What is it?
A Water Levy is an annual charge to help pay for the sustainable management of water resources, including new conservation measures and projects. Water Levies can be based on a licensed water allocation associated with a property, based on volume of water use, or can be a flat fee for user type (e.g.,. household or industrial). Water Levies can also exempt users, such as household use. Conservation measures and programs made possible by the levy could be based explicitly on water conservation, but could also apply to the broader land conservation, with the recognition that in doing so, you are protecting the water cycle in addition to other aspects such as native habitat.
How can municipalities use it?
Municipalities can use a Water Levy help achieve watershed conservation goals set out in regional plans and Municipal Development Plans. This can be established as a bylaw implementing a Water Levy on water bills. Alternatively, the Water Levy can be put to a vote, allowing citizens to vote on whether or not to implement the levy. Water Levies can be perpetual or for a limited term. A limited term Water Levy could be clearly laid out for a specific goal (ie. raise $X million for Y acres conserved), which may be more palatable to water users. A Water Levy could be integrated with other stewardship tools in the Alberta Land Stewardship Act, such as Transfer of Development Credits.
What are the advantages?
The advantages of a Water Levy include:
Provides funding needed to carry out conservation measures and projects that otherwise is not available to the municipality
Conservation measures and projects can directly benefit water quality and quantity in a watershed, leading to sustainability
Can help facilitate resident education on water resource issues and needs in the municipality
What should you watch out for?
No tool is a silver bullet. The following should be considered when imposing a Water Levy:
Residents may be more supportive of a limited term Water Levy with a specific goal
Administrative body must manage the imposition of the levy and management of the funds collected
There must be a transparent process for selecting conservation measures and projects selected to implement with the levy
Conservation measures and projects must benefit the watershed the levy is imposed in
How can it help maintain natural infrastructure?
Water Levies can help to maintain the natural infrastructure by ensuring a government is able to financially support water or land conservation measures or projects that ensure a sustainable, high quality, supply of water.
South Australia, Save the River Murray Levy – The Save the River Murray Fund and Levy was enacted in 2003 by charging a flat fee to all water users to fund measures and projects to improve the health of the River Murray. The levy was abolished in 2015, citing the purpose of the levy had been achieved.
Blaine County, Idaho, Land, Water and Wildlife Levy – In 2008, voters approved a Land, Water and Wildlife Levy for a two year term to fund projects that support protection of natural resources. A Levy Advisory Board composed of local citizens advise the Board of County Commissioners on use of the funds to provide an open and transparent process.
Oregon Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) – Oregon SWCDs have statutory authority to levy taxes with approval of local voters. As of 2013, 13 SWCDs have received voter approval to assess local property taxes in the form of permanent tax rates.
Did we miss something?
If you know of a resource that should be on this list - or your municipality has a sample or case that should be here, please let us know!