Utility Bylaw 450 FAQ's

Utility Rate Changes 

  • What rate structure changes are coming in 2024? 
    • Following the adoption of Utility Bylaw 450, Administration began a phasing of the new 5‐year transition, starting in 2024, to the proposed new utility rate structure with more equitable fixed rates between residential and non-residential ratepayers. 
    • The Bylaw accomplishes this by introducing a tiered disposal fee for all non‐residential City utility customers, regardless of whether they utilize City collection services. The Bylaw also introduces tiered water and wastewater fixed fees for residential and non-residential customers based on meter size and wastewater service line size to address less significant rate inequities in those utilities.             
    • In 2023 Administration will advise non‐residential customers of the pending rate changes and provide them with an avenue to adjust their fixed rate tier (i.e., install a smaller meter, or reduce the number of solid waste bins or tipping frequency). 
  • Do other municipalities structure their rates like this? 
    • The change to the rate structure creates a more equitable alignment between residential and non-residential properties. Some regional municipalities have similar fixed rate tiers for water and wastewater billings.  
  • What will my utility bill be under the new utility rate structure? 
    Customer Type
    2023 Typical Monthly Bill
    Transitioning to by 2028
    2023-28 Average % Change y-y 
    Single Family Home
    $170.70$180.86+1.6%
    Apartment Unit
    $64.41$70.03+2.1%
    Small Business
    $289.74$401.20+6.3%
    Medium Business
    $725.79$954.95+5.4%
    Large Business
    $4,129.32$4,320.45+1.4%
    Very Large Business/Institution
    $4,581.91$5,678.20+4.3%
  • Why is the City of Lacombe phasing the rates over five years? 
    • The change allows non-residential utility clients, who may see significant changes to their utility bills, the time to adapt to the incoming changes – and make any alterations to their accounts (I.e., installing a different water meter) if they choose to do so.  
  • Why was this change made to Utility billing? 
    • Utility Bylaw 450 creates a balance between residential and non-residential utility ratepayers. Previously, residential customers carried an inequitable share of utility costs for the City of Lacombe. 
  • What were the main factors in the decision to update utility rates? 
    • Create equity between residential and non-residential utility ratepayers. 
    • Ensure the ongoing viability of the City's self-funded utilities. 
  • How will this affect my business? 
    • In most cases, non-residential utility ratepayers will see a variable increase in their utility bills over the course of the five-year phase-in period. 
  • How is this change going to benefit me as a Resident? 
    • Lacombe residents will benefit from a more equitable distribution of utility costs between non-residential and residential ratepayers, resulting in lower utility bills over time. 
  • Why are non-residential customers being charged for disposal and collection? 
    • Currently, non-residential customers who contract a third-party collection service do not pay any portion of the LRWSC disposal fees. 
    • Third-party collection contractors disposing of solid waste originating from the City of Lacombe are not charged a disposal fee by the LRWSC. Instead, disposal fees charged by the LRWSC are billed to the City as a whole.  However, the LRWSC may charge a disposal fee to third-party collection contractors if their load includes waste from outside the LRWSC membership.  
    • Under the previous models, non-residential ratepayers switching to third-party contractors led to higher rates for the remaining customers and revenue reductions for the self-funded utility. 
    • Including disposal costs on non-residential customer's bill ensures all customers are paying for LRWSC services. 
  • I pay for a contractor to pick up my business's garbage. Why am I now paying the City of Lacombe's utility? 
    • The City's disposal costs are based on population, not weight or volume. This means the LRWSC charges are the same regardless of increases or decreases in the actual solid waste disposed of with the Lacombe Regional Solid Waste Commission.  
    • The rate structure in the bylaw addresses these issues by introducing three main changes to the solid waste portion of a customer's bill:  
      • It splits the current single solid waste line into two components:   
        • a collection rate and   
        • a disposal rate.  
      • The structure allocates 57% of the City's disposal costs (LRWSC fees) to the non‐residential sector and 43% to the residential sector. 
      • The residential sector disposal costs are divided equally across all residential customers.  
      • Non‐residential disposal costs are allocated on a new "tier" system based on the total monthly disposal volume available to each non‐residential customer as calculated by multiplying the:  
        • number of bins on site,  
        • number of times the bins are "tipped" per month, and  
        • size of the bins.  
      • Non-residential customers will still be able to utilize qualified third-party collection contractors. In this instance, the customer is not charged a collection fee from the City. However, starting in 2023, all non-residential customers will be charged a solid waste disposal fee on their utility bill.   
  • How do I know what my utility rates will be? 
    • See above. 


