A town water loss mitigation program is proposed that is believed to offer measurable returns and maximize the town's existing water licence capacity.

Last night, town council gave the first reading to bylaws that call for an average $4.25 per month ($51 per annum) increase in wastewater services fees and a $2.53 per month ($30.36 per annum) in the average residential water bill.

If approved, the average residential property will face an additional annual cost of $81.36, starting Apr. 1.

The bulk of the wastewater fee increase is due to a $3.29 per month increase in YYC wastewater treatment costs. It also takes into account inflation and the costs associated with addressing the condition of aging sanitary sewer assets.

The water utility increase takes into account inflation but also adds some additional financial resources for water loss mitigation.

Shane Hubl, director of operational services, told council that Cochrane's water loss was 552 million litres in 2021, which is equivalent to the annual water used by 3,270 homes.

Invoiced, that amounts to $773,000 and held a $5.9 million value should the town have purchased an additional licence on the open market for that quality of water.

Hubl says the town's water sector does not currently have the personnel required to address the issue.

"The return on investment for addressing water loss in our community is significant. But, unfortunately, I don't have the resources to commit to it. I can't ask our five remaining water technicians to stop making water and go out and start looking for leaks throughout the community."

He estimates if they captured half of the water loss in the community, the town could support another community one and a half times the size of Gleneagles with no impact on its operations or water licence.

The bylaw will be returning to council for second and third readings.