Service

A lot of people advocate “user pay” – that is, if you use something you should pay for it.  That is difficult for a public beach but is implemented for some roads using tolls.  It is also normal for electricity, gas and water use.  In many municipalities and certainly in Cobourg, your sewer usage is also “user pays”.  But since there is no way to measure waste water, the amount of waste water consumed is assumed to be directly related to the water usage as measured by your water meter.  This is true as long as you don’t use a lot of water on your garden or lawn.  In that case it gets absorbed and does not show up in the sewer.

Lawn Irrigation
Lawn Irrigation

One citizen of Cobourg, Suzanne Morrow, has written to council asking for a “waste water rate bylaw exemption” since she has a lawn irrigation system and its “water does not go back in the system”.  Her suggestion is a second water meter to be used just for the lawn irrigation system. She says that her irrigation company informed her recently that a number of his customers in Peterborough have installed a second water meter at their houses to handle their irrigation water.”

If she is willing to pay for the second meter, then I have to ask: “why not?”

When the letter came to Council on April 8, Brian Darling asked that her letter be referred to Environmental Services for a report and that they respond back within 60 days – that is, by June 3, 2019.

I suspect that Suzanne is not the only one bothered by this – especially when they get large water/sewage bills in the summer.


Letter from Suzanne Morrow (on Cobourg portal)


At the Committee of the Whole Council meeting on May 13, Council voted to deny the exemption requested although they asked that the relevant By-Law be reviewed with perhaps an option to install a water meter for irrigation/sprinkler systems.

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Al M
5 years ago

Ignoring the waste side of the argument, (an opinion I agree with), I am not sure the economics of a second meter is there. A second meter which would be considered a second service would attract a base charge of ~$13.00 / month for the entire year (~$156 / year). While it is impossible to tell without understanding the users circumstances, that means you would need to put an astronomical amount of water through the sprinklers in the three irrigation months just to break even.

5 years ago

Where did the first posting go by I believe S. Morrow? It started the discussion now it’s gone.

John Draper
Reply to  cornbread
5 years ago

Suzanne did not post here – she submitted a letter to Council. I have now added a Link to her letter above.

Old Sailor
5 years ago

What about residents who fill their swimming pools once a year – 100’s of thousands of litres of water?

Non pool owner
Reply to  Old Sailor
5 years ago

But aren’t those pools ultimately emptied into the storm sewer system in the Fall?

Fact Checker
Reply to  Non pool owner
5 years ago

Yes, storm sewers and sometimes sanitary sewers. The “sewer charge” is for the sanitary sewers which require waste treatment before being released back to “nature”. The sewer charge uses water consumption as the measurement activity base and makes no allowance for the final means of “disposal” of the water

Miriam Mutton
Reply to  Non pool owner
5 years ago

Treated water of swimming pools is not supposed to be discharged directly into the storm sewers. See this often, though, water running down the street into catch basins leading to the storm sewer system. Sometimes the discharge hose sitting right on top of the catch basin!

The Town of Cobourg on its municipal web site has information to assist pool owners on proper water management of swimming pool water. Further, salt water pools must never be drained into a storm sewer.

Walter L. Luedtke
5 years ago

Shock Water News:
On the advice of an outside consultant out of Mississauga the 2019 base charge for a residential water service will increase by $0.51 per month and the wastewater will increase by $0.56 per month for a combined monthly increase of $1.07 or an annual increase of $12.84.
And BTW a Google search for second irrigation water meters revealed nothing special about Peterborough.
A large array of irrigation water meters are available on Amazon.

5 years ago

In these times of climate change and more summer droughts I believe it is totally inappropriate to have large lawns sucking up precious water. Lawns should become a thing of the past. Having lawn irrigation systems should go the way of the dodo bird. I have no sympathy if people pay more because of this. If the Town has to supply water and it is used for this wasteful purpose then I say let the user pay twice.

Reply to  Diane
5 years ago

I have had exactly the same concern as Ms. Morrow for some time. We do NOT water our lawn. We let our lawn go brown in the knowledge that it will regenerate with the fall rains. But we do have herbaceous borders which would die without water and in a dry summer our combined water and sewage bill is more than double the winter rate. We also, I might add, water the Town trees on the boulevard in a lengthy dry spell. As we are asked to do.

5 years ago

This only works until because of increased lawn watering, you need a larger water purification plant…then the lawn water meter people themselves alone have to pay for the increased facility. Too bad the lawn people can’t devise their own grey water systems to water their previous lawns

5 years ago

I believe the waste water (sewer) charge on our bills is 1.5 times the charge for water.
For every $1.00 you get billed for water in, you get billed $1.50 for water out whether it goes into the sewer system or not.

Reply to  Frenchy
5 years ago

That’s incorrect.

Both water and sewer charges are based on a fixed and volumetric rate. That is, if a residential customer with a 5/8″ water meter consumes 10 cubic meters in a month, the total bill would be:

$13.22 – water base charge
$12.60 – water volumetric charge ($1.26 x 10)
$14.44 – sewer base charge
$14.80 – sewer volumetric charge ($1.48 x 10)

Town of Cobourg by-law 099-2015 Section 4.3 does allow for an exemption for a larger user:

Industrial Water Users may apply to the Town for a reduced Sewage Treatment Rate based on a portion of water used being consumed in the process and not entering the sanitary sewer system.

Reply to  CobourgPerson
5 years ago

Good to know, thanks for pointing that out.

Jim Thomas
Reply to  Frenchy
5 years ago

Helpful if you are an Industrial Water User. I doubt my gardens could be classified as “industrial”, despite the amount of labour involved.

5 years ago

Lawn irrigation is incredibly wasteful, as are lawns themselves. Lawns are a mono-culture and bad for the environment. People should be giving up this practice and planting native flowers on their property that are adapted to our climate and require less water. We need to encourage more bio-diversity in our landscapes which helps the local eco-system.

In other words. If this is going to encourage people to keep their perfectly manicured lawns then it’s a bad idea. If you disagree with me then go out and research the damaging effects of lawns. This isn’t the 1950s anymore.