Utility Bill in Owners Name 

  •  Can a copy of the bill be sent to my residential/commercial tenant? 
    • Utility bills can be sent to tenants and owners, with the owner signing a waiver. The City encourages you to sign up for online, paperless billing as an easy and environmentally friendly option.  
  • Am I liable for my tenant's bill? 
    • Once the bill is in the owner's name, the owner is responsible for payments and any possible delinquencies. Owners can privately arrange for their tenants to make payments on the Owner's utility account. Owners will always receive the utility bills but can also sign a waiver (available online), allowing a convenient copy of the bills to be sent to tenants.  
  • My bills currently go to my tenants, who pay their bills. Does the utility account have to change to my name? 
    • Existing tenants will be grandfathered if their account remains in good standing. All new utility accounts must be in the Owner's name as of April 1, 2023.  
  • How do I access the utility account waiver? 
    • A web portal on lacombe.ca/utilitybylaw is established to allow utility account owners to access waivers and send statements to tenants and owners.  
  • Do other municipalities allow renters to sign up for utilities? 
    • The City of Lacombe's previous Utility Bylaw, which allowed utility bills in tenants' names, was an outlier amongst comparator communities. Out of 15 communities surveyed, only one allowed accounts to be in the name of tenants.  
  • As a caretaker, how do I pay someone else's bill? 
    • Owners are responsible for bills but can decide:  
      • Who has access to edit the utility account information if anyone (i.e., spouse, caregiver) 
      • Who has access to account balance and consumption information, if anyone (i.e., tenants). 
    • Please speak with a customer service representative at City Hall if your situation is unique. 


Meter Size Information 

  • Where is my meter, and how do I find out my meter size?  
    • Your water meter is inside the property, in the basement or maintenance area. You may contact the Utilities Department at utilities@lacombe.ca or 403.782.1261 for assistance, request an inspection of your meter, or confirm the size of your meter. 
  • Can I switch utility rate billing based on meter size? 
    • This is an option for non-residential customers. Plumbing modifications to facilitate the new meter size are the owner’s responsibility. You may contact the Utilities Department at utilities@lacombe.ca or 403.782.1261 for assistance. 
  • What does meter size mean? How does it affect utility rate billing? 
    • Water bills include a fixed basic charge and a consumption charge. Currently, the basic charge is the same for all customers. Moving forward, the basic charge will be based on the customer’s water meter size, with larger meters being charged a higher basic charge. 
    • Meters are sized based on the nominal diameter of the input /output pipe. For non-residential customers, it is important for metering accuracy to have the right size meter for their water requirements.  
  • What are the different utility rate options available based on meter size? 
    • The Utility Bylaw will outline the basic charges for water utility customers based on the following meter sizes: 
      • Up to 25mm 
      • 30mm to 50mm 
      • 75mm to 100mm 
      • 150mm+ 
  • How do the rates differ for different meter sizes? 
    • The Utility Bylaw is updated annually and will outline the basic charges for water utility customers. Starting in 2024, the City will be phasing in the new rate model over the next five years. 
  • What are the advantages of different utility rates based on meter size? 
    • Individual customer water demands are difficult to predict and routinely change – especially for commercial and industrial customers. To ensure the City can meet the estimated water demand of its current and future customers, the City manages an oversized distribution network of pipes and pumphouses. 
    • The oversized distribution network benefits customers with higher water demands more than customers with lower water demands. 
    • Utility rates based on meter size ensure the customer's basic charges on water utility bills are proportional to their benefit from the oversized system. Customers with lower water demands will pay a lower basic charge. 
  • Will there be any changes to my meter or infrastructure when switching utility rate billing? 
    • No changes to you meter is required as a result of the new utility rate billing.  
  • Can I switch back to my previous utility rate if I'm unsatisfied with the new rate based on the meter size? 
    • No, the new utility rate model replaces the current model starting in 2024. 


Miscellaneous 

  • How do I sign up for paperless billing? 
  • How will the switch in utility rate affect my overall utility costs? 
    • Non-residential customers will see a lower utility rate over time due to a more equitable share of utility costs. Non-residential customers will see a rise in utility costs over the course of the five-year phase-in period. 
  • Why is the City part of a Regional Commission for solid waste disposal? 
    • Being part of a Regional Commission allows the City to share costs with partnering municipalities, ultimately lowering utility ratepayers' costs. 
  • I want to provide feedback. How do I do this? 
    • Questions on Utility Bylaw 450 can be answered by contacting City Hall in person or calling 403-782-6666. Residents can also voice their concerns directly to their City Councilors.