The CEO Poll: Thirsty for change

Canadian business leaders want better water management.

Business leaders give the federal mini-budget high marks.

Municipal water management is in need of a major overhaul, according to a group of 129 Canadian CEOs polled recently by COMPAS Inc.

The CEOs were surveyed in response to a study from the C.D. Howe Institute that recommended sweeping changes to water management in Canada. More than three-quarters of the respondents agree with the report’s assessment that water utilities suffer from underfunding, poor cost management, aging infrastructure and stifled innovation.

The respondents agree with most of the recommended changes in the report. The strongest support came for the suggestion that the use of water meters be expanded, thus allowing utilities to monitor the consumption of the 25% of residential consumers currently without meters.

“Canadians are known to be huge water wasters,” wrote one CEO. “Hitting them in the pocketbook is one way to draw attention to this. Perhaps increase charges coupled with discounts for conservation efforts.”

The CEOs also support full-cost accounting for water pricing, and adequate revenue so that equipment and infrastructure can be updated. The only recommendation to which the respondents were lukewarm was the use of seasonal surcharges to better reflect the marginal costs of water use during peak summer months.

Many of the CEOs want government to take a lesser role in water management, judging from their comments. “Get it out of the hands of municipalities as they have no concept of cost efficiencies. Get it into the private sector and apply some light-handed regulation to ensure appropriate accountability,” wrote one.

“This should be run by private enterprises and governments in partnership, with proper cost controls,” wrote another. “It is time governments got into the real world and allow all the services they provide to be open to competition and better management.”