The Water Pricing Primer, a collaborative effort to stimulate a national dialogue

Call to Action

“It has been 10 years since the Walkerton water tragedy and Canada still has one of the lowest prices for water use and the highest consumption levels in the world. With little financial incentive to conserve, overconsumption is threatening water supplies, community water security and the sustainability of our water service infrastructure,” states Oliver Brandes of the University of Victoria.

Worth Every Penny: A Water Pricing Primer

A new University of Victoria report (co-authored by OIiver Brandes, Kirk Stinchcombe and Steven Renzetti) seeks to stimulate a national dialogue on this issue by making the  case for the use of conservation-oriented water pricing as tool for sustainable water management and to promote a modern approach to water infrastructure financing in Canada.

To download a copy, click on Worth Every Penny: A Primer on Conservation-Oriented Water Pricing.

Oliver Brandes and Kirk Stinchcombe are part of the faculty for the Water Pricing Workshop that the Regional District of Nanaimo is hosting on September 9, 2010.

Turning Concepts into On-the-Ground Results

“While the research is focused on Canada, it has broader application. It uses case studies from around North America, including Guelph, Seattle and Vancouver Island to illustrate what is possible and provides specific recommendations and a step-by-step action plan to turn concepts into on-the-ground results,” adds Kirk Stinchcombe.

“Water pricing is a hot issue in communities across the country. Yet it remains an almost totally untapped option for helping ensure our water service infrastructure — the pipes, pumps and reservoirs — is well maintained and up to date.”

“Moving to effective water pricing will take time and probably a bit of courage on the part of municipal leaders. But we need to remember that it makes sound sense from both business and environmental points of view,” emphasizes Kirk Stinchcombe.

Conservation-Oriented Water Pricing

“The Primer provides an overview of conservation-oriented water pricing for decision makers, water utilities and service providers in Canada,” continues Steven Renzetti. “It explains how water pricing works, what the benefits are, and how water utilities can implement conservation-oriented water pricing structures as a key tool in the water manager’s toolkit.”

“As well, it offers advice on how to address implementation challenges, including how to avoid penalizing low-income families and how to maintain revenue stability for water utilities.”

“Effective conservation-oriented water pricing can also help reconcile growing communities with the health of local watersheds and engage individuals and businesses to change their behaviour and begin reducing their water footprints.”

About the Primer Authors

Oliver M. Brandes is Associate Director and Water Sustainability Project Leader for the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance at the University of Victoria; Kirk Stinchcombe is the prinicipal of Econnics, a Victoria-based consulting firm that specializes in water use efficiency; and Steven Renzetti is is an economics professor at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario

Oliver Brandes

Oliver M Brandes joined the POLIS Project  in 2002 to lead the Water Sustainability Project. He holds a Masters in Economics from Queens University and a Law Degree from the University of Victoria and also has a diploma in Ecological Restoration.
Oliver has studied international relations while in Europe and was involved in various major environmental and community-based projects in Canada’s Arctic and throughout Central and South America. His current work focuses on the ecological governance of water sustainability, sound resource management and ecological based legal and institutional reform.
Oliver is a core researcher on several Canadian Water Network water governance multi-year projects with partnerships across Canada including the University of Waterloo, Brock University, and the University of British Columbia.  Oliver has been appointed as Adjunct Professor at the University of Waterloo’s Department of Environment & Resource Studies.
He provides strategic water policy advice to numerous major non-government organizations (NGOs) and all levels of government and has authored over 100 academic and more popular articles and major research reports.
Most recently, Oliver helped found the Forum on Leadership of Water (FLOW) a leading group of independent water policy experts from across Canada and he was part of an international multi-disciplinary team that completed the first ever comprehensive Water Soft Path study. This project culminated in the 2009 international publication of the book Making the Most of the Water We Have – The Water Soft Path Approach to Water Management by Earthscan Publishers.
All publications and reports available at

Kirk Stinchcombe

Kirk Stinchcombe specializes in cutting-edge water conservation and sustainability solutions for water utilities, the private sector and government.
Prior to founding econnics, Kirk was the Manager of Operational Policy with the BC Ministry of Environment’s Water Stewardship Division, where he developed and implemented water conservation, groundwater, source water protection and water allocation policy.
A joint Canadian-Australian citizen, Kirk spent much of the last decade in South East Queensland.  There, he was responsible for developing and delivering critical large-scale demand management projects as part of the response to the “Millennium Drought”.
He has published and spoken internationally on topics including leakage and pressure management, rainwater harvesting, water use accounting, community-based social marketing and water pricing. He is also a special advisor on water conservation to the University of Victoria’s POLIS Water Sustainability Project and is a member of the Victoria Capital Regional District’s Water Advisory Committee.
Kirk has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Waterloo and a Master’s of Business Administration from Griffith University in Australia. He is also is a certified Project Management Professional.

Steven Renzetti

Steven Renzetti earned his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of British Columbia in 1990. Since that time, Steven’s main research interest has been the economics of water resources.

Steven renzetti, brock university (120p)Specific past projects have been related to water pricing, water demand estimation and the management of water resources. He is the author of the recently published The Economics of Water Demands (Kluwer Academic Press, 2002) and the editor of The Economics of Industrial Water Use (Edward Elgar, 2002).

Steven is currently working on projects related to water valuation, assessment of water utility performance and decision-making in complex ecosystems. This last project is related to Steven’s serving on the International Joint Commission’s Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Study Board.